There’s a new marketing channel on the block that’s challenging for supremacy in the location-based marketing space. And it might just win.

iBeacon micro-location technology could be every marketer’s dream, enabling right-time, right-place, right-customer delivery of exactly the right message to achieve exactly the right outcome.

Currently, most location-based marketing uses GPS technology in conjunction with mobile and wifi connections to find customers and send relevant communications to them – but not only can these a drain on a device’s battery life, but they lack the pinpoint accuracy of iBeacons.

iBeacons (a brand name coined, as you might guess, by Apple), are small devices that transmit Bluetooth Low Energy signals to BLE-enabled mobile phones and tablets within a precise location. They allow a brand or organisation to send tightly targeted messages to customers right at the moment when it’s most relevant and useful. A high street retailer, for example, could send a specific offer to a shopper just as they approach the store – or even as they approach the relevant display once inside the store itself.

Applications in B2C are easy to imagine: the store that sends a customer a perfectly-timed offer as they near a particular product line; the cinema that offers discounted tickets as a film fan approaches a piece of outdoor advertising; the venue that directs you to a free parking space on arrival and helps you locate your car again when you leave…

In the US, Major League Baseball uses iBeacon technology to deliver a host of services designed to enhance spectators’ enjoyment of the game they’ve arrived to see as well as the venue they’ve arrived to see it at.

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In B2B, it’s the event and exhibition space where iBeacon technology can come into its own.

Once show visitors have downloaded your app, for example, one of the most useful things you could deliver to them is a floorplan (who hasn’t had to ask the way to the loos at one exhibition or another?). Visitors could be directed to a promotional stand, a seminar – or be supplied with content from the seminar once they’ve attended. The incentive/reward concept is easily taken to another level in gaming. A great example of how this works with iBeacon technology is the Consumer Electronics Show’s Scavenger Hunt game.

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What are the other iBeacon pros?
While current location-based technology is working well for some, iBeacons are proving to have greater benefits in their ability to target customers at both a wider range and in a more precise location. And with less of that drain on your phone battery.

What about the cons?
One of the biggest arguments against sending “push” messages to that most personal of devices, a mobile phone, has to be the issue of privacy and opt-in. However, you do need to persuade your customers to download your app in order to use the iBeacon technology, so those issues could be easily addressed. But there is a very real danger that, if the channel takes off, your average shopper, upon entering a large shopping centre, could be inundated with directional instructions, product offers, discount codes, you name it, from so many stores that very soon, they could disabling their Bluetooth and turning off apps.

Which brings us to iBeacon etiquette.
If you don’t want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, marketers need to use iBeacon technology with due care and diligence. Which means adhering to some form of iBeacon best practice.

The people at PYMTS.com have come up with a whole guide, but it’s easily summarised in four key points:

  1. Know your customer. Get them to register for your service, then you know who they are and they know what they’ve signed up for – that’s your opt-in
  2. Make sure the messages they receive are relevant and helpful. A sales blast won’t do. There has to be something in it for them
  3. Make sure it’s easy for them to find what you’re directing them to
  4. Vary your messages regularly

Once again, it’s all good common sense. Don’t let the iBeacon become a spam wagon.

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