We’ve seen a lot of technologies over the years profess to be the next game changer for retail – from QR Codes to NFC, iBeacon is the latest technology to take the stage.

In a sentence, iBeacon acts like an indoor GPS location system for your phone – Referred to as an Indoor positioning system (IPS), it uses devices that are scattered around the physical location rather than satellites or mobile towers to tell your phone’s applications where it is.

The platform has been developed by Apple to utilise the new Bluetooth Low Energy standard (BLE) and will work on any iPhone 4s and up. It is also worth mentioning that the physical nodes are being released by Apple as a semi-open platform. This means that there are several vendors starting to produce the iBeacon hardware.

One such Vendor, Estimote, has a demo video that you can watch here for a better idea on how it all could work

Each node has a range of up to 50m. However 10m is recommended and at $99 each, the technology is remarkably affordable.

Just as GPS based services have become a part of our everyday lives, the possibilities of building applications that help, inform and encourage retail activity based on the exact location of customers are endless.

One simple use of the technology is for location based push messaging. We’ve seen this attempted in the past with older Bluetooth technologies and GPS based geo-fencing has its limitations when indoors.

We know customers quite often visit a store to see the physical product with their mobile in hand searching for better prices. iBeacon could help to close the sale in store, by being able to deliver a tailored offering to ensure they purchase there and then – and not via some online retailer.

However, simply sending out sales offers when you walk past a store can be somewhat annoying and here we could be missing out on an opportunity where the technology can really play! Where it starts to get really interesting, is when a brand overlays the in store activity with other available customer data.


Loyalty programs are an integral part of building brand affinity and long term customer loyalty and it allows for easy communication with your customer. It allows a brand to get an understanding of the demographic profiling of their customers, what messages they respond to and what products they buy.

With iBeacon, it adds another dimension to loyalty program data and can open up the opportunity for a brand to track what customers are browsing and how often, and which stores they visit. When you tie that back to the purchasing data and potentially the online browsing data, you have a much deeper understanding of a customer’s purchasing behaviour which can then help shape a richer, more customised CRM program.

Scenarios where you will be able to build marketing programs that automate offers and messaging based on browsing behaviour online and offline are not far away. Imagine being able to retarget based on store and website visits, provide points for visiting stores or even encouraging group purchasing behaviours by offering double points if you visit with a friend who is also a member.

This ability to deliver the right message at the right time, on scale, could make the shopping experience get that little bit closer to the Minority Report future we are all waiting for (and slightly afraid of!).