One of the big debates regarding iBeacons, the tech that allows iOS apps to receive location-aware notifications over Bluetooth LE, is whether or not the experience will become intrusive for users. Imagine having your local grocery store’s app installed. Once the store has installed a few beacons, you could soon find yourself overcome with notifications as you walk around without ever even opening the app. You run the risk of users getting frustrated and potentially avoiding or deleting the app entirely. However, that hasn’t been the case when it comes to the iBeacons installed by inMarket in grocery stores across the country. It tells us app and ad engagement has skyrocketed since rolling out the platform:

“Successful geofencing improves the consumer experience while increasing engagement value for brands. With today’s data release, we now have proof that consumers appreciate this value in a measurable way: They’re more likely to keep apps that use beacon messaging, and they’re more likely to interact with advertised products in-store thanks to beacons,” said Todd Dipaola, CEO of inMarket. “When we launched M2M in January, we set out to improve the shopping experience for brands, retailers and consumers. M2M is the first platform to showcase these exciting improvements at scale.”

The beacons installed by inMarket push notifications to a number of partner apps, like Conde Nast’s Epicurious and Gannet’s Key Ring. Since beginning to send out iBeacon notifications, inMarket says interactions with advertised products increased by 19x. In other words, an almost 20x increase in the number of users interacting with advertised products in these apps all thanks to the location-aware iBeacon notification. Advertisements that would have gone unnoticed in these apps previously become useful info that users are taking advantage of when presented to them at the ideal time. That’s not the only stat. InMarket also tells us that not just ads but app engagement in general is up following its iBeacon roll out. App usage was 16.5x greater for users who received a beacon message vs those who did not.

Another interesting stat that inMarket shared is that users receiving an iBeacon notification are 6.4x more likely to keep an app on their phone. That shows us that customers are finding these iBeacons notifications useful and as a result less users end up deleting the app.

While the experience will vary from retailer to retailer, and it’s still possible some platforms will over-message and drive users away, inMarket says there is a sweet spot and users appreciate the experience: “…people keep shopping apps on their phones and might forget to use them in-store — so the beacon push reminds them “hey, you have this app that saves you time/money/rewards/etc.” and they appreciate that. The reminder wouldn’t be as effective unless the person was in a store, ready to shop. 

There has been quite a bit of iBeacon news this year as retailers, venue owners, and more embrace the Bluetooth LE beacons for beaming customers and visitors location-aware notifications. GE just introduced its new iBeacon-equipped LED lightning fixtures destined for Walmart, for example. Most of the time the retailers are in control of the experience, and that’s why we haven’t see a ton of numbers on how much success these retailers are having with the tech. InMarket’s Mobile to Mortar platform, however, is different in that it sees the company installing iBeacons in various stores across the country and opening the platform to brand and app partners outside of just the venue owner. inMarket is currently in over 200 stores including Safeway and Giant Eagle locations and expanding into new locations in New York, Boston, and Miami. 

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26 Responses to “iBeacons in retail stores blowing up app usage, ad engagement”

  1. There’s a great deal of potential with iBeacons.


  2. chrisw52 says:

    That’s really interesting. I would not have thought that IBeacons would be so well accepted. I have been working with the technology for a couple of months now. Apple and Google seem well positioned with IOS and Android to take advantage of this technology. Microsoft? Not so much. With the BLE support that I see in Windows 8.1, Microsoft has a lot of work to do to catch up with the competition.


  3. I disagree with the first “thesis” statement of this article entirely. “One of the big debates … is whether or not the experience will become intrusive for users.”

    There is no debate. iBeacons *are* intrusive. It’s how the technology works (intrusively), and their entire purpose is advertising, which is also by definition, intrusive.

    Why do you think the uptake is so high? iBeacons are an advertisers dream. They serve literally no other purpose than following the users around the store, recording their interactions, and then sending targeted advertising to them. That’s their raison d’être, their entire purpose and being.


    • iBeacons are not solely used for advertising. Don’t be so close-minded. :)

      It’s a location technology, not an advertising technology.


      • I agree that it theoretically has other uses. However, it’s implementation so far has been 100% for advertising purposes.

        All articles I have read about the technology on this or any other site (and I read at least one article about iBeacons a week), have exclusively mentioned advertising and talked about the advertising uses it has. They don’t always *call* it advertising (as above) but the description of the use is exactly that and nothing else. It’s being used in stores for the purposes of “alerting the customer to deals” as they walk by them, and “giving them useful information about products.” This is advertising. This is an exact description of advertising.

        iBeacons are (currently) 100% about advertising to customers in stores. I challenge you to find a recent article from a prominent tech site that even mentions alternate, non-advertising uses. I’d genuinely be interested to read that. I’m sure it’s out there because nothing is usually ever 100%, but my point is still solid.


      • Xavier is right, marketers are now excited about iBeacons, but Apple is very careful with spamming users and iOS8 contain lot of new tools and advertising gonna be really the most stupid usage of iBeacon technology. Lot of great innovation will follow. Sadly there’s nothing to look at yet…


    • Ed Anderson says:

      your frame of reference should be, or become, how can brick and mortar retailers mimic the positive aspects of e-commerce, namely personalization and delivering offers that have proper context for the shopper, their user purchase history, their intent on a trip and increase the quality of the shopping experience.

      There is no debate that beacons can be used to push unwanted messages to you in the store, but they can also enable the shopper to pull deals they want off the shelf. The secret is to start with purpose to improve the in store experience and you (the retailer) just don’t do very much push messaging…and the debate is solved….those that use pull will have more traffic, larger basket size and more loyalty, those that use push will drive upset shoppers to the competition.

      McKinsey wrote an article that sited Netflix having 75% of purchases based on algorithms of past purchase history.


  4. As with any technology, iBeacons can be put to good use or wrongfully exploited by their proprietors. Just look at how many spam message you receive in your inbox daily. But in the case of iBeacons, you have the option to uninstall the apps of the abusers. When put to good use iBeacons can play an increasing role in enabling contextual user experiences (http://tocatlian.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/mobile-middleware-enabling-trusted-and-contextual-mobile-user-experiences/). But equally important, mobile app developers will need to earn the trust of their users. When combined, trust and context can result in a superior level of user engagement.


    • Brian Gaynor says:

      This is the key thing – iBeacon is strictly opt-in. Right now if you leave WiFi enabled on your phone retailers can (and do) track you without ever asking permission (the only way to opt-out is to turn off WiFi).


  5. We find that when the consumer is told explicitly what is going on with iBeacons, they are happy to get involved. See a recent example here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4DniapxXBI This uses Beacons for gamification as well as advertising.


    • How many people have the time or interest in using this stuff for games or nagware? I’m in a store shopping, my time is extremely limited, I have no interest in being told about product xyz. ZERO. And for games? C’mon, this makes using an iPhone a much worse, more annoying experience.


  6. herb02135go says:

    Wow. The company that makes money off iBeacon success is saying that it’s successful! Who would have though!

    I see this as the equivalent of having a nagging child in your cart- but at least you can delete the app.

    I’d like to see some raw data, including how many people try it once then delete the app.

    I guess we are measuring success by how many consumers are separated from their dollars.
    And if you thought people on cell phones slowed down your checkout lines …


    • I think the data is more relevant if it comes from a company in the business (actually ruling the app), rather than, say, your mailman?


      • herb02135go says:

        I agree with that comparison, especially since my mailman has trouble with numbers.

        A third-party study would be better. Now, perhaps this was created by a neutral party, which was not paid by the businesses who profit. I don’t know and don’t care.

        I’m just saying it’s foolish to rely on only one source of information.


      • I see your point now, thanks! :)

        Well, I agree, maybe conclusions are a little be too early, if they’re based only on one source!


  7. I will delete any app that pushes notifications like this to me while shopping.


  8. I conducted a lot of interviews with privacy obsessed German customers for my slide-deck “iBeacons – Fad Or Trend? The Use-Cases For Retail And Omni-Channel Solutions” – see: http://bit.ly/1dpskG1 – and found the following:

    Even Germans do not consider beacon-based apps intrusive as long as a) there is a worth-while benefit provided in return and b) the number of notifications is kept low, for example 1-2 per location per visit.


  9. Anybody ever consider that iBeacons could really make Find my iPhone a lot more accurate? With the iBeacons, you could pinpoint the exact location, even if the device is disconnected from the internet, considering how it uses low energy bluetooth.


  10. Why no one ever speak about how clanky iBeacons are at the moment?
    It’s always about what beacons CAN do, never about what they actually do. And now it’s a review from people how deployed them, not used them. Sure they’ll say it’s great!
    I’ve been working on beacons for months now, it is far for behaving as expected. Notifications are triggered randomly, too early, too late, sometimes too often…
    I’m really impressed by the fuse around beacons with that few people having actually tried them.


  11. It’s great to hear the positive results, although I’m reminded of the saying that “marketers ruin everything”. The early adoption reminds me of website banners. They had phenomenal click-through because they were unique and consumers weren’t blind to them.

    The examples here work well because they represent limited deployments. As soon as my fellow marketers blanket the world in beacons and every brand decides they want it on it, this application of beacon starts to fall down. The detergent aisle – brought to you by Proctor & Gamble. The soda aisle by Pepsi.

    We’re still in the “solution searching for a problem” phase. There are problems out there, and I look forward to hearing about those additional use cases!


    • Hey Matthew,

      Although beacons are popularly known for ‘push-marketing’, it’s not the only way retailers can gain from this new-proximity detection technology. Beacons also help retailers to collect massive amounts of untapped customer data, such as customer dwell time at a particular section within a specified time, busiest hours throughout the day or week, number of beacon hits etc. Retailers can then use this information to streamline customer experience in-store by making improvements in staff allocation, merchandise display and so on.

      We have put together a list of 8 lesser known uses of Beacon for retailers here: http://blog.beaconstac.com/internet-retailer-feature-8-lesser-known-uses-of-beacons-for-retailers/

      And as you said, with more and more brands deploying beacons, beacon management will soon become a highly crucial factor.From keeping track of battery levels of battery powered beacons to identifying if a beacon has been accidentally moved to another location, the list goes on. Any retailer who has deployed hundreds of beacons across different branches all over the country is bound to face this. And with Macy’s recent rollout of more than 4000 beacon devices, the time is not far. The best solution to this, is to opt for a platform that supports asset tagging and beacon asset management, such as Beaconstac.


  12. Cecil Carter says:

    We’re looking to build an iBeacon app for small local stores to use but we need to know if people want this. If it sounds interesting signup for our email list here: https://shopping.slingput.com/


  13. Hi all!
    I’ve created an app with my friends called “CloseTip”.
    It’s a new social media application for real time interaction with your environment. Using beacon technology you are now able to interact not only to the people around you but with nearby stores, restaurants, parking lots and wherever you have a beacon.

    Please, download it at play store ( https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.closetip ), check it out and help us with your opinions!


  14. The potential of beacon is limitless. Adopting this technology will result in higher sales and increasing customer loyalty. But, retailers need to ensure that they send relevant personalized messages to their customers or it will provoke them to uninstall the app due to the untimely messages or irrelevant content.

    In a recent study, it was found that customers didn’t mind sharing their personal data as long as they received personalized useful messages at the right time. Hence the retailers need to keep in mind the relevance of the content and its timing when sent to the customers .

    Sending targeted personalized messages to their customers will also result in triggering impulse purchase along with improving the customers experience also indirectly increasing their loyalty to the store.

    To know more on how beacons have revolutionized the in-store experience, read here – http://bitly.com/1QRco2k

    We, at encircle.io are building a proximity platform leveraging beacon technology to help industries redefine their customer engagement. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.