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
cmo-xs-promo

Latest Videos

More Videos

Undoubtedly, Robotic Process Automation enables marketing teams to accomplish repetitive tasks with fewer resources at a great accuracy.

Raj

What marketers need to know about robotic process automation

Read more

who wants to date me I am 9 years old and i am a boy

Jeremy Hawkins

Sink a sub gaming experience signals Subway's renewed brand push

Read more

Great read. I agree that it should be a perfect balance between interacting with your customers and knowing your brand. As a business, yo...

Caroline Scott

7 ways CMOs can improve their customer engagement game

Read more

Very true. Team development helps improve collaboration among the team members. I was able to improve my team's collaboration skills by t...

Quent Sinder

Why empowering others can help make you a great leader

Read more

CRM is a very good software that can help you succeed in your business. In my company, this system has allowed me to improve customer rel...

Anna Janicka

Sensis rebrands to Thryv and brings business software to Australian SMBs

Read more

Blog Posts

Unboxing 101 - How savvy influencer engagement can build a brand

The humble unboxing video is a powerful tool. Correctly executed, it harnesses consumer fandom, viral authenticity and brand design magic to deliver a high-impact message to a tightly targeted cohort of consumers.

Gali Arnon

Chief marketing officer, Fiverr

​Power to the people

Purpose is the ultimate statement of intent for many organisations. Why are we here? What are we trying to achieve?

Rich Curtis

CEO, FutureBrand A/NZ

The playbook to develop strategic brand moats

Warren Buffet is an unlikely ally for marketers. But his belief businesses need strategic moats that increase their value in the market while acting as barriers to competitors can offer marketers a new playbook for brand building and driving growth.

Fabian Di Marco

Founder and managing director, Tzu & Co

Sign in