If 2014 was the year for real-time mobile targeting and location awareness, as noted in our tech trends index of 2014, then expect 2015 to see retail-tracking technology get a whole lot smarter as Apple advances its iBeacon hardware. iBeacon, a tiny device works with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or Bluetooth version 4. iBeacon will transmit signal which enables a smart phone or other device to perform actions when in close proximity, opening up a host of opportunities for retailers and advertisers. For instance, the iBeacon can transfer notifications of nearby items on sale, provide information about a nearby event, or even enable payments at the point of sale (POS) in-store so customers can make a payment entirely over mobile.
iBeacon device gives retailers access to a wealth of useful data sets such as tracking how long a person stays in a store as well as an idea of the items that they were looking to purchase. With an iOS device, iBeacon is able to identify when a phone has entered or left a store and what department the user may be standing in. The iBeacon’s commercial capabilities also extend to the logistics industry as the device can be used to set a region around a movable object like a food truck or a ship so businesses can track their goods.
Apple began to roll out iBeacon in its stores in the US in late 2013 but over the last year UK firms have also stepped into the market and begun to pilot the devices. Virgin Atlantic is currently conducting a trial of the iBeacon at Heathrow Airport to automatically pull up a user’s mobile boarding pass for inspection when the passenger moves towards the security checkpoint, while the likes of Waitrose and Tesco have been trialling the device in their stores.
Howard Simms, co-founder and director of UK mobile app company Apadmi, said, “Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, used in indoor proximity system iBeacon, is a technology that has been increasingly realised by retailers and marketers in the last year and this will continue in 2015. This is because it combines the use of mobile apps and location-based services to reach out to customers in the right place and at the right time with targeted content.
“iBeacons can give customers specific information, deals and advice depending on where they are in the store, the time of day, their purchase history or based on other mobile behaviour. This personalisation of a consumer’s retail experience will be used to drive people back to the high street as customers discover how they can engage with retail stores in innovative and personalised ways.
“iBeacon technology will give developers and retailers the ability to target consumers on a more specific level than ever before. Large amounts of data will be generated through using such technology and this will assist with businesses’ strategic decision-making and enable companies to mobilise their marketing and sales teams accordingly.”
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