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German restaurants’ iBeacons tryout rewards loyal customers

An upscale German restaurant group’s testing of Apple’s iBeacon technology is streamlining the in-store experience with a mobile application that rewards loyal customers for spending time there.

Mook Group’s application uses beacon transmissions to locate restaurant guests and document their visits, ranking them by the amount of time spent at each location. Guests with higher-level status can earn rewards such as a free drink, guest-list placement or a quick table, by showing their status records to the restaurant host. Although fast-food restaurants have used beacons, the technology’s use by upscale dining establishments signals its rapid acceptance into the mainstream in just over a year after its introduction.

“This looks great,” said Erin O’Malley, vice president, account director, at Geometry Global, near Boston. “IBeacons are used quite heavily in the US at retail. It is another way to harness the power of the mobile device that folks never put down.

“Overall these beacons allow marketers to customize the shoppers’ experience in many unique ways,” she said. “Folks can choose to opt out or not, so the privacy is controllable.”

Improving service

Mook intends to expand the technology to all five of its restaurants, if the test at one restaurant proves successful. The dining company eventually hopes to track indoor location, items ordered and the amount customers pay to offer new services and improve existing ones. Users have to agree to download the app, but do not need to activate it to allow tracking to begin.

The app, designed for Mook by Candylabs, assigns such ratings as “guest” and “addicted connoisseur,” depending on time spent at the group’s establishments. Guests with higher-level app status are rewarded with a free drink, automatic placement on a guest list for future events or even quick entrance.

Any access to information is voluntary and with the client’s authorization.

Low energy

IBeacons are small Low Energy Bluetooth transmitters that can trigger an app to send notifications. The app uses the customer’s Bluetooth signal to estimate their proximity to an iBeacon – enabling it to deliver the right message at the right time.

Created to enhance location services through proximity, iBeacon technology streamlines the in-store experience. It is part of the reason why mobile consumers increasingly expect seamless digital to physical experiences.

IBeacons are being installed across a number of physical locations to drive engagements with mobile users, including inside retail stores, malls and sports stadiums.

The use of iBeacons by airlines is quickly ramping up this summer, with Britain’s largest airline, easyJet, trialing the technology across Europe to help passengers navigate their way through the airport using the brand’s mobile application. Walgreens is testing using iBeacons in several Duane Reade stores in New York to drive its coupon strategy (see story).

Additionally, Gannett-owned Key Ring recently loaded Bluetooth Low Energy into its application to better connect with smartphone-wielding grocery shoppers through hyper-targeted content and deals (see story).

Macy’s, Virgin Atlantic, and Coachella also have installed iBeacons.

Physical to digital

The technology’s presence in upscale dining establishments is a sign that the technology is quickly gaining acceptance as part of mobile’s widespread expansion. Fast-food restaurants can use the technology to notify guest services automatically when customers actually arrive, streamlining the pickup experience.

“The beacons certainly fit nicely into any industry where customer loyalty is sought, including the dining industry,” Ms. O’Malley said.

Final Take

Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Marketer, New York