If you’re a retailer, you have two options when it comes to deploying Bluetooth beacons. You can deploy the hardware yourself and build an accompanying mobile app for the experience, or you can open the experience to existing apps that users already have on their device using a beacon network. Some retailers have decided they want to own the experience and have everything go through their own mobile app, but new data suggests that might not be the way to go.

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The latest data from comScore’s Mobile Metrix shared with 9to5Mac shows the reach of beacon-enabled iOS apps, but it also for the first time includes a beacon network: inMarket’s Mobile to Mortar service. inMarket reached around 31.5 million unique monthly visits, according to comScore’s data, which means the platform reaches roughly 18% of all U.S. mobile users through existing apps that support the platform. Compare that to Walmart’s app that has around 20 million users and the next most popular apps— Target, Walgreens, and Kroger— getting approximately 4 million monthly users.

A beacon network connects app developers, brands, and retailers, allowing them to all take advantage of each piece of the iBeacon puzzle. Existing apps that support the platform automatically work in stores that have deployed hardware supporting the platform. Brands also get the opportunity to advertise in stores where they sell products but might not have the ability to deploy beacons in. Imagine small retailers with numbers nowhere close to the 4-20 million monthly app users the big retailers mentioned above get. Using a beacon network, like inMarket, opens their beacon experience to 30+ million monthly users immediately through apps already installed on devices and used daily. 

inMarket Mobile to Mortar iBeacon Platform Capabilities Spot from Sohrab Pirayesh on Vimeo.

For me, especially from an end user’s perspective, the question for retailers and others deploying beacons is simple: The biggest hurdle to getting users to actually use an iBeacon experience in store is getting them to download the app. Try to own the experience yourself and convince visitors (many of which are hopefully new visitors) to download your app, or allow us to use the apps we already have and use daily to improve the in-store experience by taking advantage of a beacon network like inMarket. Once a few networks establish themselves as leaders, it will be only a matter of app developers supporting the networks.

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