The Future of Consumer Engagement – iBeacons

It sounds crazy but it is true: one of the most exciting things going on in consumer technology is Bluetooth. (I am smiling at the thought).  Specifically, I am talking about Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which solves many of the technology’s perennial problems with new protocols for ambient, continuous, low-power connectivity. I am excited to see where this goes.

Over the last 6 months, I have been watching and waiting to see where the new smart technology iBeacons goes because really, it is a step closer to our cool everyday techy stuff existing in a truly intelligent ecosystem.

iBeacon is Apple’s Bluetooth low energy (BLE) wireless technology that creates a different way of providing location-based information and services to iPhones and other iOS devices.

What does this mean?
From a marketing point of view – potentially gold! iBeacon could enable all kinds of ideas around engaging with customers through product information sharing, promotions, isle specific sales flashes and couponing. The technology is well placed to simplified payments and as an additional bonus, it can counteract showrooming!

So where does it work?
The most obvious application for iBeacon is tying digital information to physical places. When Apple first presented iBeacon to developers, they used the example of an art museum. Instead of punching a three-digit number into a handheld tour guide, you could walk up to a painting, pull out your iPhone, and find additional information on the artwork right there waiting for you. This would have improved my recent trip to the Rijksmuseum because although they are using iPhones as guides (which on the surface looked awesome), it was not an intuitive user-friendly tool at all.

The most frenzied activity surrounding iBeacon has been in the word of retail. Macy’s were quick to trail iBeacons in their New York City and San Francisco stores with the help of an outfit called Shopkick. Walking into one of those locations will automatically surface the Shopkick app, which can make specialised offers to customers depending on where they are in the store.

Locally, Tesco and Waitrose are the first supermarkets in the UK to trial Apple’s iBeacon technology. Tesco is trialling iBeacons in its Chelmsford store as part of an experiment with a store-specific app. Tesco has so far used the iBeacon to remind customers to pick up pre-ordered items, but said it is holding off sending promotions at the moment over concerns it may scare customers off.

Waitrose’s smartphone app uses iBeacons to send price promotions to shoppers while they are browsing through a relevant section of the store. The technology also allows Waitrose shoppers to scan barcodes, read reviews, add items to a virtual shopping basket, and finally, pay for goods via a mobile wallet. Nicely joined up Waitrose – I am looking forward to the results.

Outside of retail, early adopters Virgin Atlantic are using the iBeacon technology to automatically ‘pull up’ boarding passes as travellers approach the boarding gate – smart and intuitive technology.

The other area of activity is within the payments space. To date, digital wallets have relied heavily on NFC – now Bluetooth may be poised to finally push mobile payments to be mainstream. Paypal has developed its own “Beacon,” a USB device that will interface with the Paypal app to let users make totally hands-free transactions. 

The secret to driving adoption lies in creating simple solutions for big ideas. By anticipating consumer needs and filling them in creative ways, big brands like Macy’s and Coca Cola are already finding value in using the technology in a smart way. The potential is big and it is not just hype. Customer engagement is big on the agenda and iBeacons… I think we have something very exciting on the horizon!

The Beacon Marketing Opportunity by Swirl

  • Already, 85% of people have used a mobile shopping app while inside a store. The two most common uses were to search for sales/offers, and research access more product information.
  • 65% of people like to learn about products and offers while shopping on their smartphone.
  • This poses a huge opportunity for retailers! 77% of smartphone users say they would be willing to share their location information as long as they receive enough value in return.

Check out this great infographic which looks at the numbers in more detail.
Thanks to

The Beacon Marketing Opportunity