Mobile beacons (Bluetooth based) look set to get a lot of interest in the retail environment in 2014? What sort or innovations do you expect to see and will this extend beyond retail?
Mobile beacons have certainly attracted their fair share of buzz since the launch of Apple’s iBeacon service in 2013. Certainly, there is scope for beacons to revolutionise the way we shop, by offering content, offers and information which is relevant not only to the individual shopper themselves but also to the exact location in which they happen to be standing.
Many commentators have suggested that mobile beacons and NFC may be mutually exclusive: that there is only room for one of these kids in the mobile payments playground. For me, this is an over-simplification. NFC and mobile beacons are very different technologies, and whilst there is cross-over between them they are by no means the same thing. Given their increased range, beacons would appear well-suited to sharing offers and promotions with customers, but time will tell whether consumers consider it to be secure enough for transactions as well.
There are also some markets, particularly those in South East Asia, where NFC payment systems are so widely-used that it will be tricky for another, newer technology to break through. So what we may see is a situation whereby NFC and beacons are used side-by-side, giving customers a choice of services, and where there is significant regional variation in the popularity of the different technologies.
I certainly expect to see the use of beacon technology increase during 2014. Although there are other sectors in which it could be used, particularly other leisure industries such as theme parks, casinos or airports (because of its indoor-mapping capability), it is still very much an emerging technology and as a result most innovation will remain in its core market of retail. The next few months will most likely be a period of experimentation, with stores trialling the technology on a small-scale, and what this may mean is the chance of some great bargains for shoppers who are early adopters.