Apple knows where shoppers are in its stores with nationwide iBeacon rollout

Shoppers could start receiving notifications as they walk past the latest iPhones

New iBeacon integration for the Apple Store app, as pictured on Dec. 6, 2013.
New iBeacon integration for the Apple Store app, as pictured on Dec. 6, 2013.

Apple is taking a closer look at shoppers in its retail stores, under a new program that will push product-related information to their mobile devices using its iBeacon trackers.

All 254 of the company's U.S. stores now employ Apple's iBeacon location services technology, Apple confirmed Friday. The iBeacon software was included in Apple's recent iOS 7 update for mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Compatible iBeacon hardware has since been installed throughout Apple's stores, anywhere from the front entrance to a product table sporting the latest iPads, from which it communicates with the software.

The integration marks Apple's large-scale entrance into the hot, emerging known location- or place-based marketing field. Over the past year or so a range of smaller startups have sprung up offering services designed to gather more information about shoppers in stores to serve them hyper-targeted deals or other product information. The idea is to improve brick-and-mortar stores' ability to compete against e-commerce giants like Amazon, which already know plenty about their users' digital shopping habits.

The Apple rollout affects everyone who has the Apple Store app installed on their iOS device. Bluetooth has to be enabled on the device, because that's the underlying technology powering iBeacon. Users also have to give the app permission for the iBeacon technology to work. Once they do, they could start receiving several different types of notifications as they walk through Apple's stores.

Some of the technology's features are designed to give people additional information about certain products as they walk past them. So if shoppers are standing near the latest iPhones a notification might pop up on their phone to let them know they're eligible for an upgrade. At the accessories table, the iBeacon technology could also let people use their iOS devices to learn more about certain products.

If the person was shopping online from home and chose to pick up the item in the store, the app could also tell them that the particular product is ready when they walk inside.

More product discovery features are likely on the way.

Although some people might have come to accept it online, others might find the thought of being tracked in physical stores a bit creepy. Earlier this year Nordstrom had to suspend a Wi-Fi-based tracking program after consumers learned what the store was up to.

But Apple does not store any personal information through iBeacon, a spokesman said. The technology is designed to only work one way, from the hardware to the phone. The hardware component emits a signal and the phone recognizes it, but nothing is sent back to the hardware, the spokesman said.

Beyond improving the bottom line for its own stores, Apple hopes its iBeacon technology could usher in all sorts of applications. The technology could provide third-party apps "a whole new level of micro-location awareness, such as trail markers in a park, exhibits in a museum, or product displays in stores," Apple said in a statement.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Should your disclaimer become your headline?

To avoid misleading customers, or simply through fear of legal backlash, advertising has evolved to hide the potential shortcomings of an offer in its disclaimer.

Sam Tatam

Head of behavioural science, OgilvyChange Australia

The evolving role of the CMO

They say that “change is the only constant”. It’s fair to say that in the 20 years I’ve been in marketing positions, the role of the CMO has changed completely.

Tim Tez

Chief product and marketing officer, MetLife

Transform your marketing analytics to outperform your competition

As digital and offline brand experiences diversify, more customer data is becoming available to marketers. At the same time, the number of tools available to analyse this data is increasing rapidly. Leading marketers are taking advantages of these shifts and transforming their marketing analytics practices to outperform their competitors.

Working with Kim was an absolute career highlight for me. She is creative, strategic, innovative and a forward thinker. She is a true l...

Anonymous

Helloworld scraps CMO role

Read more

It's the biggest disappointment for me because i mostly use whatsapp and separate it from my facebook account. I use high level encryptio...

amiron carro

Facebook will use Whatsapp users' personal data to target ads

Read more

I have consistently the worst customer experiences from AUSPOST. I regularly send packages and letters via registered post service, and t...

Winnifred Antoinette Mok

Aus Post's customer chief: CX is about convenience, control and choice

Read more

Such a great new you've shared with us I really agree with the records you shared as this is true that this report may able to quantify t...

Lucy Eva

Report: Mobile app time dominates Australian smartphone usage

Read more

It is heartening to see that the South Pole Group use a Balanced Scorecard to monitor progress. In such a complex area where communicatio...

Clive Keyte

How South Pole Group is tapping media intelligence for customer conversion

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in