The iBeacon: changing the face of the UK retail market

Do you know what an iBeacon is? If not, you’re sure to soon, as this new technology could be set to change how retailers go to market, and revolutionise the way you shop. So what’s it all about?

Interacting with smartphones via Bluetooth technology, an iBeacon alerts retailers to customers in nearby locations and sends them tailored messages and promotional collateral as they shop. Sending out marketing material relating to your products when customers are just round the corner has a much higher success rate than automated emails received at all times of day.

Due to the interaction between iBeacons and smartphones, retailers can create bespoke messages for individual customers. To illustrate, if you recognise a customer nearby has downloaded your businesses app, and has a loyalty account, they could be sent an offer as a means of rewarding their loyalty and retaining their custom.

With such a high percentage of the population owning a smartphone, this technology has the potential to take off and shape the retail industry. Although the iBeacon is very much in its infancy and few retailers are yet to utilise it, let alone harness it efficiently, there are possibilities for sellers to alter prices in real-time, dependant on a host of variables. A multi-store retailer could capitalise on sunny weather in a certain region of the country and distribute offers on summer-related products direct to the phones of customers local to their stores in this area. Popularity of certain goods could even promote real-time price changes to related merchandise, creating an in-store market.

All these possibilities are just that; possibilities. But one thing that is sure to attract retailers to deploy iBeacon technology is the potential for mass customer data collection. Statistics on the busiest times of day and the promotional offers and messaging themes that lead to the heaviest retail footfall can all be collated and utilised to continually enhance customer experience. Across multiple retail channels, be it online or in-store, this information can be used to retain the additional business generated by the iBeacon functionality.

Organisations operating on an efficient cloud hosting platform will be able to share this critical customer data across stores to improve performance, a fantastic opportunity for large multi-store retail chains in particular. By sharing data via the cloud, retailers can make changes at a business level, as opposed to a branch-by-branch basis. Additionally, companies utilising the cloud can vary iBeacon messaging at any time, allowing retail chains to make the most of changing market conditions and customer demands, as in the previously mentioned sunny weather example.

It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but the iBeacon is set to alter the way the nation shops. As a retail business, how will you make the most of the iBeacon?

Written by Stephen Horan - Business development manager

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