The innovation heating up in the mobile world is the micro-location technology of Apple’s iBeacon. Last week Fortune wrote how iBeacon is the turning point for mobile engagement. And with US retailers like Macy’s, Best Buy, Target, J.C. Penney and Kmart all looking to get in on location-based message marketing, there will be no shortage of news about how beacon messaging will enhance the mobile customer experience.
iBeacon was unveiled in late 2013 and employs Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). This is similar to location-based services (LBS) and near field communications (NFC), as iBeacon is a proximity-based service capturing and delivering data up to 160 feet. iBeacon could be considered a rival to NFC, as the two technologies have many non-overlapping applications and both have a place in the geo-location market. Two main advantages of iBeacon, since it’s based on BLE, are that it doesn’t drain a smartphone battery as quickly and it has a longer range for contact.
The beacons can be positioned in any location as they can attach to a wall or counter top, and the hardware is relatively low-cost, utilizing battery-friendly, low-energy Bluetooth connections to transmit messages to a smartphone or tablet. Apple already has competition, as PayPal, Qualcomm and Pinkato are also getting into the beacon business.
This mobile technology, as with all mobile forms of communication, is permission-based requiring a consumer’s express consent to receive the messages. This can be done via downloading the mobile app, and agreeing to receive information, promotions, or loyalty alerts. One scenario to apply this new technology would be at a grocery store. As a consumer shops the health and beauty aisle, the beacon’s data exchange recognizes the shopper as a grocery store loyalty program member. This instantly triggers content delivery of coupons, loyalty point reminders, or product information on items in that aisle. If there was an initial interest in a product, personalized and targeted messaging increase the likelihood of the consumer making an instant in-store purchase.
Beacon technology has also been tested at live events, including at this year’s Super Bowl and at stadiums such as the Miami Dolphins’ home arena, Sun Life Stadium. Major League Baseball in the US has an Opening Day goal of installing thousands of beacons in two thirds of their stadiums. This will allow for more information on concessions based on your seat, and the wait time in nearby lines. It will also tie into rewards programs that include discounts on items sold within the ballpark.
Consumers have become accustomed to the push delivery of information via mobile. With new applications of beacon technology and highly-targeted messaging, marketers can deliver a whole new level of customer experience.