Connecting the physical and digital worlds is one of the most critical tasks of modern marketing. Many businesses blend brick-and-mortar with a digital presence. Those businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, travel agencies, and even airlines, find increasing challenges in connecting potential customers’ digital behaviors with real-world actions.

This blend has been dubbed “the phygital” world, where both elements most co-exist in order to thrive. An isolated digital presence is about as damaging as an analog brick-and-mortar business. There is enormous opportunity along the path where the online and offline converge. A startup named Bubbl is helping businesses navigate this path by connecting users to businesses in the real world via mobile phones.

Given the phygital nature of many hospitality and travel businesses, this technology promises to build bridges to customers across the spectrum. To learn more about this appealing blend of physical and digital, Sabre Insights posed the five questions to Bubbl CEO Jo Eckersley.

For those that don’t know Bubbl, please explain what you do!

Bubbl’s geolocation plugin is a piece of technology that supercharges existing mobile apps and gives app owners the ability to set up real time marketing campaigns and customer service direct to consumers in specific locations. This means an app owner can instantly unlock in-the-moment customer engagement tools like messaging, surveys or instruction videos, and has new revenue stream potential, plus new ways to build increased loyalty.

Businesses/app owners get a private cloud based dashboard so they can easily set up virtual fences and as people enter, leave or hang around an area they can deliver pre-built location-aware push notifications, images, offers, videos, audio or surveys to consumers with the Business’s app on their phone.

A hotel might use push and pull messaging to inform guests in the hotel about last minute restaurant or beauty treatment availability and take a booking; a hotel booking app can use survey functionality to gauge immediate feedback from guests as they leave the hotel; a destination app (e.g. a Bath or Paris tourism app) can use location-triggered video, audio or and image notifications to promote tourist attractions, a music event app can send location-relevant e-commerce links to sell merchandise or run a ‘go backstage’ competition with the crowd, and bars can send audio samples to increase footfall at a last minute gig.

Of course, the potential of the technology goes well beyond travel and hospitality sector and includes music and sport events, retail, banking, education and many more.

The technology seems complicated. What does it take to get started with this?

It did take many months of development on our side, but we made sure we created an easy-to-use marketing platform that doesn’t require any coding knowledge or technical skills to get started! Bubbl’s complex geofencing technology is actually hidden behind just three lines of clever code and an effortless ‘drop-in’ implementation process. It seamlessly integrates with any Cordova, iOS or Android app within minutes.
What does it mean for businesses? Significantly reduced software development time, expertise and deployment costs, as even a junior developer can quickly plug Bubbl into any app, and the ability to run proximity marketing campaigns with no IT support needed to set up the geofences (as in case of many our competitors).

If you want to test out how easy it is to get started, simply email us on info@bubbl.tech or request a free 14-day demo, you can then start testing the technology straight away and see the magic of geofencing in the flesh. Your developers will be able to plug Bubbl into your existing app within minutes and we’re always happy to help if you need any support with integration.

Once this is done, you can easily map out your chosen locations on the digital map by simply clicking on the map to draft a virtual fence. Next step is setting up campaigns for your ‘fenced’ venue. With our pre-built tools you can then add rich media content and campaign trigger times, our clever technology is taking care of everything else.

Given what you’ve learned from current hospitality customers, what sorts of results can be achieved using this marketing channel?

Bubbl gives businesses the ability to hyperfocus their campaigns by specific location and time, helping them to improve their customer engagement and loyalty, understand the best times to reach customers with our valuable footfall analysis; or quickly react to customer feedback and improve the experience for current and future customers. Common outcomes include increased brand visibility, stronger mobile presence, better app engagement and tangible immediate responses to in the moment nudges for example with offers and surveys. For apartment owners for example just triggering ‘how to’ videos on arrival for guests saves a huge amount of call out time and creates a great first impression.

We need to remember though that to make the most out of proximity engagement and to provide the best results, brands and businesses should never overuse it and should always make sure that each campaign adds real value for their app users.

Direct customer feedback isn’t always easy to get. What are some steps that a business of small-to-medium size can take to begin connecting user feedback to specific experiences?

Yes, it’s not easy to get relevant customer feedback, and this is why we developed Bubbl in the first place. Location-based technologies make it possible to target customers in the right moment and the right place, when their responses are fresh and when a business is most able to respond if they need to.

A few quick questions as someone leaves a venue means the Business can firstly verify the response to the survey is genuine, as it wouldn’t fire if the person hadn’t been in the venue, and they can gather valuable real-time feedback and net promoter scores. A Business can connect with customers in specifically selected locations and get their opinions as they’re experiencing the service, or right when they’re leaving a venue. The data is delivered to the dashboard live as it happens, so you can measure the effectiveness of campaigns and quickly react to customers’ real-time feedback if anything goes wrong.

What about privacy? What is the process for users to engage with, and control, the communications?

There are a lot of solutions out there that use insidious location-tracking and have no regard for user privacy, and while most geolocation technologies turn to IP address tracking to establish user location (practices that already generate concern from both customers and mobile networks), our aim is to deliver a useful tool for brands and businesses, but without breaching a user’s privacy and without draining battery or mobile data.

We believe mobile marketing doesn’t have to mean annoying adverts or intrusive SMS, IP address tracking, location-tracking or behind the scenes customer predictive analytics and profiling. Bubbl doesn’t need to gather any personal data to function effectively, as it has been designed to seek user consent and has consumer controls to manage proximity triggered engagement.

This means users can remain anonymous or can opt-in and they can control the number of engagements they receive, whilst Businesses can still gain customer insight and effective relevant engagement when communicating with their customers.

In particular Bubbl will help apps to ensure that they don’t breach the new emerging privacy legislations such as the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications (currently under revision; European Commission EC, 2016) and the General Data Protection Regulation (enforced from May 2018) that will sweep through the mobile ad and data analytics industry.