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Could iBeacon technology change our shopping experience?

Could iBeacon technology change our shopping experience?


Having spent the last few weekends roaming around car showrooms in a bid to help a friend select a new car, I found dealing with the sales staff to be more distracting than helpful.

Granted, they have a job to do, but when you initially just want to mooch around the various cars at your own leisure, it’s quite frustrating to have somebody tagging along, bombarding you with their pushy sales pitch. Of course it helps to be provided with information on the product you’re perusing, but wouldn’t it be great to have access to this without the presence of a 3rd party, talking nineteen to the dozen?

Well, just maybe ibeacon technology could help provide the solution.

Here’s how it works. Apple’s iBeacon uses Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) technology to talk to nearby mobile devices such as your smartphone or tablet. Once iBeacon pinpoints your location, it sends you a push notification with an invitation to opt in to the service. Once you agree to the terms (sometimes you’ll be offered entry to a prize draw or similar as an incentive), nearby iBeacon transmitters send you messages. This could be in the form of product information, coupons, recommendations, promotions etc.

How much better my car shopping experience could be if as I approached each vehicle, messages or videos appeared on my phone including price, features and other detailed information – all transmitted by the beacon placed in each car.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Could there be any negatives? Well, ‘message overload’ is possibly one. Previously you had to be running the relevant app in order for iBeacon to send you messages. Now, just having the app installed is enough. So with the app not running at all, you’ll still get messages on your locked screen from the iBeacon system. I’m not sure I want to retrieve my phone from the depths of my handbag only to see 15 messages relating to bananas, toilet roll and cat food as I stroll around my local supermarket on a Sunday afternoon….

Another negative, for brand owners, is that iBeacon takes control of the marketing message away from the brand. That’s something that online shopping and comparison sites have already done – and marketers are still wrestling with that particular challenge.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how iBeacon may affect us all and our shopping experiences. No doubt we’ll be hearing about it from consumers before too long.