Who doesn’t want to find the shortest concession lines at sporting events? Or the best deal on that pair of shoes? Who doesn’t want to be “in the know,” the first to tell others? Imagine if our smartphones made us smarter.
Today, iBeacons--the latest and greatest in geolocation--are leveraging the smart in smartphones.
As I wrote last week, Major League Baseball (as well as other major sports events) are rolling out iBeacons. Why? Well, for one thing, most consumers seek to save time or money, and marketers wish to leverage smartphones to reach and engage consumers. Supporters of iBeacon technology expect that customers will be willing to share their data for “benefits like discounts and helpful tips.”
The iBeacon is what I call the rising star in geolocation technology. In today’s blog, we’ll take a look at how the iBeacon works and a few brands that are giving it a try.
Just as a lighthouse emits light, the iBeacon emits an invisible, soundless signal to customers’ smartphones when they come within range of the beacon. It uses Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) technology to do so. As I wrote last week, “If you’re looking for highly targeted, location-based marketing inside of stores, Bluetooth is your best option. According to MMA, Bluetooth is a wireless technology capable of ‘exchanging content and data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices with high levels of security.’”
So how does iBeacon impact the customer experience? First, customers with iPhones’ updated iOS 7 software don’t have to remember to launch or open their store-specific app. The only requirement is for their smartphones and Bluetooth to be powered on. In addition, users must allow the store app to access their iPhones' location data and for the app to send them push notifications.
Upon entering a store, the iBeacon can send out signals with deals, product information, news about upcoming events, and more. It’s like a superintuitive, mind-reading sales team, but in a person’s pocket or purse.
This quarter-sized technology can be placed on a wall or any flat surface. Shopkick, an early iBeacon partner, reports that it’s simple to set up, simple to use, and has a battery life of five years.
iBeacon In Action
We can always thank the trailblazers who go first, adopting new technology before the rest of us.
For example, this past November, Macy’s ran a beta test of the iBeacon technology in its San Francisco and New York stores. By using shopBeacons, Macy’s was focused on serving up different offers based on the floor or department the customer was located. Macy’s CMO Martine Reardon stated, "With this shopBeacon trial, we are testing the most leading-edge mobile technologies because we believe they can even further enhance the in-store experience for Macy’s shoppers."
Meanwhile, American Eagle Outfitters is currently deploying iBeacons in 100 stores nationwide--the largest deployment of this technology to date. How it goes remains to be seen, but questions to be answered include: What troubles will they encounter? How will consumers use iBeacons? How will the social oversharers and privacy phobics react? Will the technology truly have an impact on American Eagle’s bottom line?
It’s too soon to tell, but this we know for sure: American Eagle customers--most of whom are “digital-first” Millennials--are in for an amazing, high tech, creative, in-store experience and probably a deal or discount. It’s a win-win for everyone.
In addition, at a recent mobile marketing event, I heard Manish Jha, the NFL's VP of mobile, talk about its deployment of beacons at Super Bowl 2014 in New York City. Approximately 60 beacons from Qualcomm were deployed at various locations in Manhattan and at MetLife Stadium, where the game was played. If fans with the NFL Mobile app “dwelled” nearby a beacon for a certain period of time, they could choose to opt-in and receive a notification message.
On the day of the game, geofences were set up around the stadium so that arriving fans would receive a welcome message and information about special events around the venue. Similar to the retailers, media and entertainment companies are focused on providing an amazing experience that connects mobile fans to a real-world location.
Follow The Beacon
As long as the benefits to consumers outweigh any annoyance and hassle, marketers can stay ahead of the curve. Remember, perpetually connected consumers love hassle-free convenience. If iBeacons can facilitate such experiences, they will truly be seen as a beacon, guiding consumers toward that proverbial light on the shore in the form of short lines, discounts, and--more importantly--a creative, “wow” experience.