Tech Talk: Setting The 'TONE'

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When a business is able to develop deeper customer profiles, they can reap a host of benefits, which include adapting their services to better accommodate the customers’ needs and continuing to develop their own marketing accordingly. The benefits for the consumer are obvious: their time is no longer wasted with meaningless offers. TONE, a Las Vegas technology company, provides its clients with critical data about these behaviors. This data can include information such as the number of times a customer enters a business, the department the customer spends their time in, how often a customer purchases a certain product or from a product category, if they were influenced by a broadcast ad or if they view a product online within a given period. 

If a business, such as a retail grocery store chain, sports team, fitness center, concert hall, casino or gas station, can use these profiles to distinguish a new customer from a repeat customer upon entry, that business has the capability to extend offers or share information with the customer accordingly, and distinguish these offers based on past interactions and buying habits. And it all works to keep them coming back, even after they’ve left the venue or store. 

Access to this critical data is delivered through two main components: QR codes, which are engineered audio signals known as TONE Tags® and a small piece of software embedded in your mobile app, called the TONE Framework®. TONE Tags aren’t detectable by the human ear but can be picked up by cell phones. They are embedded into any form of audio media, such as TV shows, movies, music, live sporting events podcasts, traditional radio and TV ads; basically any media that produces sound. The TONE Framework, a lightweight SDK, can be quickly and easily integrated into any iOS or Android app.

“By embedding TONE’s patented framework technology into a business or brand’s mobile application, the app is then “TONE-Enabled,” and can listen for the TONE Tags embedded in any media file, broadcast or streamed content, in-venue music, product display or store shelf, and respond with a prompt, such as an exclusive offer, coupon, SMS text, URL, online store and more,” says Tom Webster, TONE’s president and CEO.

Here’s an example of this technology at work. A customer enters into a retail chain or gas station they frequent often, and for which they have the corresponding phone app downloaded and open. The customer arrives on a Monday at 10 am, and while shopping, TONE Tag plays in the announcement overhead; it’s embedded in a standard store greeting. Because that customer happens to be in the store at the time when that TONE Tag plays, they will passively receive a push notification to their phone about a coupon or deal, accessible via the app. The prompt received by the customer can be tailored to whatever the company is looking to promote, or it can be further customized depending on key data like shopper frequency and buying behaviors. It can also just deliver a “ping” to the mobile app with no associated action, which is commonly used to gather app demographic utilization data.

There’s also the option for the store to sell this engagement capability to individual vendors, meaning that if a customer passes through the snack-food aisle, brands can buy advertising space to have their deals spotlighted in the app, too. And even after leaving the store, the app can be activated by TONE Tags that are embedded in TV or radio advertising. A key benefit to using TONE Tags is that they can be placed into media even before they are integrated with the app, together with corresponding audio marketing, like radio and TV advertising, and overhead announcements. This places the distributor at the forefront of marketing development rather than the back end. In the promotional products industry, where distributors aren’t always made aware of their clients’ upcoming advertising campaigns, this can prove helpful to the planning process. 

In industries such as trade shows and events, festivals and concerts, and travel and hospitality, TONE’s technology can take the place of scanning badges, but can also allow for the selling of sponsorships through the application, and advertising space, so that surrounding eateries, retailers and other businesses can showcase their own deals, and alert users of up-to-the-minute details like shorter lines and wait times. “TONE has not only delivered great technology, but has enabled greater synchronization, communication and planning between advertisers, brands and the promotional products team,” says George Janetakis, TONE’s chief revenue officer.

The services provided by TONE, however, aren’t only centered around sharing deals and coupons, but they’re also focused on retaining customers, and perhaps motivating that customer who tends to abandon their online cart to move forward with the purchase. The data about individual customers makes it possible for the alerts these customers receive, which are AI-integrated text messages that feel like human-to-human conversations, to provide end users with an experience that feels personalized and provides them with the answers they’re looking for—right then and there. This also means that for businesses, it’s possible to program responses to frequently-asked questions—for example, in the case of retail, about sizing, shipping or price—which can be relayed to the customer in real time. 

TONE technology is not only for mobile engagement, but in the medical industry, it’s being used in a very specific way: to keep track of valuable equipment and to ensure patients are doing what the doctor prescribed in order to fully recover. With a large number of patients coming and going, high-value and highly used equipment, such as wheelchairs, walkers and respirators, are commonly at risk of being lost or displaced. Facilities like hospitals and doctors’ offices, and medical device companies, can utilize the physical TONE Emitters—which would then be placed on or in the equipment being used—to keep track of its location and also how often it’s being used; something that may be applicable to health-care professionals who are managing patients’ care.

TONE’s services are rooted in the collection of consumer data. The more a company knows about its customers, the more they can do to determine buying habits and push different types of deals to users based on their habits, to further grow sales. Of course, with a technology that’s “listening,” there’s associated concerns of privacy. The company assures that although TONE technology is indeed programmed to look for TONE Tags, that’s all it’s looking for, and it’s essentially “deaf” to everything else. But in order for TONE’s services to be most effective, they should be used for a consumer pool that is phone application-heavy, meaning that they are frequent or daily app users. If the application isn’t open in a customer’s phone, TONE’s services won’t be able to reach them. Brands and businesses with corresponding phone applications can work to educate their customers by informing and reminding them about the app through in-store signage, social media, email, advertising, commercials and word-of-mouth from employees, and encourage them to download the app by using an incentive, such as a coupon or exclusive deal, to do so.

For more information about TONE, email info@thetoneknows.com.

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Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.

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