iBeacons, Apple’s Passbook and Customer Engagement

Posted on by Jack Philbin

The introduction of beacon technology has presented both retailers and consumers with new – and largely untapped – opportunities for engagement. While the industry is abuzz with its benefits, how it works, how to deploy it, etc., one valuable opportunity has remained largely overlooked: tying beacons to mobile wallets—specifically iBeacons and Apple’s Passbook. This is huge—and here’s why

Just the beginning…

iBeacons add a new dimension to the way we interact with our phones and how our phones interact with us. While the way that marketers work with and deploy iBeacon technology is still being defined, Passbook presents an opportunity for marketers to start experimenting now. Once iBeacons are set up in retail stores, all offers and loyalty cards saved in Passbook can be triggered by iBeacons.

As shoppers walk around the store, different wallet content can appear on the shoppers’ iPhone lock screen in different departments. For example, an offer for 20% off basketballs could trigger in the sporting goods department and a different one could trigger in the health care aisle.  Every time a shopper enters through the front entrance of a store, the retailer could trigger the loyalty card to appear right on the lock screen. We’re only at the starting line when it comes to harnessing the power of this technology; brands that line up now will enjoy a head start—and the rest of the industry will have to work to catch up.

There’s more to iBeacons than just an app
Many people think the only way to leverage iBeacons is through apps. While that’s definitely one path, it’s important to understand the others that exist. Apple’s Passbook is on nearly every iPhone and it already takes advantage of iBeacons. Because Passbook is an existing “utility” application on Apple devices, it’s already set up to look for and work with iBeacons – without needing a customer to download a third-party app. This means if you’re already using Passbook and have iBeacons deployed, you can start using this technology in your stores today.

Where’s the value?
For marketers, iBeacon technology offers incredible benefits for a low investment. With something as simple as a watch battery, beacons are independently powered for two years, which makes them extremely simple to install and maintain. There’s no need to plug them in, establish a network or have them installed by an electrician. You can use iBeacons and Passbook to promote specific products at the end of a quarter or based on inventory or season.

For consumers, the accurate in-store location functionality allows more relevant and timely content in specific aisles and departments within a retail store. Customers can receive alerts about a sale, targeted promotions based on their personalized profile and a message with accompanying information on specific products or loyalty programs.

How it works
iBeacons are a feature of Apple’s iOS 7, a specific type of Bluetooth Low Energy (also known as BLE, Bluetooth 4.0 or Bluetooth Smart) technology. These small, low-powered transmitters deliver a signal that iPhones listen for and engage with, the end result is a timely and relevant message delivered to our phones.  BLE changes the equation by offering a wide range of communication (indoor localization, content being pushed to phones) available at very low-power consumption.

An iPhone or iPad can also act and transmit signals just like an iBeacon device. This means if your associates already have iPhones or iPads with them in-store you can very easily turn them into iBeacons.

Generating results – what’s the formula?
For iBeacon technology to deliver the highest value, it’s important for marketers to understand and consider multiple paths for planning for and execution. The following will become a key part of any strategy:

1.       Choose content wisely. It’s important to think about the content you would want to send to someone in the shoe department versus as they get out of their car in the parking lot. Or, when they enter the mall vs. when they’re walking by a particular retailer. Avoid taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach when developing your content strategy.

2.       Distribute timely content. Because iBeacons provide very accurate location data, you want to take advantage of sending the right content at the right place and at the right time. The frequency of content is key; send too much, consumers will become annoyed, but send too little, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to strengthen your customer relationships.

3.       Facilitate personalized conversations. With this technology, you now have greater ability to understand consumers’ behaviors and in-store shopping patterns. As a result, your iBeacons can engage with consumers’ mobile devices at specific places within your store, leading to more meaningful interactions.

The end result
Starting with iBeacon technology is incredibly easy and the end results are powerful. They provide retailers with a simple way to collect data and analyze behavior, conduct in-the-moment A/B testing and positively influence the customer journey based on these results. The potential of this technology is largely untapped – and is only the beginning for in-store experiences enhanced by technology. The future is bright with iBeacons and Passbook, giving marketers and consumers an exciting new frontier to explore.

Jack Philbin is co-founder and CEO of Vibes.

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