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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: The Star's George Hughes

It's been an incredibly tough three months for the Star as it shut its doors and stood down staff in response to the COVID-19 lockdown. Yet innovation has shone through, and if the CMO, George Hughes, has anything to say about it, such lateral thinking will continue as we start to recover from the crisis.

More Videos

I am 56 years old and was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease after four years of decreasing mobility to the point of having family dress ...

Nancy Tunick

Parkinson's NSW creates a lorem ipsum generator and goes digital to mark Parkinson's Awareness month

Read more

We would like to invite you to the Virtual Exhibition about IoT Trends in 2020, 7 - 9 July, organised by Must.We developed a new B2B matc...

hayfa

Want to master digital transformation? Stop thinking about your own problems

Read more

We have been trying to help our clients through this time. I think the important thing is clear communication! We also created some check...

Erin Payne

Is COVID-19 the right time for a positive marketing campaign?

Read more

Very good article Sagar. Congrats! It's exactly what we are doing at Dafiti and it's very important have you close to us into this journey.

Roosevelt Junior

Making Your Organisation Data-Driven [MYOD] - Data-driven marketing - CMO Australia

Read more

Corporates should be innovating to stay relevant and disrupt the market and collaborating with startups is easily the best way to go for ...

Diana

How your company can innovate its way through the COVID-19 crisis

Read more

Blog Posts

Business quiet? Now is the time to review your owned assets

For businesses and advertiser categories currently experiencing a slowdown in consumer activity, now is the optimal time to get started on projects that have been of high importance, but low urgency.

Olia Krivtchoun

CX discipline leader, Spark Foundry

Bottoms up: Lockdown lessons for an inverted marketing world

The effects of the coronavirus slammed the brakes on retail sales in pubs, clubs and restaurants. Fever-Tree’s Australia GM Andy Gaunt explains what they have learnt from some tricky months of trading

Andy Gaunt

General manager, Fever-Tree Australia and New Zealand

Younger demos thought lost are now found: But what about the missing money?

There is much talk about what VOZ will bring to the media industry. New ways to slice and dice audiences and segments. A clearer understanding of screen consumption. Even new ways to plan and buy. The most interesting result could be finding something many thought we lost - younger viewers, specifically the valuable 18-39s.

Michael Stanford

Head of 10 Imagine and national creative director, Network 10

Sign in