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Will iBeacon Further Enable the Passion of Shopping?

I love NYC during the holidays!  Nothing seems to compare to beautifully decorated windows, wearing that new coat, hat, and gloves, and feeling the buzz as we all merge into the spirit of the season!  All of this ambiance also compels me to shop!

Since I also love technology, I often download the apps of my favorite brands and stores.  I am enamored with these apps...the alert emails, the special discounts, and the special invitations to store events. I am also intrigued with the recent buzz around iBeacons, now delivered in iOS7 and Android 4.5, and how retailers can use it to capture more of that “wallet” of their favorite customers.

iBeacon technology appears be a less intrusive way to communicate with your customer as well as increasing the value of a current customer who has a higher ROI than trying to capture new shoppers. In my mind, it’s a win/win for both the customer and the retailer. 

As reported in TechCruch on Nov. 20, 2013, shopping app Shopkick has teamed up with Macy's to deliver the first retail-based iBeacons, allowing customers to find location-specific deals, discounts, and recommendations in the Shopkick app while in a participating store. What a great way to deliver a greeting as I enter the store, get a guided tour (following the map on my app) to the item I am looking for, receive a discount just for me, as well I can scan an item (just in case my favorite sales associate is busy) to find out if that item is available in my size and color.  The possibilities seem endless.

That being said, I had to try it out.  So, off I went to one of my favorite stores using this new technology.

Caption: By An-d (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I entered the store and got a great greeting, via the app.  Perfect, I was definitely feeling special.  Within seconds I received a discount just for me.  Even better, I had my eye on a great pair of boots.  When I got to those ever-coveted pair of boots, I scanned the item and found out the bad news.  They didn’t have my size in stock and they couldn’t be shipped.  As you might imagine, my experience was suddenly stalled, not to mention my excitement for the purchase.   

At that moment, there was a sales associate who came over to inquire if I needed help.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t familiar with the app or its features.  However, he did help me find another pair of boots, as well as inform me about the great sales that were coming up for Black Friday.  All in all, a good shopping experience.

So what does this new technology mean to the retailer?  A better question, what is the value to the customer to be communicated via iBeacons?  

In this very competitive retail world, customers who get a unique and differentiated shopping experience are the most loyal – and spend more.  How can iBeacon technology deliver that unique experience?  Maybe it's something immersive or narrative that is revealed through physical participation?  

The ideas seem to be endless, as all technology is.

If you would like to learn more about iBeacons and how ThoughtWorks is powering retail innovation, join us at NRF at Booth #3744.