Why Apple's iBeacon Will Reinvigorate A Faltering Retail Industry With Mobile Ads

Goodbye, coupon clipping -- say hello to the digital future. Imagine walking into your favorite retail store like Macy's, H&M or Target and instantly receiving customized coupons and promotions sent automatically to your mobile phone. New technology released by Apple will allow just that -- giving advertisers and retailers the ability to transmit personalized offers directly to consumers who want them most -- and advertisers embrace its potential to reshape and revitalize the retail industry.

This past June, Apple announced at their World Wide Developer Conference a host of new features included in the new release of iOS 7. One feature in particular has quickly come to the surface as having the potential to reshape the way consumers and businesses engage with one another; it’s called iBeacon. For the unfamiliar, iBeacon is a feature that takes advantage of Bluetooth Low Energy technology, also known as Bluetooth Smart.  

For non-developers this news is about as exciting as getting a notification from your local dentist -- but oh, is it so much more. Bluetooth LE (BLE) enables data to be transmitted between BLE supported devices within a physical region that is accurate to within 50 meters, according to a recently published article by GigaOm.

In simpler terms, BLE technology can be thought of as geofencing on a much smaller scale than what has previously been possible with traditional location-tracking technologies such as GPS and WiFi. Let’s get concrete. While a fair litany of articles have been written on the many potential applications of iBeacon technology, such as in-door retail alerts to consumers. This article explores three considerations that brands should be aware of when developing an iBeacon strategy for their business: context, content, and frequency.

Since the feature's release, there has been mixed receptivity with regard to how brands will use the technology to engage consumers. Understandably, consumers have every right to be concerned. iBeacon, after all, rather eerily mirrors the type of personalized advertising technology, as seen in Minority Report. While we might not be quite at the level of consumer engagement as depicted in the film, one thing this sci-fi movie highlights well is the importance of context.

In an already high-stimulus world, the last thing a consumer wants is to be bombarded by a slew of advertisements or push notifications. Used judiciously, however, such targeted notifications can be incredibly valuable to the brand in creating fluid customer experiences that provide just enough information to the user without being overly intrusive. This requires brands to think strategically about two things. First, what is the story that the brand wishes to walk the consumer through? Second, how does the story impel action taken by the consumer that will ultimately lead to a conversion or in-store purchase?

To accomplish this, the brand needs to account for the type of relevant content it wishes to provide consumers and the frequency and order in which these notifications are presented. With each of these strategic considerations aligned, brands place themselves in a great position to market effectively, increase ROI on in-store foot traffic, and create a consumer experience that has the potential to generate repeat business.

In this light, iBeacon surely is a promising feature and we have much to look forward to as industries use BLE technology to their advantage.

1 comment about "Why Apple's iBeacon Will Reinvigorate A Faltering Retail Industry With Mobile Ads".
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  1. Scott Fasser from Hacker Agency, November 20, 2013 at 7:28 p.m.

    I think this article misses a key point in that the technology can and should be used to enhance the consumers experience in store instead of just offers. Think about a quickly available floor map or search to find specific items, a way to contact sales people to help or ways to easily check out with your phone. As we become more reliant on our smartphones and expect more out of them, retail stores need to lean into this connection and improve the experience which will increase sales.

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