Apple will kick off this weekend by launching iBeacons functionality in all of its 254 domestic U.S. stores, according to a new report by the AP. The location-based tech will work with the official iOS Apple Store app, and will allow Apple to do things like provide you with notifications of when your order has been assembled in the in-store stock room, to noticing that you’re in the iPhone section and offering you a notice about upgrading from your current device.
iBeacon transmitters use Bluetooth 4.0 tech, and can be dialed in to a range of different distance sensitivities, which means that it can work on a hyper local basis, sending specific information only when you’re in the area for demos and workshops, for instance, or next to a particular product display. At the same time, it can provide general alerts to anyone who enters a store’s doors.
The upside for retailers using iBeacons is two-fold: First, they can offer more specific, targeted information to customers, which in theory helps with customer service (and could cut down on minor requests that would normally occupy staff). Second, iBeacons provides them with hyper-local data regarding customer movements within a store (apps could contain an opt-in for allowing use of that info). That kind of granular look at shopper behaviour could pay huge dividends in terms of helping formulate evolving retail strategy.
Apple, however, told the AP that it doesn’t collect any info about the shoppers in its stores via iBeacons, which could mean that it’s using this mainly as a way of dogfooding – showing other retailers how the technology might be useful when implemented in a ‘best practices’ kind of way.
Apple isn’t the first to use iBeacons; Major League Baseball made headlines when it announced plans to implement the tech to delivery unique offers and content to patrons attending games at its stadium locations. That doesn’t go into effect until next year, however, and other projects like the iBeacons Newsstand subscription delivery service we wrote about earlier are likewise in a pilot phase. Apple’s use of iBeacons is likely the most mature and whole implementation to date, so it’ll be the one to watch in terms of something for other retailers to mimic.