Engage customers with the revolutionary iBeacon experience
Apple recently launched its new iBeacon technology, which tracks customers’ in-store movements in order to offer information such as sales announcements, product specifications, order status, price comparisons and more.
iBeacons or “proximity transmitters” are a new micro-location technology for mobile devices that use the Bluetooth Low Energy standard (BLE or Bluetooth Smart) to help these devices determine a user’s location without GPS or cell tower triangulation. In addition, iBeacons accomplish this rich data exchange with a high degree of accuracy and low battery power consumption. Apple’s brand of iBeacon support, which is built into iOS 7, uses BLE along with Wi-Fi and push notifications to deliver content.
iBeacon’s true potential is to revolutionize location services with its low power requirements and ability to precisely pinpoint users’ locations inside buildings. Mobile apps can then take advantage of this location data in a variety of ways, such as providing indoor mapping and navigation or customizing the app’s behavior based on a user’s proximity to a specific object.
Retailers looking for ways to enhance the shopping experience for customers need to explore Apple’s new iBeacon technology. With iBeacon’s ability to deliver targeted information and offers based on a customer’s location within your store, you are now given the opportunity to interact with your customers in a new, more engaging way.
This new technology could be the boost that the retail industry needs. With iBeacon, you have ability to provide your customers with relevant marketing and messaging as they browse and shop through your store, even before they come into your store! An example of proximity marketing would be this, let’s say you are a general retail or convenience store and you sell umbrellas and the forecast calls for rain today. You can send a message like: “Need an umbrella? We have umbrellas at half price today on aisle 2. It’s a good buy and stay dry!”
In addition, these features can be customized as well for each retail location, effectively making each location a one-of-a-kind operation. By using micro-locations within the store, customizable to each retail location, you can give the customer a multitude of engaging and unique experiences.
Furthermore, retailers should consider creating a customized mobile app (or updating your current app). Customers will find their visit to your store more convenient and interactive with a mobile app in hand, and at the same time, you can take advantage of this micro-location technology enabled by these iBeacons.
With the help of these iBeacon transmitters placed throughout your store, a customer’s activity can be tracked, thus allowing you to serve up relevant offers, price comparisons, product information and more based on the location or department the shopper is in. The current price of each in-store transmitter is approximately $40.
Both retail and non-retail organizations have embraced iBeacon technology. Apple has already installed iBeacons in all 254 of its U.S. retail stores; Macy’s department stores in New York and San Francisco have been experimenting with delivering users information about the products that they are browsing, ads for additional and potentially competing products, targeted deals and specials. The New York Mets have announced plans to use iBeacons to enhance fan involvement by creating a highly tailored digital experience at Citi Field, their home ballpark.
Here’s a sampling of some other uses for iBeacon currently being explored and implemented by various industries:
- Restaurants, sandwich and coffee shops, etc: Offer a virtual menu with specific details about each item: calorie counts, nutritional info, local farms where produce was grown, even suggest a wine pairing for each meal.
- Hotels and resorts: Provide a virtual concierge accessible from anywhere on the property, offer expedited check-in and check-out, deliver information on amenities, provide a local forecast and educate guests about points of interest around town.
- Museums (zoos, exhibitions, gallery shows): Provide basic information about what the visitor is seeing. iBeacons at each stopping point could offer additional information and content in a way that still allows visitors to take their own path and/or linger at a specific display. iBeacon content could be linked to websites, apps, discussion forums, and so on.
- Hospitals: Provide maps and navigation for patients and their families to navigate through the hospital, including guides of each floor showing the nearest elevators and entrances; broadcast information and guidance to patients or visitors such as guidelines when visiting a patient, visiting hours, expected wait times to be attended to.
Up to now, most activity surrounding iBeacon technology has been in the world of retail, where both big name retailers and small shops have recognized the iBeacon’s potential.
In-store navigation and dynamic pricing is just the beginning. The other area of great potential is in payments. While the problem of digital wallets using near-field communication (NFC) has proved tricky, it appears that Bluetooth technology is poised to finally bring mobile payments to the mainstream.
Whereas NFC technology works only with a small percentage of Android devices that actually have NFC chips installed in them and only in close proximity to sensors used for payments. iBeacon, on the other hand, can broadcast up to 200 feet which could allow for customers to simply leave their phones in their pockets and automatically pay as they walk out of the store.
How could this new technology be used to create a unique shopping experience for the customer and a profitable one for your business?
Begin by integrating iBeacon into your already successful sales process – specifically part of your direct mail and other marketing campaigns. The process is simple, straightforward, cost effective and potentially very profitable.
- In your next direct mail or other marketing campaign, include a QR code on the mail piece that links to a digital coupon for a special, targeted promotion. Customers simply scan the QR code to get the coupon stored onto his/her phone.
- Once the coupon is stored on their phone, a notification appears directly to the customer’s phone reminding them of the offer each time they drive by or are nearby your store.
- Retail locations can be sectioned off into any number of distinct sections – each with its own iBeacon transmitter and each transmitter serving up a unique message (or offer) within areas of that location.
The iBeacon experience will enhance the in-store experience for your customers and could lead to purchases that he/she may not have even considered before.