Online retail­ers such as Ama­zon have made busi­ness more chal­leng­ing for many brick-and-mortar retail­ers. Many of these retail­ers, such as Best Buy and Tar­get, have found that they often serve as phys­i­cal show­rooms for con­sumers to eval­u­ate prod­ucts before pur­chas­ing them online.

In addi­tion to this chal­lenge, brick-and-mortar retail­ers pre­vi­ously did not have access to the same level of insight about their cus­tomers as their online com­peti­tors. Whereas online retail­ers have been able to mea­sure traf­fic and shop­ping pat­terns pre­cisely enough to rec­om­mend per­son­al­ized prod­ucts, phys­i­cal retail­ers have found it more dif­fi­cult to glean sim­i­lar data with­out the risk of being inva­sive. Before, many phys­i­cal retail­ers col­lected in-store data using secu­rity cam­eras to track cus­tomer move­ments and in-store equip­ment to detect and track cus­tomers’ media access con­trol (MAC) addresses. With iBea­con and other sen­sor tech­nol­ogy, mar­keters now have a more per­va­sive and inex­pen­sive way to mea­sure shop­ping behav­ior and fine-tune loca­tion data. They can also tai­lor the brows­ing expe­ri­ence and pro­vide per­son­al­ized offers, prices, and rewards to cus­tomers while they are shop­ping inside their stores.

But what can iBea­con tech­nol­ogy do for you as a cus­tomer? Imag­ine step­ping inside a store and, upon open­ing an app, you find a per­son­al­ized map on your smart­phone, show­ing you offers that are tai­lored to your needs and interests.

Your per­son­al­ized map guides you to the store sec­tions where you can find inter­est­ing prod­ucts and per­son­al­ized deals based on your past pur­chas­ing behav­iors and elec­tronic shop­ping list. You even­tu­ally try on dif­fer­ent out­fits and decide to buy one. As you walk away from the fit­ting room, your phone gives you per­son­al­ized deals on shoes that would match the out­fit you have in hand. After select­ing the right pair of shoes, you skip the line and pay for your items with a sin­gle tap on your phone—and you are imme­di­ately shown your loy­alty rewards and points for the pur­chase as well as an excit­ing incen­tive to share with your friends.

In real-time or after you’ve left, the retailer can see how long you’ve been in each part of the store, how long each prod­uct was in your hands, which offers were effec­tive, what you even­tu­ally bought, what you shared with your friends, and a lot of other inter­est­ing ana­lyt­ics data.

Although some com­pa­nies, such as Esti­mote, are build­ing light­weight, cheap, and stand­alone iBea­con devices for phys­i­cal stores, every device man­u­fac­tured since the iPhone 4s and iPad 3 gen­er­a­tion is equipped to being either an iBea­con trans­mit­ter or receiver that can lever­age apps such as Site­worx Concierge to power proximity-based pro­mo­tions and prod­uct info. Cou­pled with low-energy Blue­tooth con­nec­tions, mak­ing it easy for devices to talk to one another, the preva­lence and acces­si­bil­ity of iBea­con tech­nol­ogy make its appli­ca­tion a real­is­tic pos­si­bil­ity for both small and large retailers.

Many busi­nesses have already imple­mented these devices. With the iPad rapidly being adopted in the retail space, every com­pat­i­ble iPad already in use at a retail store is capa­ble of tak­ing advan­tage of iBea­con tech­nol­ogy. High-profile exam­ples include the instal­la­tion at Lebron James’ Unknwn, where every shoe has its own iPad dis­play. And last year, Kate Spade deployed nearly 50,000 tablet kiosks—con­sist­ing of sim­ple dig­i­tal displays—in hotels, restau­rants, retail, and other loca­tions. Using iBea­cons can make these sim­ple dis­plays even more pow­er­ful and use­ful to both the cus­tomer and retailer.

Macy’s was the first national retailer to imple­ment Apple’s new iBea­cons in part­ner­ship with retail app Shop­kick last Novem­ber. When cus­tomers walked into one of the two par­tic­i­pat­ing Macy’s loca­tions in New York City and San Fran­cisco, the store noti­fied them to down­load or use the Shop­kick app, which alerted them to deals, send­ing them on a scav­enger hunt for per­son­al­ized prod­ucts at that par­tic­u­lar store loca­tion.  Although the trial was lim­ited to a few loca­tions, when it is rolled out to more loca­tions, Macy’s might also per­son­al­ize mes­sages to shop­pers while they are in a spe­cific depart­ment, pos­si­bly rec­om­mend­ing nearby prod­ucts that are tai­lored to them.

As retail­ers find the best ways to use iBea­con and sen­sor tech­nol­ogy in their brick-and-mortar stores, dig­i­tal mar­keters will be able to mea­sure cus­tomer inter­ac­tions more pre­cisely across var­i­ous channels—watching prospects move from an online ad and an in-store sale noti­fi­ca­tion to a suc­cess­ful pur­chase at a retail location.

And finally, not only cus­tomers can ben­e­fit from a more fun, per­son­al­ized, and dynamic in-store expe­ri­ence; retail­ers can also ben­e­fit from the abil­ity to con­cretely assess whether or not their online efforts were effec­tive in offline sales, and inter­est­ingly, mea­sure the reverse.

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