Who Will 'Own' the Indoor Channel: Retailers or Google and Facebook?

One of the questions that we'll be addressing on the "Microfencing" (in-store/in-aisle targeting) panel at Place 2013 is "who will own the indoor channel?" The operating assumption is that the venue owners/retailers will control communications and marketing within their indoor environments. But that may not turn out to be true if retailers aren't careful and quick to embrace indoor location. 

An analogy may be the wireless carriers. Once the gatekeepers of all things mobile, they have largely been sidelined and reduced to "commodity" providers of bandwidth. The handset OEMs, platform providers and app developers dominate mobile. 

Earlier today Reuters reported that Cisco was "working with Facebook Inc to offer free Wi-Fi Internet access to consumers at public places such as hotels or retail stores using their Facebook log-in. A visitor could check in at a hotel without having to line-up at a front desk by simply signing in via the Facebook application on a smartphone, Cisco said."

Google is also contemplating its own WiFi infrastructure. By the same token some retailers are hesitant or cautious about embracing indoor location. For example, JC Penney decided to eliminate public WiFi to save $7 million a year. In doing so it shut down its indoor location consumer infrastructure. While it will save some money it won't stop showrooming and may deprive JC Penney of an important marketing and customer service capability. 

If companies such as Facebook and Google, or other third parties, step in and provide the consumer network, chances are very good that consumers will use the Facebook or Google network rather than the store's. That would likely make the Google and Facebook the new gatekeepers of indoor marketing, giving them a significant advantage over retailers and a stronger position when it comes to selling and delivering indoor advertising and promotions. 

Retailers cannot and should not "wait and see" or they may find themselves, like the wireless carriers, on the sidelines of digital marketing activity in their own stores. I could be wrong and there are a number of unknown variables. But retailers stand to lose much if they fail to act. 

We'll fully explore these questions at the Place Conference on Tuesday, October 8:

Microfencing: Targeting In-Aisle Shoppers

Billions of dollars are spent each year by brands and manufacturers trying to influence consumer buying in stores. A percentage of that money will migrate to indoor digital marketing. What conditions must first exist and what will those brand-consumer interactions look like? The panel will explore these questions as well as the contours of the broader indoor marketing experience. 

  • Neg Norton, President, Local Search Association
  • Ben Smith, CEO, Wanderful Media
  • Melissa Tait, VP of Technology, Primacy
  • Erik McMillan, CEO, BrickTrends
  • Asif Khan, Founder, Location Based Marketing Association (Moderator)