Magazine article CRM Magazine

Apple's iBeacon Expands Retail Opportunities for Location-Based Services: The iOS7 Feature Can Facilitate Marketing and Mobile Payment Processing

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Apple's iBeacon Expands Retail Opportunities for Location-Based Services: The iOS7 Feature Can Facilitate Marketing and Mobile Payment Processing

Article excerpt

Imagine walking into one of your favorite stores and being greeted with a special offer on your mobile device because you are a returning shopper. Or receiving targeted messaging based on what aisle you're in, or how long you've lingered in the store. Thanks to Apple's latest iOS7 mobile operating system, which features the iBeacon technology, these capabilities are right around the corner.

Apple's iBeacon offers retailers a low-cost, low-maintenance way to provide customers with geotargeted product information, coupons, and maps--all features that can deliver the most relevant customer information at various stages of the retail shopping experience.

Right now, stores "don't know you're a loyal customer until you're at the till. At that point, it's almost too late," explains Joel Blackmore, senior innovations manager at mobile consultancy Somo, whose team of mobile app developers is exploring iBeacon's capabilities for retailers. "Apple is very serious about merging the physical and digital experiences, and doing it the best it can," he says.

The technology employs Bluetooth Low Energy technology, which enables retailers to set up inexpensive beacons. Three beacons sell for $99, with batteries that last for years. When customers enter a store with their app open, the beacon pinpoints their location and guides their experiences using the mobile devices. The technology is more precise than Wi-Fi, and doesn't require the close range of current near field communications technology. It has a range of between 30 and 130 feet.

"The beacon can tell when you're approaching," Blackmore says, suggesting that it could create new opportunities for retailers to target messaging based on whether a customer is coming or going.

Newer versions of Android phones (4.3 and higher) will also be equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy.

But just because the technology is widely available doesn't mean consumers will use it, experts warn. Adoption will hinge not only on companies creating compelling experiences using iBeacon, but also on customers' receptiveness. "Customers have to opt in and decide to use it," says Jeff Kagan, a mobile technology industry analyst. "It's an unfamiliar technology, and it's going to take time to catch on."

Kagan and Blackmore agree that if iBeacon is the technology that brings location-based mobile experiences to the mainstream, early adopters will have a first-mover advantage. "It's heavily PR-able," Blackmore says.

"[With] the first couple of brands that do a cool iBeacon implementation, everyone will hear about it. …

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