Commentary

Apple Pay And iBeacons -- A Digital Marketing Revolution Could Be On Its Way

One of the more interesting questions to ask around the iPhone 6 launch is how a combination of Apple Pay and iBeacons would  impact the shopping experience. More to the point, what opportunities would this open up for digital marketers when Apple Pay rolls out from the U.S.?

The short answer is that it's a massive opportunity -- but to draw a parallel, it's worth taking a quick look at the banks. They are making major moves into card and account-linked loyalty schemes which reward bankers for shopping with particular brands. The big selling point is that the banks are well positioned to know just about everything a banker spends their money on. For example, you want to reach people in Sheffield who have recently bought a bike and offer them a money-off deal for accessories or maybe people who have booked a holiday but don't have insurance included with a premium bank account, the banks are there. In fact, they're positioning themselves as the go-to guys for building prospect models around past and ongoing expenditure delivered through vouchers and loyalty schemes.

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Now, imagine that kind of insight were available from Apple Pay and it was coupled with iBeacon technology. That would not only allow people to pay at the touch of a finger(print) wirelessly, it would also enable marketers to welcome shoppers in to a store, run offers past them, allow coupons to be wireless accepted or previous credits to be applied to today's shopping basket.

On their own, both a payment mechanism and a wireless communication channel are very worthwhile -- but if you can combine them, marketers could potentially get much better insights. There may well be data protection issues, but promotions and salutations could be far better informed. It would end the cycle you get online of people retargeting you in display and sending endless messages about a product that you may have already bought with them or elsewhere. They leave you just screaming out to be left alone.

With payment records and iBeacons working together -- fully secure and in accordance with data protection, of course -- you could move away from an offer on crockery or vases, which you know have been recently bought elsewhere. You might instead offer a promotion on something else. 

The level of detail you could know about someone is obviously up to question, and legal challenge. However, it could be perfectly feasible for people to be anonymised in some way to be in market for a particular item. Or maybe two or three offers could be running in the same store and a piece of technology from within Apple Pay decides which one the iBeacon sends them, without the brand knowing the reason why? Maybe that would be the solution?

Whichever way you look at it, combining the detail that a store knows about a shopper already with the payment data that Apple Pay might have locked in a vault elsewhere just has to make for better targeted marketing -- doesn't it?

A recent poll from Marketing Sciences showed that less than one in five Britons would trust credit cards stored by Apple -- PayPal received nearly double that approval rating -- but it must be said that may well be down to its cloud service in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

If it were done with privacy at its heart, I'm sure that shoppers could see the benefits. No more coupons or showing funny barcodes on screens to cashiers who may or may not know how to activate an offer. Offers would be better targeted and easier to redeem with, and this would be my favourite -- everything stored digitally. If you go back to return an item or need an accessory -- anyone out there remember what ink cartridges their printer takes -- everything required would be accessible via the phone and presented to the shop assistant. 

Better customer service and shopping made a whole lot easier -- what's not to love? It would certainly be a good platform to build better targeted promotions delivered via iBeacons.

It's a combination that I reckon could revolutionise customer service and digital marketing at the same time.

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