Google recently announced that they will remove the Nearby Notifications functionality on Android devices. Nearby Notifications enabled brands to send location-based messages to Android users when they got within a certain range of a beacon–something that typically requires a third party app install. But adding this “nearby” functionality to Android phones enabled brands to do all sorts of location-based things without that initial app download, like let users know about free Wi-Fi nearby, launch chatbots within messaging apps, and provide transit times to people at bus and train stops. In theory, this should have been a huge win for marketers that wanted to reach their customers in a personalized way. So, why is Google all of the sudden pulling the feature, just when hyperlocal marketing is becoming the standard?
Good Intentions, Spammy Results
Google’s original intentions were good–in fact, they were right in line with their push for location-based mobile experiences. Back in 2015 when Nearby Notifications launched, the team saw the feature as a way for marketers to bring “relevant and engaging content to users” and “provide useful information proactively”. But now, three years later, the team is shutting down Nearby Notifications due to an “increase in locally spammy notifications”. How did this happen?
It’s Not You, Google…
…Yup, this one’s on us. As marketers, we need to face the facts: we don’t know how to use our location-based powers for good. The Nearby Notifications’ ultimate demise was due to lots of complaints on Android forums that the notifications ended up being ads instead of relevant, helpful information. While there was a lot of excitement about its potential when the feature first came out, marketers quickly made the mistake of seeing it as another ad channel rather than a communication channel. Look–even in this list of Nearby Notification use cases from a marketing blog (drive downloads, share offers and product information, help visitors explore locations, push check-ins and reviews), only two of them are truly focused on bettering the customer experience. At their best, marketers were using Nearby Notifications to disseminate helpful information–like guides to a museum visitor. At their worst, marketers were pushing spammy, irrelevant ads to anyone that entered the vicinity. And it turns out, more marketers were in the latter camp, leading to overwhelming pushback from unhappy users.
Location-based and Customer-centric
It’s time to take a good, hard look at how we use new tech for the betterment of our overall customer experience. Instead of jumping on a new tech bandwagon for immediate results (like more content downloads or boosting reviews), we should focus on using the tech to create a memorable customer experience first and foremost. And if your strategies are rooted in a customer-centric mindset, then those other goals will likely follow more naturally (and yield a happier customer!)
Nearby Notifications will officially be disabled come December 6, but the Android team says they plan on evolving Nearby technology based on the feedback it received, proving that location-based marketing isn’t going anywhere…but we’ve got some work to do if we want to get it right next time around.