Giving a vote of confidence to Bluetooth-powered beacon technology, Boston-based in-store beacon company Swirl Networks raised an $18 million Series C round that was led by Twitter Ventures, Hearst Ventures and SoftBank Capital. Longworth Venture Partners also participated, bringing Swirl's total funding to $32 million.
The new capital will be used to expand Swirl's sales and marketing operations and to fuel aggressive investment in product innovation to "meet growing demand from major retailers and brand advertisers" for beacon-powered indoor mobile advertising, according to a press release.
While a lot of companies have talked about installing beacon technology in stores and malls, Swirl has been installing its technology in places like Lord & Tailor, Hudson's Bay, Urban Outfitters, Marriott, Alex and Ani and Timberland. Beacons often are used to send proximity-based content and special offers to customers when they enter stores.
"The caliber of strategic investors and partners in this round validates the immense potential that proximity-based indoor mobile marketing has to transform the advertising and retail landscapes," said Hilmi Ozguc, founder and CEO of Swirl, in the release. "Swirl is helping leading retailers, publishers and brand advertisers bridge the physical and digital worlds in a way that was never before possible."
By leveraging Bluetooth Low Energy and Apple's iBeacon technologies, the Swirl platform helps retailers and brands deliver highly relevant digital content and offers to consumers' smartphones while they shop in specific areas of a store.
A consumer study by Swirl found that 73 percent of shoppers who received beacon-triggered content were more likely to make a purchase during their store visit. Swirl says its in-store mobile marketing campaigns are already generating strong results, with 60 percent of shoppers opening and engaging with beacon-triggered content and 30 percent redeeming relevant offers at the point of purchase.
Beacons will be deployed by 85 percent of the top 100 U.S. retailers by the end of 2016 and beacon marketing will influence $44 billion in retail sales, according to BI Intelligence.
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