Free iBeacon tech for retailers - but do they even know what to do with it?

A specialist company has announced its ambitious plan to kit out FMCG, alcohol and publishing retailers – big and small – with free iBeacon technology.

Set up in 2013, Appflare has said it will provide the hardware, installation and management of the Bluetooth beacons for free to qualifying retailers for three years, as well as providing a campaign platform to engage consumers, including an app if retailers don’t already have one.

Apple’s iBeacons technology connects with an application on a consumer’s mobile device and can send data to the phone, in the form of marketing messages.

Owen Geddes, Founder and CEO of Appflare said: “Retailers want to get their iBeacon solutions installed by September in time for the Christmas lock-down. Offering the service for free eases the installation process, which is great news for brands that are currently preparing their festive campaigns.”

According to Miya Knights, senior research analyst at IDC, the UK is leading the way in beacon technology because it has a high proportion of online consumers, combined with a high smartphone penetration.

Knights believes this free implementation could push forward the technology. “The problem with exploiting mobile in retail has been the total cost of ownership, acquiring, and managing the technology. It’s the whole package that needs to go around that kit,” she said.

But Knights said that this technology comes with the caveat that there’s a lot of background integration to be done around privacy and data analytics.

“Retailers know they’ve got the technology but perhaps they’re not quite sure what to do with it,” she added. “They’re then very cautious because of consumer sensitivity to privacy issues and they don’t want to be seen to bombard them.”

The way Appflare intend to benefit from this arrangement is by charging the retailer when a customer engages with a campaign, firstly when the customer receives the targeted message, and then when they make a purchase.

Appflare says that its charges will range depending on the service, from looking after the app location data, through to delivering content and a closed loop reception, the charge could range between 0.1p and 5p.

Stephen Millard, CEO at retail technology accelerator Eccomplished said that while Appflare are being ambitious and removing the barrier to adoption, the retailer will only pay if there is an incremental value to them and their customers.

“Does it help them reduce other costs? Unfortunately today most shoppers wouldn’t know what to do or how to use this tech…and neither do most retailers,” he said.