You Can Run But You Can’t Hide – iBeacons for Contextual Connectivity

With a deluge of location-based services such as Foursquare, and Yelp, and GPS that constantly tracks anyone with a smartphone on the planet, it has become ever more important for giant Internet companies – including Apple, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to ramp up efforts on ad targeting. Add to this list Apple’s Bluetooth LE-based beacon technology that extends location-based marketing services to the iOS, and the recipe for large platforms to lap up the mobile channel for sales, is born!

According to ZenithOptimedia, a division of ad giant Publicis, Internet ad spend is expected to reach $121 billion this year.  Mobile is still a small, albeit growing portion of that figure with potential to outperform radio and magazines in the coming year. Location-analytics company Placed measured more than 40% increase in in-store visits as a result of mobile advertising. Given this promising outlook, how can marketers take advantage of iBeacon?

Retailers, armed with customer data collected offline though loyalty and rewards programs can now feather in the indoor positioning through beacons to develop a granular profile to aid in profitable insights into customer shopping habits. Real-time tracking also enables retailers to signal customers’ devices with information about in-store events and deals of the day.

While the obvious and most straightforward application for iBeacons is retail, experts believe that close proximity detection can enable an iPhone to see and interact with its surroundings in interesting ways. Such location-aware apps that respond to Bluetooth signals can create a rich layer of contextual awareness. Think art coming alive in an exhibition or a museum – essays, critic interviews, and other artists from the same era could help visitors engage with the arts. The depth of content can be saved, to be relived at a later time. Or imagine being in a new city for the first time; iBeacons go beyond maps in delivering real-time alerts about local events happening nearby and proves to be a more efficient method of way finding. Home automation can be revolutionized – doors automatically sense presence and open/close, televisions switch to your favorite channels after talking to your iPhone and emails notify you when your children leave home. PayPal is in the fray with its own beacon device and tout that it will herald the next era of contact-less payments.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

The ability to reach consumers at all times opens the door to the intrusiveness debate. Inundating in-store shoppers with flash messages that border on annoying can ultimately lead to app deletion. It is imperative to first understand what a customer is trying to achieve – find a product, navigate to another section, compare prices or check their rewards account, in order to offer the maximum value through location-based marketing. Security is also an important aspect in commercial implementations of beacon devices.

By keeping the beacon content fresh and understanding what customers are looking for before flooding them with data could help deliver on the beacon promise to evolve into an entirely new medium that unearths specialized and personalized content in the spaces around us.

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