How does it Work?
iBeacon allows Mobile Apps to listen for signals from beacons in the physical world and react accordingly. In essence with an iBeacon network, any brand, retailer, app, or platform will be able to understand exactly where a customer is in the brick and mortar environment. This provides an opportunity to send customers highly contextual, hyper-local, meaningful messages and advertisements on their smartphones.
Why Is It a Big Deal?
The typical scenario looks like this. A consumer carrying a smartphone walks into a store. Apps installed on a consumer’s smartphone listen for iBeacons. When an app hears an iBeacon, it communicates the relevant data (UUID, Major, Minor, Tx) to its server, which then triggers an action. This could be something as simple as a push message “Welcome to Starbucks! Try our new Vanilla Sweetened Iced Coffee K-Cup Packs!”, and could include other things like targeted advertisements, special offers, and helpful reminders “You’re out of Milk!”. Other potential applications include mobile payments and shopper analytics and implementation outside of retail, at airports, concert venues, theme parks, and more. The potential is limitless.
Who is Using iBeacon?
Just in time for this holiday season Macy’s deployed beacons in nearly 800 stores throughout the country in partnership with Shopkick, a location-based coupon dispenser app used by top national retailers including Best Buy, Sports Authority, J.C.Penney and Target, to finally capitalize on an offline data-driven retail experience. Macy’s is using beacon tech to track customer movements within their store, push product recommendations and discounts and to inform shoppers about relevant sale items.
Lord & Taylor Stores
In July 2014, the Hudson’s Bay Company rolled out beacons at 130 Lord & Taylor and The Bay stores in the U.S. and Canada via Swirl, an iBeacon marketing platform that integrates with Motorola Solutions’ MPact platform and is already being used by brands like Timberland and Kenneth Cole for tailored in-store experiences. They’re installing beacons in merchandising areas to send shoppers location-aware, targeted notifications, branded content and personalized offers. Hudson’s Bay Company is one of the first major department stores to do this in such a large number of stores across North America.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts is running an iBeacon trial in 30 of its hotels and resorts that helps concierges greet guests who arrive by name, accelerates the check-in process for frequent guests, and lets housekeeping know when guests are still in the room. Plus, in a new one-of-its-kind pilot program, Starwood guests at two of their U.S. hotels will be able to walk into a hotel, skip the check-in process, go straight to their room and open the room door via keyless entry activated on their smartphones. For this to work, the guest must have a partner app installed and turned on, and the room can be opened by simply tapping or gesturing with their device once they arrive at the door.
Walmart, too, in partnership with GE is launching a one-of-its-kind iBeacon trial by using GE lightbulbs to house iBeacons and send push notifications of specials and discount coupons to customers in their stores. GE’s new beacon-equipped LED bulbs can track shoppers within stores by using the iBeacons hidden inside them, thus eliminating the need for these stores to buy separate beacon-related hardware.
Disney, will be introducing a unique system that uses a sensor laden wristband to enhance the entire spectrum of their Disney experience from trip planning, ticketing and access to payment and photo management. The entire Disney guest experience is now able to be centralized into one CRM tool. Guests are able to use it as a room key for their resort room, pay for items in the park, act as a park pass, get them in the fast lane with FastPass and collect all their photos during their stay.
Providers and Prices
Estimote is currently selling iBeacon developer kits for $99. These kits, built for tinkerers, early adopters, and publishers, allow developers to integrate iBeacon functionality into their existing Apps.
Dev Kit with 3 Bluetooth Beacons $99
Dev Kit with 10 Sticker Beacons $99
inMarket made a big splash this year with the very first multi-retailer implementation of iBeacon. inMarket’s Mobile-to-Mortar iBeacon Platform allows publishers, retailers, and brands to connect with consumers in-store using iBeacon technology.
Contact for prices
Gimbal, by Qualcomm Retail Solutions, is a context-aware platform that brings geofencing and iBeacon functionality to Apps. Its platform includes an SDK for developers and a dedicated back-end for managing beacon networks and content delivery. Gimbal also makes its own dedicated hardware to round out the solution.
Swirl is a marketing platform with a retail focus. Their offering includes a content management system, an SDK for developers, and dedicated hardware beacons.
Contact for Prices
Indoo.rs is an indoor positioning and navigation company. Their mobile SDK allows developers to integrate iBeacon functionality into apps. Indoo.rs is focusing on applications beyond retail – in places like airports, shopping malls, hospitals, museums, and enterprises. Main features include indoor navigation, routing, asset tracking, and analytics. They’ve partnered with Kontakt.io for help on the hardware side. They charge a fee per Monthly Active User per App per month.
This technology should bring about a paradigm shift in the way brands communicate with consumers. iBeacon provides a digital extension into the physical world. Keep an eye on this technology it could be a game changer in the advertisement industry.