iBeacons: how does iBeacon work and what can we do with it?

You may have heard the term iBeacons fall, but you haven’t experienced it in practice. Because what are iBeacons and what can you do with them in practice?

To start with, iBeacon is a brand name from Apple, it is a new technology that is already standard on every iOS7 device. An iBeacon sensor is a small device that transmits a BLE signal (Bluetooth Low Energy). Smartphones can use this BLE signal to accurately determine the distance from the smartphone to the sending iBeacon. With this, you can think of lots of interesting possibilities to bring the online and offline world together.

In this blog post, we explain the practical applications, the possibilities for web retailers and the possible changes for retail (marketing).

iBeacons are not the same as NFC

You often hear iBeacon in combination with Near Field Communication (NFC). The big difference is that with NFC technology you have to hold a smartphone against a sensor before an event takes place. The best-known example of applying NFC in the Netherlands is the OV chip card. Because iBeacons use Bluetooth, iBeacon technology requires no user action. Finally, an iBeacon has a range of 50 meters, without loss of accuracy. Not unimportant: a smartphone user must have an iBeacon app installed (this is usually pre-installed, think of Apple’s Passbook).

What are the possibilities of iBeacons?

Communication with an iBeacon on the wall and a smartphone is minimal. You should see an iBeacon as a sort of activation signal when a BLE device comes close. Once activated, the smartphone searches for the information sent on the web or within the private network. This data is then sent to the device via WiFi, Bluetooth or mobile internet. You can think of numerous possibilities, such as:

Greet customers who walk into a store with a push message (or discount code)

Customers who come by appointment automatically recognize and “check-in” (think of offices, dentists, etc.)

Contactless payment at the cash register (even without WiFi or 3G signal possible due to BLE technology)

Show additional product information, prices, reviews, photos or videos

Showing location-aware visitor information (such as museums, cinemas, amusement parks, etc.)

Send in the desired shopping route

Announcing relevant moments (think of a bakery that brings the order list for Christmas to the attention)

iBeacons drawing explanation

Getting started with iBeacons: how do I do it? To ensure that smartphones can communicate with iBeacons at your desired location, you need to go through a number of steps:

1. Purchase the required hardware and software

Standard packages: there are various suppliers who offer a complete platform for a few hundred euros per year; the options herein are fairly standard. Custom programming: you can also purchase individual iBeacon sensors, Estimote and Kontakt are two so-called third-party sensors that developers can use themselves. For a hundred euros you already have three sensors at home.

2. Think about a relevant and concrete interpretation

With which information, content or service can I serve visitors? What do I want to communicate at what time and from where? (passing by, entering, looking, buying or leaving visit? How can I ensure that standard promotions are simplified? (registration with a dentist, a discount of a stack of products)

3. Implement and test the action in practice

Discuss which action is the most realistic in terms of time, budget and results Investigate whether a separate app is required for the desired action Have the action programmed and test it yourself in practice Finally, would you use the proposed promotion yourself? Does it add anything?

4. Communicate, measure and evaluate

Communicate about the presence of iBeacons (in-store, online, social) Provide the necessary explanation and accountability Measure the results (number of signals, promotions, receipt amounts, etc.) Collect responses and feedback from customers and visitors Evaluate the action and adjust it if necessary.

Art comes alive in the Groninger Museum

Access to digital magazine upon entering Bar Kick coffee shop in London, access will be blocked if you leave including trial subscription offer. Velvet Tulpenland displays relevant visitor information at various places in the park The options go much further. Thus it is conceivable that the stack of magazines in the waiting room of the hairdresser or dentist belongs to the past. But iBeacons can also be used to control smart devices with your home. Because why do you have to set your personal details every time? Think for example of the installation of an Apple TV, so Know Your Mobile expects that this installation process can be replaced with a single tap on an iOS7 device.

Why should iBeacons become successful?

iBeacons may be a game-changer. Because they bring the benefits of online and offline together in one experience. To date, this has not been achieved due to QR codes (see blog entry), Layar (and also this post) and NFC.

Because of the possibilities and clear advantages over previous technologies, you can assume that iBeacons have a major impact on our environment. Remember that there are an estimated 170 to 190 million iOS devices. These devices are full of data such as location, behavior, context and historical data around your user profile. Because you as a marketer can respond even more relevant to the right moment in the customer journey, this will undoubtedly ensure more conversion by offering more targeted products, pushing relevant in-store offers and communicating discounts.

What will it cost and who can help me?

Just we have purchased our first iBeacon sensors and we expect to be able to present our first promotion in the late summer of 2014. The first ideas for relevant actions have already been collected and a selection has emerged, visitors to our office will be the first to notice! Based on this promotion, we can provide insight into the required investments and lead times. If you already want to know more, please contact Rob de Groot or Rik der Kinderen.

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