Friday, 18 October 2013

Apple's Killer Feature For Retailers

Apple's new IOS7 operating system includes provision for a  brand new customer engagement system called iBeacon. An iBeacon is a tiny radio hotspot using Bluetooth 4.0. Each hotspot operates over a radius of about 50 metres in a store, a shopping mall, an office building, a car park, a school, a hospital or even a street - anywhere people might need information, directions, or to make a transaction. iPhones already have the ability to interact with this technology.

iBeacon is a competitor for NFC (Near Field Communications) which is a technology similar to contactless credit card systems. NFC is found in many phones (not Apple) but needs really close proximity to work whereas iBeacon creates a much bigger map of customer engagement.

Imagine walking into a store and heading for the clothing department. iBeacon would present you with an overview of special offers. Stand in the jeans section and get a message about the latest stock arrivals. Then try on a pair of jeans and receive an offer on matching accessories.Retailers would receive valuable information about consumer preferences and customer flow. It is all about targeting your most likely customer.

The tiny iBeacon radio boxes are already in production. Apple has open-sourced its connecting software to allow app developers to build apps that will enable consumers and retailers to interact.

We have briefly mentioned this type of customer interaction on this website before but expressed the fear that the technology would only be accessible to bigger retailers. Now that we know more about iBeacon, it sounds like technology that any retailer (including market traders) could use.

On a wider scale, iBeacon is seen as perfect technology for guiding visitors around a museum for instance, using a network of beacons. What about a market where traders are spread far and wide and many change positions from day to day? The possibilities for QVM could be very interesting.