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Fashion Tradeshow Discovers Beacons’ ‘MAGIC’

UBM Advanstar’s MAGIC introduced proximity marketing to connect nearly 4,000 designer brands and 60,000 buyers during its August 2014 Las Vegas tradeshow.

Scene from the Magic fashion tradeshow floor.
Scene from the MAGIC fashion tradeshow floor.

Before beacons and other indoor marketing tools can truly gain acceptance by mass consumers, it’s up to the brands and retailers that want to reach shoppers to fully understand the potential uses of the Bluetooth-powered devices.

In February, marketing services company UBM Advanstar decided to give beacons a try at its twice-a-year fashion industry tradeshow, MAGIC. Billed as “the largest global fashion tradeshow,” MAGIC’S e-commerce marketplace, ShopTheFloor, was launched by UBM Advanstar to connect the 60,000 international retail buyers and 3,900 designers and brands in attendance.

Getting somewhat digitally averse fashion industry executives to use an app was a particular challenge for UBM Advanstar, but after executives toured the ad:tech New York startup conference in the October, the presence of beacon companies sparked an idea: being able to message tradeshow participants directions, news, and other pertinent information seemed to be a simple way to drive greater digital interaction.

After evaluating several beacon platforms, UBM Advanstar chose to go with Radiant, which is run by rewards app platform PlayStudios.

“We designed this activation and installation to be a smaller scale test,” said Aaron Jones, a principal at PlayStudios’ Radiant. “We utilized 26 beacons placed across two massive facilities. These beacons coupled with our unique targeting engine and content delivery platform would allow us to deliver not only notifications but full digital experiences — such as media/interactive websites, calls to action — within a very tight context of the current users physical position.”

The majority of the experiences were targeted at familiarizing the user with the feature set of the ShopTheFloor website, Jones added. These also included welcome messaging, priming the user to expect messages and understand that the messages “would be valuable and delivered on a personal level — not blasted spam,” he said.

In a joint email interview, ShopTheFloor’s Vince Tsai, SVP/GM, and Jenean Chapman, the e-commerce marketplace’s director of Digital Strategy & Marketing, say that the work with Radiant’s beacons helped them navigate through the blurring of online and offline shopping on a grand scale.

Some of the 26 beacons Radiant placed at the tradeshow were centered in the lounge area.
Some of the 26 beacons Radiant placed at the tradeshow were centered in the lounge area.

GeoMarketing: How did you decide to use beacons for the recent MAGIC trade show at the LVCC and Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas? 

Vince Tsai and Jenean Chapman: The ShopTheFloor team was looking for new ways that we could leverage digital technology to send targeted and relevant messages to our attendees (retail buyers) at the show. Due to the size of the show, it can be challenging to ensure that our messages are being delivered to the right people at the right time. We thought that the beacon capability might give us an opportunity to better target users’ when and where we wanted.

How many beacons did you use? How did you instruct attendees and participants on using the beacons?

We used 26 beacons (14 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and 12 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center). Each beacon message had a clear call-to-action and was meant to engage ShopTheFloor users by either getting them to log-in, activate their account or browse the showrooms of featured brands. We didn’t provide any instructions around the notifications. If [attendees] had our smartphone app, they were delivered a notification that allowed them to accept these messages, or opt-out.

How did you evaluate the performance of the beacon providers?

We evaluated the providers on a number of things: the quality and flexibility of their platform, the ability to deliver messages consistently when they needed to deploy, the flexibility to set up rules around when and how messages were sent, the look and feel of the message being delivered, etc. Since this was new to us, we also cared about how willing the provider was to help us setup for our show. We wanted support onsite to help place the beacons and to support them real-time as the show was happening.

Radiant's beacons sent messages and directions to Magic attendees' apps — as long as their Bluetooth receiver was on.
Radiant’s beacons sent messages and directions to MAGIC attendees’ apps — as long as their Bluetooth receiver was on.

What did you learn about the potential and the limitations of using beacons in a massive trade show like MAGIC? 

This was a test activation so that we could better understand the opportunity and limitations for the technology. We wanted to test a few ideas around how we might use it. We learned that there is certainly great opportunity to deliver relevant messages to users at the right time and location and that we can engage users in a way we couldn’t before.

For example, one area of success where we saw higher levels of engagement was in lounge areas where our attendees have an opportunity to sit and rest. We used the beacons to deliver a message to get the buyer to “check out ShopTheFloor while you are relaxing with your coffee,” and because they were walking from show to show, the engagement was higher.

On the flipside, we also learned that there are some challenges that beacon users face… like the fact that some users will opt-out of the option to receive messages or that some of them don’t even have their Bluetooth engaged. Those can knock out a number of your target users quickly.

How do you plan to continue to explore the uses of beacons, if at all?

We’re still evaluating the results so we need to think about what we might do for our future shows. We think beacons are an interesting technology and we do plan to continue to explore and test ways to take advantage of it.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.