It has been more than year since Apple announced the launch of iBeacons, and multiple competitors including Estimote, Bluecats, Bluesense and Gelo have launched their own beacons that can interact with both iOS and Android devices. But despite the fact that iBeacons have become the buzzword of the offline marketing world, there are growing privacy concerns among consumers, which are perpetuating unfounded myths and slowing down implementation in many cities including New York.
With a little consumer education and by using beacons to truly delight customers with relevant and customized deals and experiences, many brands are starting to realize that customers are willing to receive messages via beacon technology if there’s a direct benefit to them.
While it may surprise you to learn that less than 1% of the 3.5 million retail stores in the U.S. have rolled out beacon tech, that number is rapidly growing with large companies like Macy’s, McDonald’s and Major League Baseball leading the charge. Plus, consumers are slowly beginning to understand how the technology works, specifically that it’s practically impossible for beacons to invade a consumer’s privacy without their knowledge and consent.
Users must download specific apps like Shopkick (that support tracking technology), have Bluetooth turned on and activate Location Services in order to have a beacon communicate with them. This lowers concerns over privacy and security, though it does not erase them. Plus the ability to utilize real-time notifications for deals, faster check-outs and a convenient and customized overall experience explains the growing popularity of beacons.
Here are 15 examples of companies already using various types of beacons with varying levels of success. The breadth of use cases is a good indicator of how beacons aid real-time marketing in nearly every industry, especially retail, events, entertainment and travel.
1. Virgin Atlantic runs an iBeacon trial at London’s Heathrow Airport
Touted as an innovator in the airline industry, Virgin Atlantic began an iBeacon trial in the Upper Class Wing at London’s Heathrow Airport in May 2014. Virgin’s premium passengers were able to receive personalized notifications and offers via their iPhones. At the beginning of the trial, Virgin used beacons to alert customers to have their electronic boarding passes ready when they were close to a private security check, and to send tailored offers like commission-free currency exchange deals to passengers in the departures section of the airport. Virgin also used beacon tech to let passengers know about in-flight entertainment specials before they boarded the plane, and to let their staff know when temperatures dropped on outdoor decks of their airport lounges so they could give blankets to passengers.
2. iBeacons transform attendee experiences at SXSW 2014
One of the hottest interactive, film and music festivals in the world, SXSW rolled out beacon tech at their 2014 conference. The official SXSW mobile app was powered by iBeacons this year. Attendees who downloaded the iOS version of the SXSW app saw significantly improved registration experiences by getting an alert containing their Registration QuickCode when they were in the vicinity of the SXSW registration booths. They also placed 50+ beacons at various event venues in and around the Austin Convention Center allowing SXSW to welcome attendees to sessions, encourage them to join discussions about a session within the SXSW app, see which other attendees were at that session and view tweets related to that session.
3. Apple launches iBeacons in all 250+ U.S. stores, but doesn’t collect data
No surprise here that Apple, the creator of iBeacons, implemented them in all its U.S. stores in December 2013, just in time for the holiday shopping frenzy. Working through the official iOS Apple Store app, shoppers got notifications when their order had been assembled in the in-store stock room. Apple announced that they don’t collect any information about shoppers via iBeacons, so it looks like they’re only using sensors as a way of showing consumers how beacon technology works, while still respecting user privacy.
4. Hillshire Brands uses beacon tech to sell more craft sausages
Hillshire Brands implemented iBeacons in 10 U.S. cities to help them track a shopper’s journey through the aisles of a grocery store to then send discount coupons or ads for their craft sausages when the shopper approached that section of the store. The ads and coupons were delivered via apps like Epicurious (a recipe service) and Hillshire says shoppers were “20 times more likely to buy” its American Craft sausages when they received such tailored communications.
5. Macy's kicks off its data warehousing plans by implementing beacons in 800+ stores
Just in time for this holiday season Macy’s deployed beacons in nearly 800 stores throughout the country in partnership with Shopkick, a location-based coupon dispenser app used by top national retailers including Best Buy, Sports Authority, J.C.Penney and Target, to finally capitalize on an offline data-driven retail experience. Macy’s is using beacon tech to track customer movements within their store, push product recommendations and discounts and to inform shoppers about relevant sale items.
6. Lord & Taylor stores implement beacon tech in stores across North America
In July 2014, the Hudson’s Bay Company rolled out beacons at 130 Lord & Taylor and The Bay stores in the U.S. and Canada via Swirl, an iBeacon marketing platform that integrates with Motorola Solutions’ MPact platform and is already being used by brands like Timberland and Kenneth Cole for tailored in-store experiences. They’re installing beacons in merchandising areas to send shoppers location-aware, targeted notifications, branded content and personalized offers. Hudson’s Bay Company is one of the first major department stores to do this in such a large number of stores across North America.
7. Starwood Hotels use beacons to replace hotel room keys in pilot program
Starwood Hotels & Resorts is running an iBeacon trial in 30 of its hotels and resorts that helps concierges greet guests who arrive by name, accelerates the check-in process for frequent guests, and lets housekeeping know when guests are still in the room. Plus, in a new one-of-its-kind pilot program, Starwood guests at two of their U.S. hotels will be able to walk into a hotel, skip the check-in process, go straight to their room and open the room door via keyless entry activated on their smartphones. For this to work, the guest must have a partner app installed and turned on, and the room can be opened by simply tapping or gesturing with their device once they arrive at the door.
8. Major League Baseball (MLB) uses beacons to sell merchandise and seat upgrades
In March 2014, Major League Baseball rolled out iBeacons in 28 of its 30 ballparks across the U.S. and saw fan check-ins more than double this season after they began pushing merchandise coupons and seat upgrades via their app, using bluetooth. iPhone owners who download the MLB app can check-in at games to receive special offers and content. iBeacons are located at all of the fan entry and exit points of the ballparks. The number of beacons varies by stadium, depending on the number of entry and exit points. Their app works on both iOS and Android devices and also offers venue maps, concession stand info and video clips of game replays.
9. Dating app Mingleton uses iBeacon to connect singles in the same vicinity
Dating app Mingleton uses iBeacons for location-based discovery by sharing users’ dating profiles with other app users when they’re within a 150-foot radius of each other. By clicking on “See who’s nearby” in the app, users can anonymously find other singles and see what they have in common. Mingleton uses the Facebook Graph API to find mutual friends and interests and decide which profiles to show a user. Once both users decide they want to connect, the app allows them to message each other and make plans to meet up in person.
10. American Eagle and Aerie stores to auto-populate offers and rewards
More than 100 American Eagle and Aerie stores in the U.S. launched beacons in February 2014 via the Shopkick app. Shoppers at the stores get location-specific rewards, discounts and product recommendations automatically when they’re within range of a beacon, without even having to open the app.
11. Japan Airlines uses beacons in Tokyo airport to improve business processes
Japan Airlines started an iBeacon trial earlier this year in Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. The airline’s staff was equipped with smartphones allowing the company to locate staff members and assign specific tasks to them. Their ground staff could also get updates on company information and flight status updates helping the airline use beacon technology to actually improve business processes instead of using it to send offers and product info to customers.
12. American Airlines launches iBeacons in Dallas Airport
American Airlines launched a 6-month iBeacon trial at the Dallas Forth Worth Airport (DFW) in June 2014. A small group of customers who have the American Airlines app will get notifications to help them navigate the airport better including information like distance to gates, boarding times and the closest security check lines. If the trial goes well, the airline plans to roll out beacons permanently across multiple airports and terminals around the world.
13. Nivea uses iBeacons to help parents keep track of their children at the beach
Popular lotion brand Nivea launched their StickNFind app to help parents keep track of their children when they’re at the beach. Subscribers of Veja Rio magazine were sent an ad and a pop up bracelet with the magazine. By wrapping the water-resistant bracelet around a child’s arm and downloading a Nivea app, parents could define a safe area at the beach for the child. Once the child wanders outside the safe zone, an alarm would go off on the parents’ smartphone.
14. Walgreens rolls out iBeacons in select Duane Reade stores
Duane Reade, the largest drugstore chain in New York City, now owned by Walgreens, updated its app in May 2014 by integrating iBeacons in 10 select locations. This allowed the pharmacy chain to add new features like weekly ads and coupons, pill reminders, the ability to schedule appointments, save shopping list and an option to order photo prints from Instagram. Customers will also receive notifications (even on their locked screens) as they near a store, and get discount offers based on what they previously purchased.
15. Walmart launches iBeacon trial by using beacon-equipped GE lightbulbs in stores
Walmart, too, in partnership with GE is launching a one-of-its-kind iBeacon trial by using GE lightbulbs to house iBeacons and send push notifications of specials and discount coupons to customers in their stores. GE’s new beacon-equipped LED bulbs can track shoppers within stores by using the iBeacons hidden inside them, thus eliminating the need for these stores to buy separate beacon-related hardware.
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