Thanks to a great deal of publicity in the marketing press, and even scaremongering amongst the tabloids, iBeacons have become a well-known technology. However, whilst there’s a lot of talk, there seems to be relatively few companies actually using iBeacons or, more broadly, geo-based targeting as a whole; whilst equally there has been little take-up by consumers.

The lack of take-up amongst brands is strange:

1. Geo–based targeting has been around for many years.

I can remember a presentation from my Tokyo agency 10 years ago telling us it would be the future in the UK; yet despite this brand usage is low.

2. The Technology is straightforward

The technology behind iBeacons is a relatively low cost, small item that can be set up easily in any store. By identifying smartphones close by and sending messages to apps with special offers and information updates it’s the perfect tool for a retailer to attract customers who are in the vicinity. Surely this is a better option than an old blackboard with chalked up deals outside the store?

On the flipside, the lack of take-up by consumers isn’t because of a lack of interest; recent research shows that consumers are keen on the concept in principle which, given it should make their lives easier and cheaper, isn’t surprising.

Instead there has been a delay in take up because of a lack of education on factors including:

1. Clarity on what iBeacons are

Consumers aren’t absolutely clear on what iBeacons are – there’s no physical representation of them, and they’re not limited to Apple as the name would suggest. Furthermore, with other providers, including relatively small players, launching companion apps, it’s not at all straightforward.

2. It’s complexity

In order to take advantage of iBeacons, consumers have to remember to do several things - they must:
· know that a retailer uses iBeacons and get the app,
· accept location services on the app,
· opt in to receive in-store messages and
· remember to switch on Bluetooth.

For a consumer to do all of this they have to be pretty certain that there are going to be some good deals or they just won’t make the effort.

3. An understanding of the value it offers

The promotions and offers being delivered aren’t currently strong enough to get consumers to take them up. In November 2013, Swirl Research reported that 45% of consumers ignored an alert because it wasn’t relevant, 37% ignored it because not enough value was offered and 16% just found them annoying.
And of course there is always the possibility that you may not receive any offers anyway…

As a result it is perhaps unsurprising that consumers and companies alike have found the uptake of iBeacons confusing. Interestingly however, whilst the more obvious uses of iBeacons seem to be slow to catch on, we’re seeing other companies using the technology to help with more service oriented applications.

The airline sector, for example, has been at the forefront of this – Virgin Atlantic, Easy Jet and American Eagle have all adopted the technology to help people get around airports more easily. Airport maps and routes, boarding times, boarding passes, along with some marketing messages that are carefully linked to the traveller’s journey, such as foreign currency, are all useful items to offer via iBeacons. This is just one area where consumers and brands can see clear value exchange and benefit for using the technology.

Other sectors now need to jump on board and brands need to start exploring where they can add significant value to their customers.


By Steve Grout, CEO of Tangent Snowball

GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help marketers to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond. Further information and conference details are available at

comments powered by Disqus