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.