iBeacons: the next wave of location marketing, engagement


TechCrunch recently reported on a UK firm’s use of Apple’s iBeacon technology to sell digital editions based on precise indoor location.

Exact Editions uses iBeacons to allow cafes, doctors’ offices, hotels, etc. to purchase subscriptions, which are then made available free of charge to visitors.

Though compelling for those of us concerned with how to make our digital products available at the local coffee shop, along with our printed editions, this is just one scenario the technology offers.

iBeacon is Apple’s implementation of an indoor location positioning using Bluetooth Low Energy to communicate with mobile devices via push notifications within defined areas. Wikipedia has a good explanation on the basics of iBeacon and Bluetooth LE.

Apple itself launched iBeacons in its stores December 6. According to ZDNET: “Shoppers can expect the app to notify them when an order is ready to be collected, or suggest an upgrade or trade-in on an existing phone.”

Early visions of retail use imagine a network of iBeacons targeted to departments or individual stores pushing offers and information to shoppers’ devices as they walk through. Integration with the retailers’ own apps would also allow better customisation and targeting of these offers.

This is the infant stage of the customised billboards that followed Tom Cruise’s character in the film Minority Report, but “iBeacons provides (Apple) with hyper-local data regarding customer movements within a store (apps could contain an opt-in for allowing use of that info),” says TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington.

“That kind of granular look at shopper behaviour could pay huge dividends in terms of helping formulate evolving retail strategy,” Etherington continues.

Major League Baseball is also testing iBeacon in baseball stadiums nationwide that will work with its “MLB At Bat” app – providing a range of information that includes seat directions, vendor offers, etc.

“The level of targeting and reach that a smartly assembled array of Bluetooth beacons provides could profoundly change how companies try to interact with us for better or worse,” says TechCrunch’s Chris Velazco.

Exact Editions’ efforts are worth emulating.

We also might consider how we can provide enhanced value on-location to our partners – and boost single-copy sales, market related-content, bloggers, and deals, etc.

There’s lots of room to experiment as the tools evolve.

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