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You’ve probably heard about iBeacons. It's the cool new technology that Apple put in the latest iOS that’s going to kill NFC, QR codes and every other mobile marketing technology.

At least that’s what people generally perceive to be the case due to consumer indifference to the other technologies I mentioned, as well as the fact that history proves that the safe bet is generally with Apple.

Though it's worth noting that the technology is also available in the latest Android handsets.

At the time of writing iBeacons are still in the trial phase, but hopefully one of the global brands currently experimenting with them will prove that they can be used as a successful marketing or commerce tool. 

To find out more about how the technology works, read my post investigating what iBeacons are and why marketers should care...


Pouch is a mobile app owned by Weve, which is an m-commerce venture in the UK backed by EE, O2 and Vodafone.

In February it began what was claimed to be the country’s first ever iBeacon trial in partnership with fast food chain Eat.

Initially launched with just 100 users, the trial involved sending marketing messages to customers as they entered one of Eat’s stores.

The idea was to scale it up gradually throughout the year until the iBeacon feature was available to around 10,000 users. Weve also hoped to bring more retailers onboard with the trial.

Interestingly, this trial was carried out with Android users rather than iPhone.

Major League Baseball

MLB added an iBeacon feature to its already popular At The Ballpark app for the start of the 2014 season.

The technology enabled fans at 20 baseball stadiums to check-in at games and receive exclusive offers.

New features were due to be added as the season wore on while additional stadiums would also be installing iBeacons.

Virgin Atlantic

Keen to play up to its image as an innovator, Virgin Atlantic began an iBeacon trial in Heathrow Airport at the beginning of this year.

Virgin passengers with an electronic boarding pass loaded in their iPhone Passbook app could receive messages relevant to their location within the airport.

For example, passengers in the departures section of the airport would be sent special offers such as a commission-free currency exchange.

Or as Upper Class passengers approached the private security gate their phone would automatically load their boarding pass ready for inspection.

New features were being added every few weeks with the aim of creating different, relevant interactions throughout the entire passenger journey.

Ruben’s House 

A museum in Antwerp has been using iBeacons for several months to enable visitors to guide themselves around the various exhibits.

Using the Ruben’s House app, visitors can navigate galleries and find out more about different paintings and galleries.

This video explains more:


Towards the end of 2013 Macy’s began trialling iBeacons using Shopkick’s mobile loyalty app.

Shopkick is a US smartphone app that offers rewards for entering retail stores and scanning items. It can also be linked to a credit card so users can earn points for making purchases.

Its new shopBeacon function allows retailers to send relevant messages to iPhone users via iBeacons, which is what Macy’s did in a pair of its stores in New York and San Francisco.

When Shopkick users entered one of the stores they were sent a message alerting them to deals and relevant sale items.

The trial was initially only conducted among a few Shopkick employees and I cant find any information suggesting that it has been rolled out to the public yet.

American Eagle

Another trial in conjunction with Shopkick, this time taking place at 100 American Eagle and Aerie stores in the US.

It went live in February this year and as yet I can’t find any public results, although American Eagle already uses the original Shopkick app in its US stores so there’s huge potential to scale it up.

According to the PR blurb:

ShopBeacon will welcome and show [shoppers] location-specific rewards, deals, discounts and product recommendations – without them even having to remember to open the app.

Odeon Cinemas

In June Odeon Cinemas announced that it planned to imminently begin trials with iBeacons to welcome people to its cinemas, share information and inform them of special offers.

In a talk at Marketing Week Live commercial director Andy Edge said that iBeacons also offered Odeon the opportunity to gain more insights on its visitors.

Around a third of its customers, or 2.5m people, have signed up to the Odeon loyalty scheme and a third of those people have also agreed to CRM.

That’s an impressive figure, but also means there’s a big chunk of customers that the cinema chain knows nothing about.

As a retailer we are looking at how we can use WiFi and iBeacon technology to give us more insight. Without being intrusive we want to understand things like using mobile technology to see average dwell time in the foyer, what is people’s route through the cinema, do you go in and come back again?


Following in Virgin’s footsteps, easyJet has installed iBeacons at London Luton and Gatwick in the UK, and at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris.

The aim is to help passengers navigate around the airport by sending relevant messages at different locations.

The technology will initially be deployed at bag drop offs and security areas to notify passengers that they need to have documentation ready, such as passports and boarding passes.

Unlike other trials, anyone using the easyJet app can take part, which includes more than 9m passengers. 

Japan Airlines

Japan Airlines has just begun a trial involving both iBeacons and smartwatches at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

However it doesn’t appear that consumers will be directly involved. Instead the iBeacons allow the airline to locate staff wearing one of the smartwatches and assign them tasks.

Frontline staff can also check and share the latest information related to their business activities by using the smartwatch.

It’s interesting to see a brand trialling iBeacons to improve business processes rather than pushing out special offers and coupons.


Tesco’s trial began earlier this year in its Chelmsford store. It has said that the technology won’t be used to push out marketing messages, but will instead notify shoppers that their pre-ordered goods are waiting for them.

Ultimately iBeacons could be a central feature in Tesco’s new beta MyStore app, helping customers to find specific items in-store.


Not to be outdone, UK supermarket chain Waitrose also began testing iBeacons in its Swindon store in May.

It’s part of a wider initiative to test new technologies and shopping experiences, including a juice bar, mobile payments and free drinks for members of its loyalty scheme.

iBeacons are being trialled in a new smartphone app that would alert customers to price promotions when in the relevant section of the store.

The app also enables customers to scan barcodes, read reviews, create a virtual shopping basket and pay using a mobile wallet.

St George Bank

Down in Australia St George Bank is to trial iBeacons in three of its Sydney branches.

Customers will be sent a welcome message and tailored information, and can then respond to the message or cancel the interaction.

St George will monitor feedback to see whether the technology improves the in-branch experience and meets a customer need.

American Airlines

In what has been touted as the industry’s largest deployment of iBeacons, American Airlines launched a six-month trial at Dallas Forth Worth Airport beginning in June.

Selected users of the American Airlines app will be sent messages aimed primarily at guiding them round the airport.

This will include information about walking time to gates and boarding updates.

American Airlines says that 65% of passengers arrive at their gate early because they are worried about being late or getting lost.

Our Festival of Marketing event in November is a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more.

David Moth

Published 23 July, 2014 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1687 more posts from this author

Comments (14)

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

@Tesco, well done guys. Finally a use case that I think may work. "the technology won’t be used to push out marketing messages, but will instead notify shoppers that their pre-ordered goods are waiting for them".

The issue, as I see it, is that stores are already packed with carefully-chosen marketing. So pushing a marketing message to a shopper's smartphone *decreases* the overall effectiveness of their marketing, because shoppers waste valuable shopping time fiddling with their phone instead of looking around them.

over 2 years ago


Armin Talic

Out of all of these implementation, I think Japan Airlines has found a unique use for data capture and direct communication to teams on the ground.

They seem to be the only organisation in this list looking to use beacons for internal process refinement, rather than customer engagement.

It's nice to see Ruben’s House deploying beacons for guided tours... we've found museums cautious with any experience that might take a visitor out of direct engagement with the artwork. Is there any follow-up data to show how their use of Beacons has influenced user behaviour in the gallery?

over 2 years ago


Ryan Battles, Brand and Marketing Director, Big Deals Local

The opportunity for success ultimately lies with relevancy and timing. Beacon alerts can enhance the consumer experience but served at the wrong time - seconds past the security gate check-in, or yards past that store - then the usefulness and opportunity is lost. I've experienced both.

From a retail perspective, it's understanding where that point of influence lies in both the consumer's physical and psychological journey. Should the shopping mum be alerted on the street as she approaches a store and then again in the store or does her point of influence actually begin before this when's she's at home or on the on the way to the high street?

over 2 years ago


Joe Armstrong

How about an impressive project for the United Nations?

over 2 years ago



It's great seeing the different use cases of iBeacon, not just as a tool to push marketing messages to customers but also for improving internal business operations. To learn more about iBeacon technology and how it works, check out our iBeacon Resource Center at https://passkit.com/ibeacon-devices/

over 2 years ago


Olly Percival, KODIME

It's misleading to say that iBeacon is an 'Apple made' technology - iBeacon is essentially just BLE, it's just an 'Apple made' brand name for it to make it sound more appealing. If it were Apple made, it would certainly not be available on Android devices.

As for killing NFC and QR, it's got a way to go yet. The problems with NFC and QR are barriers to entry. In the case of QR, you generally need an app installed. NFC, however, is simply not widely taken up enough to be relied on.

The same will unfortunately apply to iBeacon (BLE) as there are not many people I know who wander about with Bluetooth turned on at all times. I do, for a number of reasons, but I'd have thought the majority don't and that is going to limit its usefulness. The perception of Bluetooth is that it's a battery hog, even though it isn't, and that will likely remain the case for a little while longer.

over 2 years ago


Joe Tarragano

Promotional activities using beacons can deliver significant results. We designed the Hammerson deployment, currently Europes largest, and know consumers welcome targeted promotions. But beacons are no different from personalised web merchandising in terms of complexity and the need for relevance. And indeed the poor signal-to-noise ratio combined with the many data and traditional physical IT challenges means that beacons may not be an optimal choice. Based on what we've learnt, thinking about the customer experience first and using beacons to enrich that is what the users are finding most appealing

over 2 years ago


colman ridge

This is BLE ( bluetooth Low energy) tech, pioneered by Apple but also now available to Android. Due to the barriers for useage ( must have ap) they will end up behaving like aggregated media and will offer the subscribers analytics such as traffic heat maps and more, far beyond just push marketing. It's time is nearly here.

over 2 years ago



Take a look at the the most successful german Startup SENSORBERG http://www.sensorberg.com/ !

"(...) the Berlin-based Sensorberg is about to launch a project with Deutsche Sparkasse, one of Germany’s biggest banks." http://www.ce.org/Blog/Articles/2014/June/iBeacons-How-Retailers-Are-Using-Microlocation.aspx

over 2 years ago


Miles Quitmann

It’s great to see beacons being used by marketers in different industries to increase loyalty in their brands. However, I believe that rather than killing off NFC, beacons will become its complementary technology.

When used in unison, technologies can provide a powerful engagement tool, bringing together the physical and digital worlds and driving traffic into stores. Retailers and marketers can connect their physical stores and assets via mobile and increase consumer engagement, retail sales and brand loyalty. To do this right, marketers need to ensure that they manage these technologies well to convert these trials into longer term programmes of activity. We have discussed this in more detail on our blog, which can be found here - http://blog.proxama.com/2013/12/10/ble-and-nfc-are-you-asking-the-right-question/

over 2 years ago

Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio, Retail Blogger at Vend

Excellent post, David. It's always great to see beacons in action.

My favorite beacon use cases are the ones that offer practical, non-salesy service to shoppers. That's why I love the examples from American Airlines, Tesco, and Ruben’s House.

Additionally, I believe MLB's At the Ballpark app also has an indoor mapping feature that helps fans find their seats--a functionality that's incredibly useful, IMO.

Another interesting use case of beacons comes from CES. Last year, the organizers launched an iBeacon scavenger hunt to encourage people to explore the show.

People had to download the CES app, and use it to find hidden beacons in the location. The app would let them if they were getting close and they can collect badges whenever they're within 10 meters of an iBeacon.

Thanks again for the post. We loved it so much we included it in our weekly roundup of awesome retail articles: http://blog.vendhq.com/post/64901826491/week-retail-reading-list-merchants-examples-beacons-action

over 2 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

@Francesca Nicasio: The CES iBeacon Scavenger Hunt that you mention was interesting. Good idea, but there were a few glitches with the technology and the big prizes were only for the first few winners, so it was effectively over very quickly. I suggest that anyone imitating it awards a big prize to a proportion of the winners at random, regardless of when they finish.

about 2 years ago

Neha Mallik

Neha Mallik, Content Producer at Mobstac

Great post! There is so much happening on the iBeacon front now, it's almost unbelievable.
Implementing beacons sounds like a huge task only because there is too little information available about how to do it right. Our Beacon Primer Webinar series is focussed on helping businesses with that. We have one next week, on "How to Deploy and Manage Beacons". I am sure you will find it interesting. http://www.beaconstac.com/beacon-primer-webinar-series

about 2 years ago


Posso Marti, Consultant at Consultant

Sorry, but any significant result can be obtained in retail enviroment with ibeacons. Less than 0.5% of total amount of customer can be involved, because their smartphones do nor provide bluetooth 4.0 or higher, and bluetooth chip is not active when to shopping. Is this ratio interesting for reatilers?. Sure not.
The only alternative that reach 60%-80% of customers in a retail enviroment are Seeketing nodes, because they can work with or without app,

about 1 year ago

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