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Samsung?s Proximity will bring brands, consumers closer via beacon technology

Samsung?s launching of Proximity, a mobile marketing platform that works with beacon technology, will enable a more direct relationship between brands and consumers while giving marketers a viable alternative to Apple?s ever-popular iBeacon in an enlarged beacon marketplace. 

The phone maker?s platform that, like Apple?s iBeacon, uses low-energy Bluetooth beacons to enable marketers to push content to consumers based on their location, comes after iBeacon last year excited retailers because of the hyper-local in-store marketing opportunities it raised. With Proximity, Samsung is taking a more integrated approach to location-based marketing than Apple, by essentially building Proximity as a service platform. 

?Samsung manages the communication between beacons, and their app manages the services that are triggered,? said Andy Hobsbawm, chief marketing officer with Evrythng, an Internet of Things company. ?This is quite different from Apple?s approach of enabling many different apps independently. 

?As a result, Proximity can be plugged directly into brands? beacon-based strategies with an end-to-end solution, making Samsung a viable Apple iBeacons contender for the Android world,? he said. 

Wider base
A clear benefit of Proximity?s technology is that users can deliver notifications without having an application installed on a phone. 

A major alternative to iBeacon?

?That enables brands, shops and locations to use push marketing via beacons to a broader base of users or people that enter their premise,? said Nitesh Patel of Strategy Analytics. ?The downside is that it could result in spam, or unwanted push messages.  

?Many shops and brands will have their apps anyway, to build engagement with loyal customers,? he said. "Therefore, Proximity does not mean retailers do not need to develop apps.?

It is unclear how consumers will discover and choose to receive service-level notifications, not to mention the millions who are not in the Samsung ecosystem. 

?Prudent marketers are using inclusive beacon initiatives that allow all smartphone users to become aware and to participate,? said Jeff Hasen of Gotta Mobilize. "There are all sorts of predictions on success or failure of beacon programs. 

?The answer is coming,? he said. ?Marketers in my view will follow common sense and lessons about frequency and value and consumers who participate will win. Samsung may or may not be a major player,? he said. ?My guess is no." 

A technology to watch.

Samsung?s entry into the still-young beacon market makes this technology one for marketers to watch. 

?The most obvious benefit of Proximity is scale, with the sheer number of phones that can use this,? said Chuck Martin, CEO of the Mobile Future Institute. 

?It?s not so much that Samsung becomes a challenger in the beacon space as it is that it dramatically increases the scope of the beacon marketplace," he said. 

?Rather than Proximity being a rival to iBeacon it is a major alternative. Marketers are going to have to look at Proximity because of the massive installed base as well as to hedge their beacon bets.? 

Since its introduction, beacon technology has won wider acceptance, moving beyond retail stores and into sports stadiums and public transportation hubs. The governments of cities such as Los Angeles are experimenting with outdoor beacon programs. 

Proximity appears almost identical to Apple?s iBeacon, even down at the developer level. 

?The only potential difference is that Samsung may allow marketers to use this technology without having a consumer install a marketer or retailers app,? said John Haro, chief technology officer at Vibes. ?It is not clear how Samsung intends to do this, but some marketers could see this as a benefit. 

?Samsung is a significant manufacturer in the Android space,? he said. ?Its market share gives the company the ability to try things like this and see if it can change consumers' behavior and expectation.

?For this reason, Samsung may be a challenger, but it is more likely that a cross platform provider, such as iOS and all Android devices, will come out ahead,? he said. 

Broadening reach 
Another benefit with Proximity is it provides a window to interact with a larger group of users with proximity technology. 

Enlarging the beacon market.

?Proximity opens up the opportunity to engage with a much larger population with proximity-based technologies,? said Shannon Denison, vice president of product and insights with Voltari. ?If the customer doesn't have an iPhone, iBeacon will be useless.? 

?Can Android realistically be a challenger to iPhone?? she asked. ?Yes, especially as we've seen them each iterate in momentarily winning the growth/adoption game. Each platform has their loyalists that are not going to change anytime soon, if ever at all. 

?And then there are plenty of consumers that are either undecided or happy to ride the wave switching back and forth as each manufacturer rolls out differentiated features.? 

Final Take 
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York.