Unilever ties with Tesco to mobilise its ‘biggest’ iBeacons trial

Unilever is giving fans the chance to get money off Magnums when they use their smartphones in Tesco stores across London in what it says is its biggest trial of iBeacons yet.

The tie-up makes good on the FMCG company’s pledge to ramp up its use of the technology across its brands. It has partnered with retailers in the past, most recently in Sweden, but the deal with the country’s biggest supermarket marks its most high-profile launch to date.

Customers who download the ‘Mpulse app’, which is being pushed as part of the latest Karmarama-created Magnum campaign, will receive exclusive coupons for discounted Pink and Black Magnums directly to their phone when they pass by iBeacons in 270 Tesco Express stores. The notifications are powered by technology from Urban Airship, while Dunnhumby will work with Unilever to evaluate how they’re used.

Neil Gledhill, Magnum global brand director, said: “We’re always looking at innovative ways to deliver on Magnum’s brand promise of delivering pleasure and to be able to do it at scale with a partner like Tesco is fantastic.”

Unilever’s decision to trumpet the iBeacons partnership instead of shrouding it in secrecy, like many brands and retailers do for their own, alludes to the wider issues around the technology.

Some advertisers have said retailers have been a major stumbling block in their attempts to conduct beacon trials, cancelling projects at the last minute or wanting to run their own. Meanwhile, several beacon technology owners have revealed that some advertisers and retailers see it merely as a bargaining chip in their attempts to secure more shelf space. It is perhaps not surprising then that many marketers are increasingly willing to adopt a wait and see approach for better examples before committing more of their mobile money to it.

Unilever is more ahead than most companies in its journey, spotting early the potential for beacons to optimise the customer experience through precision marketing rather than just simple point-of-purchase activation. The company’s test in Sweden used iBeacons to determine how amenable shoppers were to its brands in-store so that it could later retarget them with relevant mobile ads.

Coca-Cola, Kraft and Papa John’s are also warming to the idea. At this year’s SXSW all three shared both their hopes for the technology in powering precision marketing as well as their frustrations at it not being able to fulfil this potential yet.

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Seb Joseph

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