Ready or not, here comes Apple’s iBeacon

Shopkick said today it is stepping up its iBeacon-based shopBeacon business with a new deal to use Apple’s technology in 100 U.S. outlets of American Eagle Outfitters and its sister Aierie, a lingerie retailer. The location-based mobile marketing company said shopBeacon will initially be used to greet customers as they enter the store as well as delivering push alerts on general in-store discounts and personalized recommendations. The companies plan to roll out more location-specific offers based on which department and aisle a shopper is in.

IBeacon is one of several new platforms that use Bluetooth low energy, or BLE, to help businesses track consumers and deliver ads, product information or other content through smartphones. Shopkick, which launched its shopBeacon app in two Macy’s stores late last year, said the American Eagle deployment will be the biggest trial yet of iBeacon; other early iBeacon efforts include Apple’s retail sites, some Major League Baseball parks, and some Safeway and Giant Eagle grocery stores. Qualcomm offers its own BLE-based technology, dubbed Gimbal, and several smaller players have emerged in the field.

BLE may eventually become the gold standard for mobile payments, and some have predicted it will flat-out kill NFC, which has yet to gain much traction among consumers. And BLE-based applications clearly could change the way consumers and retailers interact with each other in the store. But I think these deployments will also result in some push-back from users who don’t want to get pinged with constant messages and don’t like the idea of merchants tracking their whereabouts. BLE may be about to take off, but it’s going to be a bumpy ride.