The Future of Mobile Retail Marketing: iBeacon AND Near Field Communication?

The future of mobile retail marketing may have hit stores last week as two major North American retailers — Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor — rolled out a new beacon marketing platform with the help of Swirl to deliver branded content and personalized offers to in-store shoppers.

The technology uses Bluetooth® Smart and Apple’s iBeacon technology to deliver targeted content and offers to consumers based on their specific location and behavior in the store. The system can beam anything from a warm welcome to returning customers as they enter the store to targeted contact based on the location of the customer within a specific area of the store.

“Beacon technology is the future of retail marketing and Swirl’s platform will assist us to make every visit to Hudson’s Bay or Lord & Taylor even more rewarding for our customers,” said Michael Crotty, Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Hudson’s Bay Company and Lord & Taylor in a Swirl press release.

The setup, which works with all iBeacon-enabled retail apps and has been certified by Apple, uses SecureCast beacons to trigger delivery of relevant content and offers to smartphones. These beacons are peel-and-stick, allowing them to be placed almost anywhere in the store.

Swirl’s marketing console allows retailers to easily create, manage and analyze an in-store campaign while enterprise cloud services provide scalability, security and flexibility.

With the system, retailers will be able to gather information on things like how long a customer actually stays in a portion of a store or redeems a special offer, providing marketers with better data, analytics and metrics to understand customer trends and to improve future campaigns.

According to Swirl, this multi-category, multi-floor beacon deployment represents the most ambitious application of beacon marketing in the retail industry to date. It will surely not be the last as mobile proximity marketing continues to gather steam.

iBeaconNFCArtworkAnd as Miles Quitmann, the CCO at Proxama recently pointed out, those looking to maximize the potential of beacons should combine them with other mobile proximity technologies like NFC. “The two technologies are complementary, acting as a powerful engagement tool when used together. The combination of these technologies will enable retailers and marketers to provide incentives, personalize offers, reward loyal consumers, analyze results, and transform the overall shopping experience.”

There are still many important questions to be answered about this emerging technology. How will marketers use the technology? How do brands avoid spamming customers, leading them to turning off the Bluetooth capabilities on their phones? Will privacy concerns slow adoption? To be sure, it is a brave new world for mobile marketers.

NFC Bootcamp covers all of the latest technology, innovations and trends affecting both businesses and consumers; mobile wallets, host card emulation (HCE), iBeacons, Bluetooth low energy (BLE), and more. We’ve expanded our curriculum to include all aspects of this exciting new landscape for mobile proximity marketing. A new section entitled “iBeacon and NFC: Friends or Foes” will look at the ramifications of iBeacons for NFC and the entire mobile proximity marketing space. Registration is open, so join us at an upcoming NFC Bootcamp to learn more about how NFC and iBeacons can — and should — coexist.

About the Author:

Robert P. Sabella has 20+ years of legal and entrepreneurial experience and is considered one of the most innovative leaders in developing and bringing new technologies to market. He is the founder of the NFC Bootcamp™ training series and has recently co-founded the AccelerateNFC incubator program, dedicated to fostering start-ups in bringing NFC technology to the market. He is co-author of RFID+™ and a prolific writer and speaker on NFC and RFID.

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