Shining a light on iBeacon technology in the enterprise

Digital marketers are always on the lookout for “the next big thing” which has the potential to cause a stir within the industry.

One of the major developments grabbed their attention is iBeacon, a brand name technology from Apple that enhances location awareness in mobile apps, through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

When a compatible device is near, a beacon can transmit content to it via BLE. By placing small transmitters, or ‘beacons’ around a building, relevant content can then be pushed to a user’s mobile device as they walk nearby.

So what’s so exciting about this relatively simple technology? As people increasingly use smartphones to search ‘on the go’, iBeacon offers a perfect way for businesses to tell potential users about their services while they’re in close proximity. 

With this in mind, it’s easy to see the possibilities for all kinds of businesses to use iBeacon as an on-premises marketing and analytics tool.

Solving problems for retailers

This means the technology has great potential for helping businesses to retain and maintain good customer relationships.

Within the retail sector, iBeacon technology is being applied as a method to overcome the threat of ‘showrooming’, whereby customers visit shops to examine products on the shelves before purchasing them at a lower price online.

>See also: Next big thing: Preparing for the Internet of Things in the enterprise

iBeacons present retailers with a viable solution to this growing problem; one which can not only entice customers into remaining in the stores for longer periods of time, but also encourage them to interact with the brand online and offline simultaneously, increasing the likelihood of purchase and long-term loyalty.

Several American retailers have so far used iBeacon technology to great success. For example, Macy’s was the first retailer to trial iBeacon technology across its stores in New York and San Francisco.

The brand used a mobile app to create ‘ShopBeacons’, enabling Macy’s to track shoppers’ movements throughout the store and produce different offers based on the floor or department the customer is in.

When a shopper enters the store, their phone instantly recognises the beacon signal and reminds the shopper to open the mobile app in order to receive walk-in rewards.

Department stores are often the easiest forum to test new technology of this kind, because they will likely have a larger following than smaller, independent stores.

Many customers may already have the store’s app installed on their phone, providing a perfect basis from which to trial iBeacons.

The nature of a department store also means that customers will be shopping for a range of items, giving brands the opportunity to identify the impact that iBeacon technology can have on sales of specific products.

From that, retailers can better understand how consumers respond to offers pushed to their smartphones via iBeacons, and what works best for specific product types.

iBeacon technology is also helping businesses in other sectors to improve customer engagement. For example, the ‘Rubens House’ museum in Antwerp has used the technology to enhance the visitor experience.

By applying iBeacon technology to the museum’s app, Rubens House can take visitors on a journey through classical art allowing them to navigate the galleries, interact with art pieces and find out more about individual paintings.

Visitors use the app like an indoor GPS as they follow a personalised guided tour. In each room they are triggered to interact with the works of art, with the iBeacon sending visitors a push notification prompting of insights into the artworks.

The US sports industry is another area where iBeacon technology is proving beneficial, following its roll-out within Major League Baseball stadiums – 20 of the 30 MLB teams currently have iBeacons installed at stadium entrances and exits.

Fans with compatible devices and the ‘At The Ballpark’ app installed on their phones are able to check-in to events, allowing them access to customised notifications and special offers.

>See also: First UK shopping centre implements Beacon technology

Lighting the beacons

Despite these advantages, the UK uptake of the technology seems slow. One reason for this may be the fact that iBeacon operates over Bluetooth.

Some businesses are cautious that, for a lot of smartphone users, battery life is a precious commodity and they will do all they can to prolong it.

In many cases, Bluetooth is the first thing to go in order to save battery, and while it is disabled the iBeacon is rendered useless to the user. There is also some concern over security; that it could be a possible vector for cyber-attacks.

While these concerns are valid, on balance it’s important not to let the threat of a data breach or battery issues dissuade businesses from adopting the technology. After all, if iBeacons gather pace, then consumers will demand phones with improved battery to support their ‘always on’ Bluetooth usage.

Similarly, in terms of data security, it would be a natural progression for developers to introduce robust safeguards for their applications.

iBeacon technology has the potential to transform the way businesses operate. In the case of retail, brands will be able to connect the dots between a consumer performing a Search within an app and then actually entering a store.

As long as the user has agreed to accept iBeacon transmissions through a brand’s native app, it will be possible to follow their post-click, real-world journey, direct them to a product and give them an incentive to buy when they get there.

There are already some interesting implementations of the iBeacon that are helping to spread awareness of the technology. As more ideas are created, the further the awareness will reach; and we predict it won’t be long until the term iBeacon is as mainstream as iPad.


Sourced from Mike Flynn, CEO, Fast Web Media

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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