Nowhere to hide
How retailers can find — and up-sell — you in the aisles
Thanks to GPS, the apps on your phone have long been able to determine your general location. But what if they could do so with enough precision that a supermarket, say, could tempt you with digital coupons depending on whether you were hovering near the white bread or bagels?
It may sound far-fetched, but there’s a good chance the technology is already built into your iPhone or Android
device. All it takes for retailers to tap into it are small, inexpensive transmitters called beacons. Here’s how it
works: using Bluetooth technology, handsets can pinpoint their position to within as little as 2 cm by receiving
signals from the beacons stores install. Apple’s version of the concept is called iBeacon; it’s in use at its own
stores and is being tested by Macy’s, American Eagle, Safeway, the National Football League and Major League Baseball.
Companies can then use your location to pelt you with special offers or simply monitor your movements.
But just as with GPS, they won’t see you unless you’ve installed their apps and granted them access. By melding your physical position with facts they’ve already collected about you from rewards programs, brick-and-mortar businesses can finally get the potentially profitable insight into your shopping habits that online merchants now take for granted.
The possibilities go beyond coupons. PayPal is readying a beacon that will let consumers pay for goods without swiping a card or removing a phone from their pocket. Dough Thompson of industry site Beek.net predicts the technology will become an everyday reality by year’s end. But don’t look for stores or venues to call attention to the devices. “People won’t know theses beacons are there,” he says. “They’ll just know their app has suddenly become smarter.”
Four Ways Beacons Could Change Shopping and Leisure
1) LINE HINTS AT BALLPARKS OR STADIUMS
When you step away to buy a hot dog, an app directs you to the closest concession stand with the shortest line.
2) INSTANT COUPONS IN DEPARTMENT STORES
Linger in the jewelry department without buying anything and a coupon will pop up on your phone.
3) MORE CONTEXT AT MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES
An app tells you historical information about each piece of art as you walk through the room.
4) REMINDERS AT GROCERY STORES
An app reminds you of each item on your list when you’re in the right aisle to pick it up.
MCCRACKEN, Harry. Time, Mar 31, 2014, p.12
“brick-and-mortar businesses”: traditional businesses that do not operate on the Internet.
Retailers can monitor you
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