Apple has announced that Friday they will be implementing a new iPhone app for in-store customers. The iBeacon will work by guiding people through their stores so they can find what they are looking for without employee assistance.
So far, the app is to be used for 254 stores. Customers will be able to download it for free, and give access for Apple to track them within the store’s walls. As they move through the aisles they will be given information on new products, sales, and other information. Including where in the store certain items are being held, or where they can pick up preorders.
The iBeacon works by placing sensors around the store itself. These are often just iPads and iPhones themselves. The transmitters will pick up signals from the app when the user comes into the store, and tracks them as they move through each aisle.
When certain checkpoints are activates, notifications will be sent to the user about products. Sometimes notifications will be given storewide, such as with discounts. Or they can seek out a specific area mapped within the app.
All of this is done using Bluetooth, rather than through GPS. That allows it to be more direct and accurate, since GPS rarely works in an effective manner within a building.
This is not the first time a store has used mobile data to track customers. Many brands, such as Nordstrom, track cell phones while customers are in stores to narrow down on their shopping habits. Though this is a new method that is aimed more at consumer convenience than market data collection.
It could have wider implications when it comes to how Apple stores are run. As the iBeacon is fine tuned over time, it could almost entirely render employees obsolete for anything but cashier and stocking duties. That would narrow down costs for Apple, and be an innovative change in the retail industry as a whole.
But so far there seem to be no plans for further store automation. This is just an interesting way to connect consumers digitally to physical stores, a combo step that will encourage people to shop in person rather than just online.
The iBeacon goes into effect today, so you can check it out for yourself. But you should expect to see such apps popping up everywhere now.
Source: The Associated Press