Apple’s iBeacon sensors will be available at Lord & Taylor stores in the United States and select Hudson’s Bay stores in Canada starting Monday, offering customers a more unique in-store shopping experience using mobile devices.
iBeacon has rolled out across other retail chains in the past, but this is one of the first instances of such a concentrated effort for a department store chain. Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay are both owned and operated by HBC (Hudson’s Bay Company).
Increasingly, iBeacon is becoming a trend in retail shopping. Taking advantage of Bluetooth Smart (a.k.a. Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy) tech, iBeacons can send notifications, alerts and coupons to users who have a compatible app installed on their phone.
In addition to sending alerts, iBeacons can be used to create better maps of a location or event. They can also be used to bring up contextually customized information about a location. For instance, standing in front of the jeans department might offer specific information about each brand or three-dimensional views of how a certain item is fitted. Already, we’ve seen iBeacon implementations in museums, at conferences and at film festivals.
When entering a store that uses iBeacon, users can be greeted with a coupon, sales notifications or even a free item. Its real potential as a shopping platform can be seen when paired with existing customer data; if Lord & Taylor knows you typically purchase clothing from a particular designer and you’re near that section of the store, the app could alert you to an ongoing sale.
For Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay, going big on iBeacon is about being able to better serve customers.
For Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay, going big on iBeacon is about being able to better serve customers. According to Michael Crotty, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Hudson’s Bay, the company “recognizes the appetite for mobile experiences that cater to customers’ immediate needs and preferences while also providing a seamless and effortless experience.” Crotty added that he believes iBeacon technology is the future of retail marketing.
This iBeacon implementation is powered by Swirl, which dubs itself an enterprise-class beacon marketing platform. It’s designed to help retailers and big brands use mobile and beacons to be more aligned with customers as they shop.
Swirl already works with brands and retailers such as Kenneth Cole, Alex and Ani and Timberland. Swirl also allows retailers and brands to set specific offers and customize shopping experiences.
Swirl’s backend is basically an easy-to-use CMS for retailers that lets them see exactly where each iBeacon is located at a particular location. It also lets brands create offers that can be triggered based on a set of circumstances. That means that someone who enters at store in the afternoon could be shown a different coupon than someone who enters in the morning.
Swirl’s platform also lets retailers safeguard against sending users too many alerts. One of the potential pratfalls of iBeacon technology is that brands will use it too often too quickly, before customers are educated about what it is and what its benefits are.
Like using iBeacon for events, we’re barely scratching the surface of the technology’s potential with shopping.