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As more customers use their mobiles when shopping offline and retailers worry about showrooming, iBeacons could become very useful for marketers. 

The technology is still relatively new, and retailers and other businesses are just beginning trials using iBeacons. 

Here are five examples of how the technology is being used...

What are iBeacons? 

Christopher Ratcliff has already provided an excellent beginner's guide to iBeacons, but here's a quick overview. 

iBeacons is an Apple brand name for the micro-location technology in mobile apps that is transmitted using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

BLE allows linked devices to transmit signals to each other without using too much of the device's battery life, which makes it more appealing than less energy-efficient GPS and wi-fi alternatives. 

BLE signals can be transmitted via compatible devices but also via third-party hardware, commonly known as beacons.

It isn't just new iOS devices that implement this technology. In fact, the majority of new devices entering the market are all BLE compatible. 

It means that content (offers, product alerts etc) can be pushed straight to mobile devices, providing they have the brand’s app installed (and bluetooth switched on). This is one less move for the consumer when compared with NFC.

So how are brands using iBeacons?  

There are a number of potential uses, thanks to the ability to target customers in physical locations. 

The killer feature is that customers can be prompted according to their location, so that offers and promotions can be targeted with greater precision.

Major League Baseball 

This app provides baseball fans with access to tailor-made offers, information about facilities, video clips and more. 


The famous US department store has been experimenting with iBeacons. In this example, customers who enter the store with the Shopkick app installed on their iPhones will be alerted about deals and items they may be interested in. 

While there may be a risk of annoying shoppers, this kind of precision marketing could be very effective. 

CES scavenger hunt

This was trialled at CES recently. The idea of the scavenger hunt was to encourage attendees to explore the event.

People downloaded the CES mobile app onto their iOS or Android devices and then looked to find iBeacon badges throughout the conference venue and win a prize. 

American Eagle Outfitters

Using the Shopkick app, American Eagle Outfitters customers receive a welcome message when they enter a store, with details of location-specific rewards, deals, discounts and product recommendations.

Here, the messages are pushed to customers without them needing to open the app. If a customer has tagged products on the app, they will receive reminders to search for those items when in store. 


Apple has switched on iBeacon tech in its 254 US stores, to be used in conjunction with the company's Apple Store app. 

Uses include customer notifications when orders are assembled and ready, as well as prompts such as phone upgrades when you're in the relevant section of the store. 

Graham Charlton

Published 7 April, 2014 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (10)

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Hank Samm

When are you all going to get past Apple and start dealing with the majority of customer that are out there on Android? Beacons are a cross-OS solution, you are limiting yourselves calling them iBeacons. I think it is powerful technology with a lot of promise but these fan-boy stories are missing the bigger, better deal and starting conversations on the wrong foot.

over 2 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

If you read the article, you'll see that i have mentioned that this concept is not limited to Apple. This is explained in more detail here: https://econsultancy.com/blog/63633-a-marketer-s-guide-to-ibeacons-and-bluetooth-low-energy

This article is about Apple's IBeacons, which is why the examples are Apple related. In other articles you'll see Android examples.

over 2 years ago


Stefan Wolpers

I created a slide-deck "iBeacons – Fad Or Trend? The Use-Cases For Retail And Omni-Channel Solutions" that explains the most likely use-cases for iBeacon in the retail industry – your feedback would be much appreciated. (See link.)

over 2 years ago


Joe Tarragano

What's good about most of these examples is that it moves the conversation from marketing to customer experience. Where beacons enrich how the customer is supported, rather than sold to, that is a strong positive. That will drive people to start turning on Bluetooth (which is otherwise going to be the largest barrier to adoption). The retailer's challenge will be in building the capability to design, deliver & maintain the content for these enhanced apps.

over 2 years ago

Timothy James Compton

Timothy James Compton, Digital Community Coach at Affinity Water Ltd

Thanks for sharing! It is exciting to see how the technology can be used to add context to the customer experience - making it quicker and easier for customers to access your content when they want it!

over 2 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

CES Scavenger Hunt report. Fun and helped encourage people to visit more of the show, but with some technical glitches:

There was a basic flaw in the concept because only the first successful competitor got a significant prize, limiting its appeal after the first few minutes. They could have let every winner roll dice for a top prize to avoid this issue.

over 2 years ago


Joe Tarragano

Interesting to see two almost identical stories today. Can anyone say cut & paste? On DotRising:


over 2 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Joe - yes, they've listed the same examples, but have at least linked to the original.

over 2 years ago


Devika G, Marketing Content at MobStac

Great post. Of recent there has been a lot of excitement over beacons. Especially over its ability to cater to the consumers’ desire to receive personalized, contextual offers and content on their mobile devices. That said, there is a downside to beacons as well: a number of businesses have quite a few security concerns around beacons. Especially with a team having managed to crack the CES 2014 Scavenger Hunt, a beacon powered app without even being present at the venue physically. Therefore, when it comes to developing apps for proximity solutions, you should incorporate a security model that addresses the common risks involved such as device spoofing and man-in-the-middle interception. Another important thing to note is that, the compensation security mechanism you employ should suit the concerned application. We have compiled a checklist on vafrious ways to assess beacon security here; http://blog.beaconstac.com/6-myths-around-beacon-security-and-privacy/

about 2 years ago


Michelle Yeap, Proj Coordinator at Great Western

How about SPIX Technology?

almost 2 years ago

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