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Safeway, Giant Eagle employ iBeacon to simplify shopping

As mobile device ownership increases, retailers are responding by diversifying their services. The iBeacon deployment is the first time the new technology will be used in a grocery setting, according to inMarket, which is working with the grocery chains on the campaign.

“We’ll be tying iBeacon technology with our suite of shopping apps, so we’ll be able to further enhance the shopping experience for consumers starting [Jan. 6],” said Todd Dipaola, CEO and founder of inMarket, Venice, CA. “For example, a consumer might get a shopping list reminder or an alert for a special product offer in-store.

“There are literally dozens of use cases that we will be testing out to see where consumers can best utilize the technology,” he said. “This is the same lean start-up process we’ve been using for years to iterate on our products.”

Consumer alerts
Safeway and Giant Eagle now can communicate with consumers via iBeacons, which use short-range, low-energy Bluetooth transmitters to send alerts to mobile devices within 100 feet of them.

The iBeacons are used to trigger contextually-relevant messages to consumers who are in or nearby participating stores.

The iBeacons may tell consumers to redeem coupons, earn points or pick-up items on their shopping lists.

Consumers are busier than ever and shopping apps and services such as iBeacon are meant to simplify and streamline specific aspects of their lives.

Consumers using inMarket’s List Ease and CheckPoints apps will be able to interact with the grocery retailers via iBeacon.

The List Ease app functions as a shopping list with calls-to-action to pick up items when in participating retailers.

The CheckPoints app enables consumers to earn and redeem points at participating retailers throughout the year.

A recent inMarket video shows a store’s iBeacon alerting a consumer’s cell phone with a call-to-action to use a coupon as the consumer walks near the store.

Mr. Dipaolo said inMarket selected iBeacon technology over NFC because it was simpler.

inMarket List Ease app

iBeacon calls-to-action
“NFC requires users to literally take their phone out, turn it on, and tap it against a target to activate,” Mr. Dipaola said. “IBeacons can reach a user that has opted in with their phone in their pocket anywhere in a store.

“This allows shoppers to physically browse the store as normal and take advantage of new features like a shopping list reminder when they enter,” he said.

Last month, Apple began using iBeacons in its stores, but the service was inconsistent and lacked context (see story).

Going forward, inMarket will be challenged to bring context to its campaign and to inform consumers about the new services.

“We believe any new technology needs to provide demonstrable value to consumers to succeed,” Mr. Dipaola said. “Right now we’re reaching 20 million consumers when it matters most: in-store.

“Our Mobile to Mortar network will enhance what folks are already doing in our apps in-store: using their phones to have a better experience.”

Final Take
Kari Jensen is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York