iBeacon’s Potential to Merge Online and Offline Experience with Contextual Marketing

Mar 11, 2015

iBeaconLoyal customers share a great deal more with you. Because of this, loyalty enables insights into customer wants and needs that the average customer database does not offer. Yet a disconnect still exists between the online and offline customer experience. Despite having so much customer data available, loyal customers are hard to identify in the physical world.

Mobile combined with iBeacon technology could help bridge this gap. iBeacon uses a low frequency Bluetooth signal to communicate with mobile devices. It registers devices based on a certain distance or proximity in the physical world. As long as location services are turned on, iBeacons can communicate with mobile apps even if they aren’t open. While this sounds similar to other location-based technologies, what’s unique about iBeacon is its ability to determine a device’s distance within a matter of feet.

Why is iBeacon really worth getting excited about? It can facilitate truly contextual communication. If you had the preferences of loyal consumers on hand every time they were near or in your business, you could speak to them in terms of where they are, who they are, and what they want.

iBeacon technology also holds a lot of promise for helping fill in a missing piece of the marketing puzzle – how online communication drives real-world behavior. Using iBeacons, brands could better track if online marketing, like a coupon sent via email, lead someone to visit a brick-and-mortar store.

Below is a look at how iBeacons can be leveraged to create geo-based, highly relevant customer experiences at the right time. 

More Personalized In-Store Experiences

By placing iBeacons at strategic points, retailers can track when someone has entered the store and even track movement through the store. This presents endless ways to engage with customers in real time, both through their mobile devices and during interactions with store personnel.

There are many obvious ways to use iBeacon in retail environments, but the possibilities aren’t limited to sending a push notification for a discount on TVs when a customer walks by that section of the store. Retailers could pair someone’s location in the store with their customer data to take it a step further. For example:

  • In an electronics store, a customer near the TVs has a purchase history of buying a lot of CDs. That customer could be notified that a few aisles over a new CD from an artist they like is on sale.
  • A high-end clothing boutique’s store associate is alerted that a high-value customer is in the store. The associate can quickly get a sense for the customer’s taste by looking at preferences she’s shared on her mobile app profile. From there she can suggest clothing items that align with this customer’s fashion sense.

More Experiential Rewards in the Travel Industry

iBeacons could enable travel brands to reduce across-the-board rewards, like discounts, and increase more personalized experiential rewards – which could also mean significant cost reductions. With iBeacons, travelers could be followed and engaged throughout the travel experience: as they move through the airport, when they land in another city, when they retrieve their bags, and when they arrive at their hotel.

Frontline employees would no longer need to rely on a check-in to know that someone is on site. Furthermore, iBeacons could arm employees with information about loyal customers that’s already in the online database. Coordinating “wow” experiences on the fly would be easier since staff would have a wealth of customer information on hand and more lead time for preparation.

A few examples of how this could work:

  • Airline employees could be alerted when a VIP customer is approaching the gate. They could greet the customer and offer expedited boarding or an upgrade to their preferred seating area. Additionally, they could have access to more personalized information, like knowing it’s the passenger’s birthday or that on this flight they’re hitting a milestone such as a million miles traveled with the airline.
  • When someone walks in the front door of a hotel, the front desk staff could immediately know who this person is and their preferences as a loyal customer before they even reach the desk. Room service could be alerted to send a customer’s favorite drink up to their room within 10 minutes of their arrival.

The cost of sending a drink to someone’s hotel room is much less than offering a discount on their stay, but most people would be more “wowed” by the former since it’s both personalized and unique. Experiences like these can transform a behavioral loyalty-driven customer into an emotional loyalty-driven customer, while costing very little to implement or execute from an operational perspective. Experiential rewards create the type of unbreakable bond that ensures a customer repeatedly chooses one brand over the rest.