Like many small to mid-sized retail business owners, you may assume that mobile marketing doesn’t really apply for your specific business. However, the exact opposite is true. Sure, the vast majority of your annual sales are done within your physical location, but you cannot deny that your target customer is also online looking for what you have to offer. SMB retailers without a digital or mobile strategy are already missing out on the potential of capturing new customers online. And new technologies, like iBeacons, are just one way that SMB owners can begin to capitalize on mobile marketing to drive incremental revenues.

What is iBeacon or Beacon Technology?

iBeacon technology may be new to you today, but it’s about to explode in a big way. What is iBeacon technology, you ask? It uses Bluetooth low-energy technology, or BLE technology, to ping smartphones and other mobile devices. Those devices must have compatible apps installed. If they do, iBeacon technology can be used to send push notifications, including special offers and coupons, to smartphone users’ apps. In this way, beacon technology allows SMB store owners to engage in contextual, location-based marketing.

How it Works

Before delving into the things that make iBeacon technology so exciting, let’s take a look at how it works. First, beacons must be set up in the store. These beacons transmit universally unique identifiers that are picked up by compatible apps and/or operating systems. In turn, certain actions, including social media check-in prompts and push notifications, are triggered. BLE technology, as the name implies, uses very little energy. In fact, a single coin battery can last upwards of two years. Aside from acquiring the necessary hardware, business owners will also need an app that includes an API that supports the technology. Third-party apps are also available.

Primary Uses

The idea of iBeacon technology may sound intriguing, but odds are that you’re still far from excited about it. After all, who cares if you’re able to connect with customers’ mobile devices while they’re in your store? Won’t sending messages to their phones alienate them more than anything? In fact, that’s not the case at all. Consider this: Within 30 days of using LevelUp mobile payment software that had been enhanced with beacon technology, participating retailers reported a 22-percent increase in spending. Furthermore, LevelUp has reported that customers were likely to spend up to 60 percent more when they knew they were about to unlock a new deal or loyalty reward after being notified about it through iBeacon technology.

So, what kinds of practical uses does iBeacon technology have to offer the average brick-and-mortar store? Consider these examples:

  • In-Store Offers – With iBeacon technology, you can alert people to special offers when they step into your store. If you connect the technology with a proprietary app, you can even base the offers on their in-app activities. From coupons to loyalty rewards offers, this technology can be used to instantly share money-saving offers with your customers, which increases the odds of them making purchases and spending more.
  • In-Store Search – If you have a small store, this one isn’t as important. However, iBeacon technology can be used to guide shoppers through a store. Through an accompanying app, a customer can search for what he needs and be directed there. Similarly, iBeacon technology can be used to connect online wish lists with in-store shopping. As someone enters your store, she can be told where to find the items on her wish list.
  • Mobile Payments – It’s not available yet, but rumor has it that Apple will launch an iWallet app that will incorporate iBeacon technology in an upcoming release. Regular customers who use the technology will be able to pay without having to take out physical wallets. Everything can be handled seamlessly through a smartphone or tablet.


Key Benefits of iBeacon Technology

At this point, you’ve probably already considered quite a few of the potential benefits of iBeacon technology. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the most exciting examples:

  • Connect During the Decision-Making Process – It’s best practice to have a strong online presence so customers can do research before visiting your store. However, if you want to “be there” during the crucial in-store decision-making process, iBeacon technology is the way to go. Someone may be on the fence about making a purchase, receive a great offer after being pinged by one of your beacons and then ultimately go ahead and buy the item in question.
  • Bridge the Gap between Online and In-Store Marketing – Like many who own brick-and-mortar stores, you may be running two entirely separate marketing campaigns – one in the digital world and one in the “real world.” iBeacon technology allows you to close the gap between the two in a very exciting and effective way. As the technology evolves, it will become easier and easier to use customers’ online activities to create effective in-store promotions.
  • Engage in Customer Identification and Data Collection – Through iBeacon technology, you can theoretically identify customers when they walk into your store and tell them where to find what they need. Talk about personalized service! What’s even better is you can collect non-identifying information that should come in handy too, including how many smartphone users visit your store and which devices and apps they use.


Does iBeacon Technology Make Sense for You?

Now, the big question: Is iBeacon technology a practical option for your business? First of all, it’s an inexpensive, low-maintenance way to enhance your mobile marketing efforts. The average cost of a typical beacon is less than $20, and beacons run off of long-lasting batteries. Minimal effort is required by you or your customers to make the most of the technology, so you won’t need to have an IT crew handy to keep it up and running.

There are a few potential roadblocks to using this technology, but they’re not too challenging to overcome. First, you need an app that supports beacon technology. Third-party apps are available, but it’s even better to have a proprietary app that uses the iBeacon API. This will cost you, but the return on your investment should be considerable.

Finally, you need to give customers a reason to take out their smartphones in your store. Otherwise, they might not notice their smartphones are being pinged. Overcoming this obstacle is easy: Just encourage smartphone use with signs and other marketing materials.

iBeacon technology is still in its infancy, but it is already a solid and effective option for retailers of all size. By getting on board with it now, you will be able to distinguish yourself from the competition in an exciting and unique way.