iBeacons, micro location and an amazing customer experience

28 May, 2014 by Peter Hempsall

iBeacons were quietly announced at Apple's WWDC event in June 2013. Since then the noise around them has been growing louder and we expect them to become a key trend in 2014. But what are they? And what can they do?

iBeacons are small, low powered devices that broadcast their presence up to a range of 50m. They allow mobile apps to accurately know where the user is, so the experience can be tailored to the here and now. Unlike GPS it works indoors and it's low power, so users can keep it turned on without draining the battery.

The iBeacons themselves are, once installed, fairly inert. The intelligence is in the app and its connection to backend systems, such as CRM, loyalty and marketing platforms. The app know the user is here, right now, and so the content can be tailored to the user in that moment. In a retail setting this could be real-time offers or enhanced product information. And the retailer can gain a level of analytic insight never before possible - bringing web-style analytics of conversion, visit time and bounce rates to the bricks-and-mortar store.

For customers this can enable experiences that feel like magic: the omni-channel blurring of online and in-store experiences, customer service that is tailored to you before you've given your name, the information you need in your hand before you've asked for it.

The success of an iBeacon enabled app is going to be defined by the value it delivers to the end user. The focus for businesses should be on designing these user experience, utilising what the technology can bring. Ultimately it is the user who is in control and if they don't like what is being offered they will vote with the delete button. Considerations also need to be made around trust and privacy. Users will tolerate a level of tracking if the value proposition works for them, but trust is hard to win and easily lost. Sensitive use of technology is key.

Key takeaway:
iBeacons are an emerging technology that can enable an amazing customer experience. The key to success is defining that particular customer experience and then using the available technology to deliver it.