What is iBeacon? (Everything You Need To Know) - BuildFire
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What is iBeacon? (Everything You Need To Know)

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology” — Steve Jobs

Imagine. You walk into a retail shop you’ve visited before and a staff addresses you like this: “Hey, Brian. Welcome to XYZ stores, hope you enjoyed the Jeans you bought last week? We’ve new arrivals of some beautiful shirts to match and guess what? We are giving you 50% off for every purchase you make today …”

How would you feel? Excited, right?

First, because they called your name, you’re more likely to smile at them and then a conversation will ensue. Personal attention given to an in-store consumer promotes confidence and trust that leads to repeat business.

Gartner has predicted that by 2018, more than 50% of brands will redirect their investments to customer experience innovations and in 2020, more than half of major new business processes and systems will incorporate some elements of the IoT (Internet of Things).

Beacon is the next is the next big thing in IoT. According to Webopedia, Beacons transmit small amounts of data via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) up to 50 meters, and as a result are often used for indoor location technology, although beacons can be used outside as well.

In 2013, Apple introduced their own implementation of Beacons — iBeacons, at the Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. iBeacon uses the Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) wireless technology to detect your location and to send nuggets of personalized information to your device.

iBeacon is supported on iOS7 (iPhone 4s and newer) and since same Bluetooth technology works for Android 4.3 and later, it means android devices of that version can receive signals from beacon devices provided they have the required apps installed.


How Does iBeacon Actually Work?

iBeacon is an amazing technology. It can be compared to NFS or better geofencing, but it works differently and has a wider coverage.

Imagine. You’re walking along the street and the next thing, you get a notification from a nearby retail shop “Hi, Brian. Welcome to xyz stores, get 20% off any purchase you make today.”

Interesting, right?  You’ll likely want to check it out. You step into the retail shop, picked a shoe you get notified about the price and several types of the same shoe that are in stock, their prices, reviews, and discounts.

You’re done shopping, your total purchases are calculated for you based on the 20% discount when you use the coupon code that was sent to you. Guess what? You don’t need to queue up to make payments.

Just with a click of a button on your phone, you can make your payments and as you leave the retail shop they try to cross-sell you again, you receive another message with a higher discount. Then, you can choose to go back or not.

Amazing experience, right? It isn’t an illusion.Yes, that’s how iBeacon works. Several brands have started adopting the technology. Big brands like Waitrose, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Pouch, American Eagle and lots of others are also testing and using iBeacon to help improve their business.

Although, it has seen more success in retail stores—but it’s still applicable in any industry you can imagine. Look at this video to get a better understanding of what iBeacon is like.


In the video above, estimote is used for the illustration because it’s compatible with iBeacons.

There are two devices required for the iBeacon technology to work:

  1. The iBeacon transmitter, usually fixed in one place—on the wall, on top of tables or just about any location.
  2. Your iPhone with it’s BLE (Bluetooth low energy) which serves as the receiver and is required to be switched ON.

When you’re walking along the street, the iBeacon sends packets of data to everyone around in every 10 seconds – 20 minutes and if your Bluetooth is on, it gets to your iPhone and there you have it, the message is programmed for you.

Been to Starbucks lately? Starbucks started using this technology since 2014. Once you have the Starbuck compatible iBeacon app installed, you’ll most likely get a beep when you’re around that area.

Interestingly, iBeacon devices other than the ones that are shipped with your Apple device are relatively cheap and consumes low energy.

Here’s how the iBeacon devices look like:

How is iBeacon different from GPS and NFCS? I’ll talk about that next.


iBeacon Versus GPS & NFC

iBeacon (Bluetooth), GPS, NFC, Wifi, etc., all have their limitations. In terms of range and battery power consumption, iBeacon covers a range of about 50 meters and consumes less energy.

While GPS has an unlimited range, however, it consumes too much energy (if you’ve used Google Maps before to search for locations, you’ll notice that it drains your battery a lot), NFC covers a range of about 4cm (very short distance).

And for availability on devices: pretty much every smartphone is shipped with Bluetooth integrated into them. However, the Bluetooth technology that iBeacon uses is found on iPhone 4s and latter and also on Android 4.3 and latter. But NFC is available in just a few devices.

Many smartphones nowadays, have GPS pre-installed on them.

Here are 6 solid reasons why you should adopt iBeacon technology in your business.


Benefits of iBeacons

1. Improves Customer Experience

It’s important to note that about 62% of global customers have stopped doing business with a brand because of a single poor customer service experience, according to Microsoft Global Customer Service report.

Customers love helping themselves first before looking for a customer representative or company staff to assist them. And that’s what iBeacon allows them to do.

Since iBeacons can give customers information about products they are close to or they touch, they can be really engaged in the process without needing much attention from your sales rep. Some customers are introverts, some may not be free to easily call the attention of a representative to ask some questions about a product they are interested in.

But iBeacons can bridge that gap for you, by acting as a standby to give customers the information they need about a product or service.


2. Increase Sales

When customers are happy, what do you expect? They’ll most likely become repeat customers and also refer their friends and family members. A study by White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that, “80% of U.S. consumers would pay more for a product or service to ensure a superior customer experience.”

iBeacons allows customers to pay for products seamlessly with their mobile devices. Do you like queuing up at the cashier stand to make payments? I’m sure you don’t, no one does either. If your customers get timely access to information, they’re more likely to move faster towards making a purchase.


3. Inexpensive and Scalable

Even if you have a growing business, no worries. The highly affordable low-energy iBeacon can always fit into any size of business and can be seamlessly integrated into your marketing mix.


4. Increase Brand Loyalty

iBeacon helps you create a relationship with your customers that will keep them coming back to do business with your brand repeatedly.

Why? Because, most iBeacon messages you’ll send will promote enticing offers that customers can’t resist. Customers love discounts. I do.


5. Stay One Step Ahead of The Mobile Curve

Most businesses could be hesitant to adopt this technology until they begin to see results from other brands. Truth is, Beacons are proving to be a great mobile advertising tools marketers shouldn’t ignore. So, stay ahead by adopting this technology—you would thank me later.


6. Forget An Expensive POS (Point of Sale)

With the ease of payment with iBeacons, you have no business with incurring expensive POS. Maybe I’m biased on this one, some customers may not have this low energy bluetooth devices right?

Well, if that’s the case, you’ll still be advantaged. You can reach both customers no matter the payment option they decide to use.


7. It Helps Customers Navigate Around Easily

Shopping malls are pretty large. It can be difficult to quickly find what you are looking for easily. But iBeacons can help your customers find what they are looking for on time.

Most noticeably, it’s fun engaging with the iBeacon messages and the friendly promotional messages it sends to you about products you love.

8. It Helps  You Gather Important Metrics on Customer Behaviour

iBeacon allows you to learn about your customer’s behavior and gives you insights and real-time data about your customer’s action.

This data can help you make smart informed decisions that can improve your customer’s experience and help you create better marketing strategies to increase profitability.

Note: Marketing with iBeacon technology is purely permission-based. If users aren’t interested in using the iBeacon feature, they can turn it off or not download the app at all.

Having a big time trying to develop an iBeacon strategy? You have enough data to help you make better decisions for your strategy. At the very least this two strategies should help, from the data you already have.


iBeacon Strategy

1. Store-Level Strategy

An in-store iBeacon strategy allows you to get general data about customer’s behavior—towards products customers are more interested in, how the customers spend most of their time and how shuffling around inventories can affect the overall time customers spend in store.

Having these data will help you strengthen your marketing strategy. iBeacon makes these data available to you.


2. Customer-Level Strategy

Personalization is key. Starbucks said“This initiative is important since 43 percent of respondents to our surveys stated they would like to receive personalized information based on immediate location.”  Brands like Starbucks and Macy’s have one of the best implementations of iBeacons.

You’ve got to make a stunning strategy that’ll unintrusively collect only the data that you need to give users personalized notifications about offers and promotions when they’re close to your store. For example, how to give offers customers they can’t resist and still make more profit.


Some Exciting iBeacon Case Studies

McDonald’s iBeacon Case Study

McDonald’s saw 8% increase in McChicken SandWich sales and 7.5% increase in McNugget sales by implementing iBeacon in 26 McDonald’s franchises in Columbus and Georgia, as they tested it with their customers over the 4-week trial.

The franchises were pushing special deals for McChicken Sandwich and 10 pieces of Chicken McNuggets.

According to Jack Pezold, a McDonald’s franchisee of 40 years: “Everyone is looking at their phones, millennials especially, and that’s where we’ve decided to engage,”


Pause Fest iBeacon Case Study

Live in Australia? You should be familiar with Pause Fest, Pause Fest is Australia’s premier digital event, Paul Fest partnered with Lighthouse in 2015, to deploy a network of beacons that delivered location-based content and experiences to attendees of their tech and creativity festival.

Here’s the interesting part:

Those that downloaded the Pause Fest mobile app received contextual notifications and content based on their proximity to different locations and points of interest.

The content included welcome messages on arrival, meal deals, post-keynote to surveys, tech installation videos, party notifications, and competitions.

Quite an interesting demonstration of the power of iBeacons.



Voolsy is the first beacon-enabled restaurant app in India, Voolsy app is aimed at easing restaurant operation and customers hassle of waiting for their order and bill payment.

The app allows its users to view the menus of restaurant outlets, read descriptions of their dishes, make customizations, place orders and of course, pay with the app. All this is made possible with the implementation of iBeacon.

The app detects your location. Voolsy is a new app in India but since it’s inception in 2016, it has added value to the restaurant industry and have also won some awards such as the Restaurant Technology Award 2017.



TechCrunch has estimated that beacons will reach over 60 million customers by 2019, while ABI research estimates that more than 400 million beacons will be deployed by 2020.

Take advantage of this technology that iBeacon offers, if you want to improve your customer’s experience and increase profitability.

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Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.

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