iBeacons: uniting online and offline world of retail and events

Mar 11, 2016

What are beacons?

In 2013, Apple introduced their iBeacons alongside iOS7. Working on both iOS and Android devices, beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy proximity sensors to send signals. Smartphone apps listen for these signals and trigger location based events. Beacons detect the location of a smartphone on a micro-local scale, so they can deliver content to a user based on their specific location.

Beacons are similar to Near Field Communication technology, which allows devices to receive content when tapped on a sensor. But with a range of around 70 metres, beacons could prove to be the more popular tech in years to come.


Benefits of beacons

Little has changed in the brick and mortar retail environment for decades. The introduction of loyalty cards allowed marketers some insight into purchasing behaviours of customers, but only when customers checked out and scanned their card.

Beacons will offer retail marketers lots of new information on what happens before customers get to the checkout. Marketers will be able to analyse what customers are looking at in-store, their journey through the store, if they go to many stores in search of a single item. And much more.

Research shows that 42% of in-store shoppers are already using their smartphones in-store to search for information. Marketers will be able to harness this use of smartphones in store to send targeted offers to customers and help them navigate around the store. 

As well as having a host of marketing uses, event planners can also use the power of beacons to improve their events. From real time crowd management to scavenger hunts, beacons could have a significant impact on the events industry.


Problems with beacons

Although beacons have the potential to become a successful tool, marketers should proceed with caution.

To receive notifications from beacons, users need to have an app that uses this technology installed. Their Bluetooth and location services must also be turned on. 

Some customers may also have concerns about how their data is being used. No one wants to feel that Big Brother is watching them. Marketers using this technology need to be transparent about what data is being collected and how that data is used.

To encourage users to connect with them marketers must find ways to incentivise. Consumers are aware that their data is valuable, but they will be willing to exchange it with companies, if they are receiving something they want or need in return.

Marketers also need to be careful not to send too many notifications to users. To avoid annoying users, push notifications should be used sensibly to send users relevant and targeted ads.



Beacons have the power to blur the boundary between the online and offline world even further. Marketers need to tread a fine line to get the use of beacons right.

Before delving into using this new technology, think about how you can provide value to consumers. Make their lives easier and send them unique, personalised content.