The Implications of Apple’s iBeacon on Mobile Data Collection

Jan 21, 2014 in Mobile, Retail

Recently, when we presented our data collection predictions for 2014, we forecasted that retail-tracking technologies, like Apple’s iBeacon, would be adopted in droves by brands and consumers alike over the next year. Today, we take a deeper look and explore the exciting implications of this breakthrough technology.

First, what exactly is iBeacon?

It is a type of technology that was built into Apple’s operating systems and devices in 2013 and similar technology is available on some Android systems. Essentially, it is an indoor positioning system—often referred to as ‘indoor GPS’—that uses Bluetooth technology-powered transmitters to notify devices of their location and what is around them. Businesses that set up these transmitters can send push notifications to customers in close proximity to objects or locations of interest.

“Our clients will implement this to better understand their own client and client behavior in their stores,” said Danny Newman, co-founder and CEO of Roximity, a beacon software and hardware technological laboratory. “Using that data, clients can engage and message their customers to enhance their experience.”

iBeacon was first rolled out to all 254 Apple Stores in the United States in December 2013, and now the technology is already being implemented in grocery stores across the country. As the San Jose Mercury News reports, Safeway and Giant Eagle stores have launched iBeacon in San Francisco, Seattle and Cleveland in early January, and “the number will grow to more than 150 in the next couple of weeks and thousands of stores, grocery and other types, by the end of 2014.”

The implications of iBeacon for retail operations are tremendous.

Using iBeacon, retailers can alert customers of special offers on items as they shop. As the Washington Post points out, when a customer downloads a store’s app and shares his or her location, “Retailers can market offers to customers they know are interested in a specific service. And iBeacons could help a customer navigate a massive store to find the item they’re looking for.”

These are just some of the customer-facing benefits of the technology. On the other hand, retailers that drive superior value from iBeacon will gather rich information about in-store customer behavior on the backend. This data will allow them to make even more well-informed merchandising, customer service and new product development decisions.

“From a consumer standpoint, it can be used to find a specific product within a store or to find a specific store within a mall,” Newman said. “On the retailer side, you’re able to create interactions and use messaging directly with consumers in a slightly more automated fashion than before. It’s very powerful on both sides.”

Early reports on iBeacon acknowledge some privacy concerns of this new customer-tracking technology. But it should be noted that the monitoring and tracking elements of iBeacon only occur if customers opt-in and voluntarily install a retailer’s app. They must do so in order to take advantage of the push notifications and special offers. Furthermore, iBeacon has promising implications outside of the retail setting. As Cult of Mac recently noted, in the not too distant future, iBeacon will likely be used “for home automation, gaming, guided tours, replacement for sports and movie tickets, security (be notified when something goes missing, then find it) and many other categories.”

“We are very much at the beginning—as millions of these low-cost sensors start to appear on everything and everywhere, it will be very cool to be able to always know where devices are in a battery-efficient manner,” Newman said. “It’s taking all of the previous outdoor location information technology and bringing it down to a micro level.”

When it comes to data collection, iBeacon empowers businesses to gather richer and more personalized consumer intelligence, which in turn leads to better retail merchandising decisions. GoSpotCheck is thrilled to partner with today’s brands embracing these latest technological innovations, helping them to optimally structure and analyze their expanding and increasingly sophisticated reserves of retail data.