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What is iBeacon? How Can it Help eCommerce Businesses?

05 September 2014 by Debbie Hopkins

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What is iBeacon?

iBeacon is a small wireless sensor that can be placed in physical shops. Once it detects an Apple device with iOS7 is in the very near vicinity it can transmit data to an iPad, iPhone or even iPod touch using Bluetooth low energy technology. 

It means that retailers can transmit key information to shoppers within just 10-50 meters. Registered shoppers will be given notifications about special offers, new products and relevant news and not have to worry about a fast-draining battery as they would with a standard Bluetooth service. What’s more, it even offers the opportunity for shoppers to ‘summon’ a store clerk if they need assistance.

Sure, it is seen by some as pretty intrusive, but it’s only available to those who have their notifications turned on. In all, it’s pretty neat.

Check out this video from one of the leading Beacon providers Estimote which discusses the benefits of this technology:

How will iBeacon help eCommerce stores?

Obviously, beacons technology is great for offline stores, but how can it help retailers who combine bricks and mortar with an online offering?

Over the last few years, the rise of mobile technology means that the lines between physical and online stores have become increasingly blurred. Beacon technology only serves to muddy the waters further – but in a good way.

For instance, some apps, including one created by the English supermarket Waitrose, have enabled shoppers to scan barcodes, buy virtually using mobile wallets and have goods delivered to them.

iBeacon can help eCommerce businesses in a number of ways:

  • Hyper location targeting – iBeacons are very small and cost next to nothing to power (they’ll run non-stop for around two years on a watch battery). Therefore, they can be placed around a store and transmit a range of relevant online-only offers and sales, depending on where customers are in the shop. 
  • Loyalty programs – incorporating users’ personal information supplied in online registration forms, iBeacon means that stores can let shoppers know which specific loyalty offers are available to them – enhancing brand loyalty. 
  • Increased awareness – many shoppers will be unaware that some bricks and mortar stores have online shops too. Using beacon technology to document product details and website offers means that online stores can be positioned as a viable alternative too.
  • Growing social reach – beacon technology needn’t just be used to offer discounts and offers to shoppers, it can also be a great tool to grow social communities. Simple alerts to like brands on Facebook and follow on Twitter (especially if coupled with promotions and offers) can increase engagement with online brands over time. 

Planning on building apps that integrate offline with eCommerce? Talk to our expert team today – simply call +1 305-762-0130 (US) or (UK) +44 (0) 2920 837 438


(Image: Jonathan Nalder under CC BY 2.0)

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