iBeacon was developed by Apple and it’s a technology that uses Bluetooth low-energy proximity sensing to transmit signals which mobile software uses to trigger their own push notifications. Apple explains how the technology works and how developers can integrate this technology into their apps to create meaningful experiences for the iOS users, both iPhones and iPads.
iBeacons need the perfect harmony between hardware and software and the ecosystem to work well. There is a detailed article explaining the workings of iBeacons explaining the technologies used for iBeacons and how retailers or brands can use this technology to their advantage.
Since mobiles are the most used electronic gadget in the world and most of the users are moving to a smartphone with the prices declining continuously and phones becoming better in terms of specifications, the ecosystem for iBeacon is already well established. Apple even introduced the technology at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 2013 so it’s been almost 3 full years since its introduction to the market. Since Apple has a big market share in a few countries like USA and Australia as compared to developing nations like India we see a lot of implementation of iBeacons in these developed countries.
The retail industry has found a lot of creative uses of iBeacons and has leveraged it to help customers compare products, give information, share deals or make their shopping experience rewarding with the technology. The few technologies that work in tandem for successful implementation of iBeacons are Bluetooth low energy (BLE), geolocation data and hardware and software playing nice with each other without much obstacles in their paths since Bluetooth connectivity gets affected by thick walls, metal doors or other objects. Some of the successful implementations that have helped businesses can be discussed here.
#1. Promoting Special Deals
Since beacons work with GPS and in close proximity of the phones with the devices, they are perfect to send out deals and special offers in stores. A lot of stores have reported great success with such initiatives and the trials have succeeded with sales going up. All that is needed is an app with iBeacon functionality baked in and a store located in a mall or right on the street so as to avoid any interferences.
#2. Enhancing Loyalty Programs
Enabling beacons in the loyalty or rewards app of a store can help know the customer behavior and also drive business intelligence. Based on where the customer is and their buying history the store can then target offers personalized to them.
#3. Nearby Offers and Tie Ups
Supermarkets, restaurants, bars and more places can use beacons to target the nearby people with offers and even can have tie-ups where a bar can suggest a nearby hotel to a person who is too intoxicated. A collection of shops in a shopping center or the shops on a street can promote each other’s offers and create a business opportunity for each other with the use of beacons.
#4. Improving Customer Service
Supermarkets and stores which offer click and collect facility can use beacons to help identify nearby customers who are there to collect their goods and can instruct the staff to keep their product ready to be collected. When the staff is done assembling the product, the customer gets a notification that the item is ready to be collected. Another example of supermarket apps using beacon technology can help with products info or reviews when a customer scans the barcode, suggest specials based on the aisle they are in the supermarket, add products to their virtual basket and even pay with an e-wallet. One more instance can be to add the ability to call a staff member for help if a customer has any query.
#5. Value Addition & Engaging Customers
The beacons can be used in engaging customers while they are in stores to receive discounts on completing certain tasks or other innovative approaches like treasure hunts. As long as the shopping experience of a customer is enriching and some innovation is shown, they will be tempted to come back to the stores or even recommend it to their contacts.
#6. Getting Valuable Insights on Consumer Habits
Sometimes the beacons can be used to simply collect data instead of sending out offers or discounts. In a large shopping mall, at a gas station and bigger spaces where beacons can help study customer movements and their buying patterns by analyzing the time they spend in every department. All the data can help devise strategies about what customers to target and how. The world’s biggest companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon are all using the data effectively to drive usage and sales.
#7. Reaching Out To Probable Customers
Imagine having a store of high-cost items like jewelry, exotic items or more. The customer base will be limited to such stores and as such, they can use the technology to reach the nearby people. These stores can educate people with broadcasting notifications as to why their brand is better than the rivals, their specialties or even their unique designs.
IBeacons have had successful trials and the results so far are encouraging. The mass deployment of this technology would enable businesses to have enough data of their customers’ buying patterns and target products and deals to them even more efficiently. The use and implementation of the technology are just limited to the imagination of the people.
IBeacons should get a boost with the introduction of Bluetooth version 5 and new developments in battery tech where smartphones last longer with Bluetooth always turned on. The ecosystem is ready and results have favoured the use of technology so all that is needed is that retailers come up with innovative implementations to drive sales.
Mobile app developers have to play their part and add this functionality to their apps. A joint effort of app developers and retailers to use beacons would lead to great results from the use of this technology.