Apple's iBeacon, the technology that uses a low energy Bluetooth LE transmitter to send location specific information to iPhones running certain apps, was rolled out on Monday to supermarkets in three major cities in the U.S. Advertising company InMarket flicked the switch on iBeacon sensors in Safeway and Giant Eagle Stores in Cleveland, Ohio; Seattle, Washington; and San Francisco, California.
Screen shows iBeacon in use at Fifth Avenue Apple Store in New York
Using the iBeacon system, InMarket will be able to target location based ads to certain shoppers that have the company's Checkpoints loyalty app on their iPhone. Those with the app installed on the handset will start to receive coupons and discounts once they get within range of the iBeacon transmitter. Because these use Low Energy Bluetooth signals, the content can be more precisely targeted. Handsets start to receive a signal within 100 feet of the transmitter. In addition, InMarket CEO Todd Dipaola says that iBeacon is a lot easier to use than NFC based services because it doesn't require the user to take his phone out of his pocket to receive the special offers.
In the next few weeks, the program will expand rapidly with more than 150 stores offering the system. 100 of those stores will be Safeway or Giant Eagle supermarkets. By the end of the year, InMarket expects to have the iBeacon service up and running in many stores covering the top 20 markets in the country. InMarket plans on targeting the shopper as he or she walks into a store although the company is testing out the service for in-aisle use.
The hardware necessary to make this work is so small, that stores can place the transmitters almost everywhere. Besides discounts and coupons, shopping list reminders can be sent out. Apple has already placed iBeacon inside its 254 Apple Stores
, allowing customers with the Apple Store app installed to receive targeted coupons depending on where in the store they are standing. They can also be alerted when an order is ready for pick up, and receive more information on products that are on the shelves right in front of them.
"This has the potential to disrupt the retail experience as we know it. Think about all of the benefits of online shopping, but applied to the real world. Shopping list reminders, specific coupons tailored to things you like, eventually mobile checkout. We're in the top of the first inning right now with iBeacon, so the possibilities are very exciting."-Todd Dipaola, InMarket CEO