How iBeacons Are Changing The Way We Shop

By Natalie Cheng | Mar 10, 2014

It’s Saturday morning – Rise and shine sleepyhead, you’ve got a big day ahead of you. Your kids have a swim meet in an hour and you’ve just remembered that you signed up (or were forced to sign up) to bring snacks for the team concession stand and have no snacks in the pantry. You start to panic and rush to get the kids ready. After dropping them off at the swim meet, you speed over to your local grocery store to pick up some snacks.

Once you park and get into the store, you pull out your iPhone. You start walking up the aisles to find some granola bars, crackers, and dried fruit. Once you get to the aisle with granola bars, your phone sends you a notification with a coupon for 50 cents off a box of Nature Valley granola bars. Since you have the coupon, you decide to buy a couple boxes. The app also suggests a couple other snacks that other people have bought with granola bars and where you can find them. You follow the map on your iPhone and find the rest of the snacks.

Afterwards, you walk towards the checkout aisles and pass an iBeacon by the register. Since you’ve passed the iBeacon, your iPhone knows that you’re ready to pay and pulls up your loyalty card, coupons, and your credit card. Once the cashier is done scanning your items, you scan your iPhone to pay. You got a couple of points on your loyalty card and were able to use your coupons and credit card. Since you’re a loyalty card holder, your iPhone notifies you that the next time you purchase something at this store, you’ll get $5 off your total bill. Once you’re done, you head back to the swim meet and give the snacks to the team mom who is in charge of gathering the items from all the parents for the concession stand.

The scenario above could happen one day as mobile continues to infiltrate daily life. People are already paying for coffee with their phones. In retail, iBeacons have the potential to change the way you shop. For those unfamiliar with this technology, iBeacons are devices that extend location services in iOS. They can be any small wireless sensor beacon that works on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). A common device to use as an iBeacon is the Estimote. With an Estimote, you’re essentially getting a sensor that you can put in any physical place. Your device can alert apps when you pass by or leave a location of an iBeacon. In addition, apps can estimate your proximity to an iBeacon. To help you see how beacons such as the Estimote work, check out the video:

Benefits of iBeacons

Retail shops and other stores can benefit from using iBeacons. Some benefits include:

  • More relevant information for customers

  • An increased opportunity for upsales

  • Gaining new customers

  • Increased customer loyalty

  • Ability to gauge customer preferences

  • Opportunities for discounts, promotions, and coupons

  • Less waste of paper used to print coupons

Companies That Are Implementing iBeacons

Back in December, Apple deployed its iBeacons to 254 retail stores across the U.S. to help customers shop for new items or pick up an order. In order for it to work, you need the official Apple Store app installed on your phone and have Bluetooth enabled. You also have to allow the app to access your iPhone’s location and send push notifications.

Besides Apple, other stores such as Macy’s have already begun testing out iBeacons. The shopping app, Shopkick, worked with Macy’s along with several other retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters, Best Buy, Crate and Barrel, and Target. With Shopkick’s iBeacon transmitter, ShopBeacon, offers are pinged to users right when they walk past them or a department that contains products that users have shown interest in before. Users can also earn loyalty points, receive relevant alerts, and get discounts on items in the store. Currently, Shopkick doesn’t plan on incorporating payments into the process, but that capability is possible with PayPal beacons.

Other retailers are getting in on iBeacon implementation such as the jewelry store, Alex and Ani. By pilot testing iBeacons in two of its stores, they found that “72 and 75 percent of users near the two stores engaged with it”. The technology isn’t only limited to clothing and jewelry stores as iBeacons are popping up at grocery stores such as Safeway and Giant Eagle supermarkets.


As you can see, the future is already here for some retailers. With the iBeacon, stores and customers can benefit from more relevant messages and a better shopping experience. Even if you’re not in the retail space, it doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from implementing iBeacons. Even Coca-Cola is exploring the technology as it prepares its marketing for the World Cup. The technology has the potential to change the way we shop and even live. What do you think of iBeacons? Let us know in the comments or by sending us a tweet @chaione.


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