Cisco and Facebook Integrate for Better Mobile Targeting

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Cisco Enables Businesses to Become Friends with Consumers' Data via Facebook Check-ins.
Cisco Enables Businesses to Become Friends with Consumers' Data via Facebook Check-ins.

More than half of consumers use mobile phones while shopping—which means it's more important than ever for brands to connect their online and offline data.

According to the 2013 Cisco Customer Experience Report, in addition to the 54% of consumers who use smartphones in-store, 65% of consumers say they're comfortable receiving retail advice based on geolocation. Thirty-nine percent even say that they would reveal their personal income in exchange for more personalized service, discounts, and sales promotions, according to the report.

“Consumers want marketers to know who they are,” says Inbar Lasser-Raab, Cisco's VP of product marketing. “Consumers want information and services on their mobile devices quickly—whenever they want it, wherever they want it. They want it at high-quality, they want it fast, and, if possible, personalized or customized to their needs.”

But Cisco doesn't just dish advice; the company practices what it preaches. Last week Cisco announced the integration of Facebook into its Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) offering, a solution that aims to help businesses detect, connect, and engage with consumers via Wi-Fi. The collaboration also enables consumers to access free Wi-Fi by connecting to a business that uses a Cisco network and checking in to that business via Facebook.

Here's how it works: After connecting to a business that uses Cisco's Wi-Fi, consumers are directed to a Facebook check-in page. Once they've checked-in, consumers are sent to that business's actual Facebook page where they can read up on its latest promotions and content. In return for providing free Wi-Fi, companies can collect consumers' aggregate, anonymous data—or general information about consumers connected at a specific location—such as gender majority, and age range. This allows companies to send targeted promotions and messages.

The more check-ins a business gets, the more brand exposure it receives—which should also lead to an uptick in user-generated stories. This in turn can help the business become more discoverable via Facebook's Graph Search.

According to Lasser-Raab, these partnerships enable free Wi-Fi access at multiple locations without requiring consumers to opt in to multiple business apps or ask for different Wi-Fi passwords. Instead, consumers can access Wi-Fi through one channel and—in many cases—it's a channel for which many consumers already have an account.

“If you walk around different venues—stores, hospitality venues, parks—you don't need to keep figuring out what the password is for the Wi-Fi,” she says. “You will [log-in] through Facebook, through your existing credentials.”

For example, Evergreen Brick Works is a Toronto-based community environmental center that holds interactive workshops, festivals, and educational programs. Because the nonprofit is based in an old factory plant, Evergreen has multiple facilities—including meeting rooms, pavilions, and a youth center. The organization uses these facilities for its own events and rents them out to others for outside events, such as for weddings. CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi allows visitors to connect wherever they are on the organization's campus. When visitors connect to Evergreen's Wi-Fi through Facebook, they're directed to a log-in page that provides basic information about the nonprofit; they're also invited to check-out the nonprofit's Facebook page. In this scenario, whether visitors are attending an Evergreen-sponsored event or a wedding hosted in the Evergreen Pavilion, they have a chance to learn about the nonprofit.

Lasser-Raab says Cisco decided to partner with Facebook based on the company's strong social and mobile presence. But this isn't the first time Facebook and Cisco joined forces. Back in May 2013, the two companies partnered to provide free Wi-Fi access to consumers who check in via Facebook through Cisco Meraki Presence, a suite of cloud-based location analytics and engagement features. Lasser-Raab notes that integrating Facebook into the CMX solution was fairly simple, particularly because Facebook and Cisco both have open APIs.

Lasser-Raab says the release of CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi was just one in a series of announcements Cisco started making about five months ago. In addition to the Cisco Meraki Presence integration in May, Cisco also introduced CMX Web engagement, a solution that aims to help businesses provide context-based messages to users who opt in via a mobile Web browser.

MGM Resorts International is one brand that's taken advantage of Cisco's Wi-Fi network and CMX solution for its Bellagio loyalty mobile application.

After guests download the app, they can opt in to become loyalty members. But unlike the data gathered through CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi, the data gathered through the mobile loyalty app can be tied back to a particular individual. Loyalty members receive discounts and special offers for local restaurants, shops, and shows based on their purchase history, demographics, and geographic data. In addition, guests are given access to an “indoor GPS” that provides them with directions to different hotel amenities. Lasser-Raab says MGM is looking to enable guests to order room service via their mobile device—so that it's ready upon their return to their room—as well as access their room voicemails.

“[MGM is] looking for more creative ways to extend the service so that people stay longer and get a better service as they stay in the hotel,” Lasser-Raab says.

Although CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi collects aggregate, anonymous data—and CMX through the loyalty app collects personally identifiable information—Lasser-Raab says Cisco strives to protect both kinds of data by forcing consumers to opt in. However, she says the biggest challenge Cisco faces is encouraging marketers and IT leaders to work together.

"We are educating the IT people about these possibilities," she says. "They need to think about what the business can offer, and they need to partner with their marketing and business leaders and not just set up the network. It's not just about operations now."

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