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Local@Speed: Get Ready for the Rise of iBeacon

ibeacon

 

iBeacon, Apple’s tiny Bluetooth-enabled device, is a disruptive technology set to allow brands to intercept shoppers at the exact point of intent. It’s bringing us even closer to an “internet of things” and will give us creative and opportunistic ways to engage the retail consumer. While our phones are currently smart enough to know how to run complex apps or contact servers across the globe, until now, the device doesn’t know if you’re in your kitchen, bedroom, frozen foods section or milk aisle.

With a range of 50 meters, inexpensive iBeacons can cover 2,500 square meters.  This means that even an average Macy’s store at 16,258 square meters would only need 7 of them. Instead of simply knowing you’re near a store (as today’s location-based services do), iBeacons will know precisely which section you’re in, enabling retailers to send contextual messages accordingly.

Why would consumers want to accept such messages? Although it may be seen as intrusive, receiving a subtle text that you can choose to view or not is much easier than dealing with aggressive salespeople. Furthermore, people are likely to opt in if receiving a good value such as an instant deal. For a retailer, it can mean the difference between someone browsing and making a purchasing decision in real time.

The potential of this technology really starts to shine when you mash it together with a loyalty program enabling far more personalized offers. If someone were looking at a particular item for a long period of time, they might be prompted with videos and information of interest. There are rumors that Apple will offer an integrated payment system so consumers can purchase items as they walk through the store rather than bothering with lines and checkouts.

Jakub Krzych, CEO of Estimote, the startup behind iBeacon technology, estimates that reducing the friction at retail will have an economic impact “in the trillions.” With startups such as Uber allowing consumers to pay for cabs without cash or credit cards, it’s just a matter of time before this ability is implemented everywhere.

iBeacons is not just limited to retail. MLB just completed fitting Dodger Stadium and Petco Park with the devices, the first two of 20 that will use the technology by opening day of 2014. By using MLB Advanced Media’s At The Ballpark app, everything from preloading tickets at the gate to providing relevant in-game content will soon be possible.

At DiGo, we love discovering and learning new technologies for our clients, and we’re inspired to push the possibilities to the edge. Left unattended, an iBeacon’s with low energy use can emit data for up to three years. We believe it’s just a matter of time before “guerrilla” iBeacons pop up in dense urban locations, cleverly hidden in rival stores. Imagine the havoc competing car dealerships could have.

We see the possibility of adding the technology to outdoor billboards and pop up experiential events as a must-have of any integrated campaign. Forget about janky, ugly QR codes or convoluted “text to win” messaging. Now communications will pop up on phones automatically.

With the ability to cheaply cover the world in devices that emit location-oriented communications, the new marketing is about to shift from something a few consumers actively participate in to a state where messages are received passively with greater context than ever before. As always, it will be the smartest brands and growth leaders who leverage this technology—the faster and better.