[Preview#12] iBeacon technology for retailers

Think about a technology able to beam advertisements to people’s smartphones at the precise moment they are standing, for example, in aisle nine, wondering which brand of sneakers to buy – I’m talking about iBeacon technology, and beaming advertisements is just the tip of the iceberg…

Basically this technology makes it possible for Mobile Apps – running on millions of recent smartphones and tablets – to know how close they are to tiny, low-cost, wireless transmitters called iBeacons; iBeacons broadcast signals using the well-known Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) standard, allowing:

  • precise, indoor geo-location (often called “micro-location”)


  • contextual interaction/engagement, as proximity to an iBeacon can trigger some specific App functionalities at exactly a specific time and in a specific location

Thinking that Bluetooth is a battery drainer? Actually the Bluetooth Low Energy standard, as the name implies, is very, very battery friendly.

Let me describe a simple, valuable iBeacon retail Use-case: let’s pretend that Joe is a shoes-store owner and that Jane is a loyal shopper who installed Joe’s store iBeacon-enabled Mobile App on her Apple iPhone (or Samsung whatever).

Jane is visiting Joe’s store; an iBeacon mounted under a store-shelf will inform Jane’s iPhone that she (Jane, loyalty-card #28746) is in a particular physical location, for example in front of Nike shoes.

Thanks to this technology, Joe is potentially able to serve Jane in-store customized offers – for instance a discount-coupon for Nike shoes – according to her behavior, shopping history, etc.

As a matter of fact, the level of targeting that iBeacon technology provides can greatly change how retailers interact with customers and significantly improve their shopping-experience; let me make an example of shopper-engagement in a DIY-store: iBeacon technology could allow a shopper to receive an in-store notification regarding an upcoming workshop session (e.g. about how to repair lawn-mowers) he may wish to attend to – topics of interest can be automatically deducted considering his purchase history, surveyed hobbies, etc.

Monitoring shoppers behavior (store visits, walking-paths, etc.) is another possibility; iBeacons allow the retailer to know in real-time that a specific shopper has been standing, for example, in front of a specific display for more than three minutes; the retailer can also gather if the shopper recently visited the same store or other stores of the same chain, which shelves/items she checked there, if she previously went online on the retailer’s ecommerce site, and so on.

Andy Cavallini





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