Apple Stores Debut In-Store Tracking

Apple deployed iBeacon at all 254 of its retail locations over the weekend. The technology, which comes preloaded in iOS 7, can send messages and offers to customer iPhones and iPads via Bluetooth. The messages can be tailored depending on a shopper's location in the store, offering the retailer location-based marketing opportunities.

As customers browse an Apple Store, iBeacon will push product information to their devices, and can inform shoppers if their in-store pick-ups are ready. One of the potentially biggest marketing opportunities, and the one Apple seems most keen on utilizing in the early going, is the app's ability to look up a customer's upgrade eligibility for their iPhone and potentially convert that to a new phone sale.

Customers that prefer not to be tracked in-store need not be concerned; the iBeacon feature can interact only with those devices that opt in. In order to communicate with iBeacon customers must have the latest version of the Apple Store application, the Bluetooth radio on their device must be on, and they must click to allow Apple to track their location.

Unlike battery-hunger GPS which has trouble indoors and often can't differentiate between locations only a few feet apart, iBeacon operates on energy-conscious Bluetooth — allowing the retailer to tailor its message whether a shopper is in front of the iMac table or waiting online at the Genius Bar.

The Apple Store is not the first retailer to go live with the iBeacon technology, Macy's unveiled iBeacon, through the third-party shopkick app, at two locations last month and is planning a chain-wide rollout in the coming weeks.

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