Recently a client asked about implementing Apple’s iBeacon technology into their digital signage network.
There has been a lot of speculation on how Apple is going to reinvent the way marketers will communicate with retail consumers. We decided the best way to find out more about this technology was to do hands-on research. So I took a trip to the Apple Store to find out how iBeacons would affect my shopping experience.
The expectation of the iBeacon’s integrated Apple Store experience includes:
- A greeting upon entering the store.
- A guided product tour of the Apple Store a visitor is currently in.
- Notifications such as discount offers, via their iOS device.
Prior to making the trip to the local Apple Store, I called the store to make sure they had iBeacons installed. They did, so I downloaded the Apple Store app.
I entered the store and waited for my device to welcome me…but nothing happened. I double checked to make sure the Apple Store app was running, which it was, but I still did not receive notifications. In addition to an iPad, I had with me an Android device with an app that locates iBeacons and the display indicated that there were three within three meters of where I was standing.
Counter-intuitive to the iBeacon technology-focused experience, I had to find a real person for help. I asked the store greeter if she was familiar with the iBeacons to find out if there was something I should be doing. She asked if I had the app downloaded and open, which I did. She then asked me if Background App Refresh and Location Services were on, they were. Once we confirmed that all of my settings were correct there still was nothing.
Even if these measures had worked, there seems to be a lot of steps that need to be taken on the part of the consumer. In order for iBeacons to work in the Apple Store, the user must:
- Have an iOS device.
- Have Bluetooth finder on.
- Have the Apple store app both installed and running in the background.
- Have location services running on their device.
The store employee then pulled out her phone and explained what should be happening. We then walked to another area of the store where she knew the iBeacons were located and both of our devices still didn’t work. We then asked another employee and who checked his phone and said the system must be down again.
I left the store a little disappointed that the experience I was expecting never materialized.
Technology integration within retail environments is going to continue to grow at an exponential rate over the next few years as brands look to find better ways to connect with consumers. It requires a great deal of discipline to take a step back and decide whether the “next big thing” is truly right for your business model and you have the infrastructure to support it. When looking at implementing technology in-store, marketers should remember that there is no substitute for exceptional customer service from employees and that technology should all but disappear into the background playing a supporting role in the Brand experience. Employees should champion the technology and embrace it as part of the customer journey. Then, and only then, digital deployments will truly benefit not only the customer but also the brand.
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Photo Credit: iPhoneHacks.com, Wikimedia: Apple Store, WestFarms Mall