Is North America ready for proximity marketing? In places like Singapore, getting a coupon for a half-price slice of pizza delivered to your iPhone is almost as familiar as asking the Siri app where one might be. In North America? Not so much.
When Cantech Letter last caught up with iSign Media, CEO Alex Romanov told us about the company’s plan to roll out its proximity marketing solutions in the Couche-Tard/Mac’s convenience store chains, so people with mobile devices who were within three hundred feet of the store could receive permission based messages from the retailer. iSign says the venture will create the “world’s largest fully interactive digital signage network.” Today, with the Couche-Tard deal on the cusp of rolling out, the company is gaining some added attention from the street.
Clarus Securities analyst Sean Peasgood says proximity marketing is the “holy grail” of mobile advertising and will, eventually, prove to be more effective than location based models employed by companies such as FourSquare. Recently, Peasgood initiated coverage of iSign with a Buy rating and an $.85 cent twelve-month target.
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Back in 2007 iSign, a fledgling digital signage company with about fifty installations in Vancouver, developed a method of using the Bluetooth frequency to broadcast content from the sign to mobile phones that came within proximity. That slick technology attracted Alex Romanov, who had once built startup Alpine Stereo into a company that held over 52% of Canada’s high end car audio market. Romanov bought the company and almost immediately made a deal to unveil it in Asia with a company called Best Denki, (which means “Best Electric” in Japanese). The company’s first deal, in 2008, was a success. iSign equipped nine stores with hardware and software, and was identifying over half-a-million phones per month, with a 23% download rate. Those kinds of numbers are clearly becoming too tempting for North American retailers to ignore.
Peasgood says the opportunity for proximity marketing in North America could be absolutely massive. He notes that, with 6435 points of presence, Couche-Tard only ranks ninth in terms of retail chains ranked by overall store count, far behind franchises like Dollar General and Walgreens. The Clarus analyst says iSign could supercharge its growth with OEM deals, pointing out that many chains have been investing heavily in signage networks and kiosks intended to track transaction data and loyalty information. Peasgood says iSign could offer a turnkey system that ties all of these disparate systems together and provide a level of detailed data that, until now, has been unavailable to them.
At press time, shares of iSign were up 1.9% to $.27 cents.