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Marsh Supermarkets pioneers iBeacon-Apple Watch integration

Marsh Supermarkets will launch the first-ever Apple Watch iBeacon experience this spring as part of a bigger commitment to enabling in-store engagement via mobile devices.

Marsh Supermarkets, which owns stores Indiana and Ohio, also claims to be the first retailer to use its customer relationship management platform to measure the effectiveness of its iBeacons and wearables in-store by fully integrating its loyalty program with its mobile strategy. Marsh Supermarkets partnered with inMarket in 2014 to roll out iBeacons to all of its United States stores.

“Beacons are not just being used on the phone – mobile has become about more than just the phone,” said Todd Dipaola, CEO of inMarket. “This is the first-ever retail deployment that works with Apple Watch and also works with Marsh’s CRM, so it is full closed loop. We are putting beacons in the stores, they are interacting with phones and Apple Watch, and here’s what that means for sales.

“Marsh was the first retailer to roll out UPC bar codes in 1974 – it is an innovator historically,” he said. “Now we are helping them to go that next level.”

In-store messaging
The iBeacon program will enable Marsh to reach millions of shoppers through its own app as wall as numerous shopping apps that are part of inMarket’s network.

The Apple Watch integration points to how mobile experiences are extending into wearables, which are great for shorter digital interactions, such as checking a shopping list, given their small screens.

“If you look at the Apple Watch, you have a lot simpler high-level way of interacting with things,” Mr. Dipaola said. “It is meant for things that simplify your life, like knowing there is a coupon or offer in store.

“The first integration is a shopping list – you can do it hands free,” he said. “Suppose a shopper is pushing a shopping cart, has a baby in one hand and is using the other hand to pull items off the shelf. It is hard to have a paper list in front or to hold a phone. This makes it easier.”

The next step
InMarket reaches 18 percent of all U.S. mobile users, or 31.5 million per month, according comScore. Participating apps include Key Ring, Epicurious and ShopSavvy.

Beacon marketing requires smartphone or wearable apps and user opt-in to reach shoppers with messages while they are in store.

The CRM integration points to the growing need for accurate measurement of iBeacon campaigns as the technology scales up. Marsh and brands looking to reach its customers through beacons will be able to measure the technology’s effect on purchases and incremental store trips.

“Retailers are taking that next step and really innovating and using the tools in front of them in the same way that ecommerce guys have been doing for years,” Mr. Dipaola said.

“Now retailers have the same tools sets to do the same kind of analysis to make shopping experiences better and provide the right offers,” he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York