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Estimote Beacon

Location-based marketing comes of age

By Retail Technology | Wednesday January 29 2014

Bluetooth Smart - the technology behind beacons - offers the opportunity to revolutionise push marketing for retailers according to Special Interest Group

A Special Interest Group (SIG) representing industry interests in the development of Bluetooth technology has this week hailed ‘Bluetooth Smart’ communications as an intelligent, power-efficient alternative for push-based marketing activities, like instore vouchers, mobile payments and location-based services.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), marketed as Bluetooth Smart, is the wireless sensor technology developed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) behind several payment and marketing trials being adopted by technology and payment providers as well as retailers. Cisco, for example, recently demonstrated its potential use with store traffic tracking and sensing applications.

The beacons powered by Bluetooth Smart technology are primarily aimed at mobile wallet, mobile vouchers and location-based applications. Apple has launched its own ‘iBeacon’ software framework designed to work with third-party manufacturer beacon hardware from the likes of Estimote and payment providers including PayPal are exploring its applications.

New mobile wallet functionality

Jennifer Kent, a senior analyst at Parks Associates, said the market research firm expects Bluetooth to play a much larger role in the mobile wallet ecosystem. “Not only does Bluetooth Smart have support from major players like PayPal and Apple, but it also enables three crucial mobile wallet functions: payment from mobile phone to point-of-sale terminal, passive transmission of marketing messages, and the ability to detect consumers’ location instore.”

The Bluetooth SIG said retailers and brands have been experimenting with push marketing for years, but the technology and support from major phone manufacturers was lacking. It highlighted that Bluetooth Smart brings three essential features to the beacon experience: an intelligent wireless connection that can authenticate and manage interactions; a power-efficient connection that will not drain the user’s phone battery; and ubiquitous support from phone manufacturers and mobile operating systems. 

“Retail is going to be the first market to really pop using beacons, but that’s just the beginning for Bluetooth Smart powered beacons,” said Suke Jawanda, Bluetooth SIG chief marketing officer. 

“Bluetooth Smart is making scenarios just dreamed about a reality – like driving down a crowded city street and having an available parking spot ping your phone, or your grocery store knowing when you last purchased milk and sending a reminder that you are running low when you’re in the dairy aisle. The foundation of Bluetooth Smart for retail scenarios is going to set the stage for an explosion of beacon technology in the coming years.”

Compelling location-based experiences
Hasty Granbery, lead engineer for PayPal Beacon, commented: “Bluetooth Smart has made it possible for PayPal to create compelling location-based payment solutions and shopping experiences. With PayPal Beacon, shoppers can do hands-free payments and get relevant in-store offers and notifications. We are piloting PayPal Beacon in a few stores in the US and Australia with plans to expand to the UK, Canada, France and Germany.”

“Estimote Beacons [pictured] provide real world context to applications for brands big and small,” added Jakub Krzych, Estimote chief executive and co-founder. “By utilising Bluetooth Smart technology, we have begun deploying a vast sensor network – and more importantly, an open platform for developers to create apps that address the needs and desires of consumers, retailers and others.” 

The fashion retailer American Eagle Outfitters is using location-based mobile app shopkick in 100 locations across the US and in Macy’s flagship stores in San Francisco and New York City. 

“ShopBeacon uses Bluetooth Smart to remind shopkick users to open and engage with the associated app the minute they walk into the store or a specific department,” said Cyriac Roeding, shopkick chief executive and co-founder. “Shopkick makes the store an interactive experience, rewarding shoppers for buying items they love and for engaging with their favourite brands.”

Alex Sbardella, head of retail at Red Ant, also recently outlined to the five ways iBeacons could change the face of retail.

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