The future of mobile is here, or at least available to grocery shoppers as Safeway and Giant Eagle roll out Apple's iBeacon, the location-sensing technology that connects to shoppers iOS devices and sends product suggestions and messages while inside the store.
Developed by InMarket, iBeacon mobile shopping is now available in more than 150 U.S. supermarkets in Seattle, San Francisco and Cleveland, with additional retailers and markets launching in the coming months.
The micro-location technology uses a low-energy Bluetooth signal to enable mobile app experiences with higher accuracy than GPS. Transmitters are placed throughout the store and shoppers who have downloaded the app are detected when they enter. Shoppers who opt-in can be reminded of items a spouse just placed on their shared list, earn loyalty rewards, or be directed to a custom special offer.
The iBeacon technology also notifies a customer if an item they ordered is ready for pickup. Even without the iBeacon feature enabled, the app also lets customers scan and pay for some items using their iPhone, get customer service help and reserve products.
In December 2013, Apple rolled out iBeacon to all 254 of its U.S. retail stores.
Apple is not the first retailer to use customer-tracking sensors in stores. In November 2013, Macy's launched a trial run with Shopkick's new ShopBeacon technology, which will help the company connect with smartphone-wielding shoppers when they enter stores. When shoppers who have the Shopkick app on their phone enter a Macy's store, they receive a pop-up reminder to launch the app and receive rewards and coupons.
But Safeway and Giant Eagle are the first retailers other than Apple itself to implement iBeacon, ushering in a New Year of mobile marketing and commerce. Reaching shoppers in-store -- where voice, data and wifi signals can be difficult to access -- is a big step forward for mobile commerce.
The Safeway, Giant Eagle introduction is just the beginning, promises Todd Dipaola, CEO and co-founder of inMarket. "Mobile to Mortar has tremendous potential to transform commerce by converging digital benefits to physical stores," he said. Expect more announcements and platform enhancements throughout 2014.
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