iBeacons – What it is and how it is used
The arrival of Apple’s system iBeacon, based on beacon technology, has opened up new ways for companies to interact with their customers (a “beacon” is a term used to describe something (basically anything) that will send a signal directly to your smartphone or tablet). With the signals from a transmitter using the iBeacon system, the customer can get customized messages to his or her phone (or other portable device compatible with the software), depending on location and previous browser history.
The signals from the transmitter can be programmed to communicate with the customer by e.g. sending push-notices to the customer’s phone when the customer is nearby. Since the signal can measure the phone’s distance from the transmitter, the iBeacon system will be able to recognize the position of the customer and adjust its message accordingly. The requirement for an iBeacon transmitter to be able to register the phone is that the Bluetooth and the location targeting function of the phone is activated. Generally beacons are used for retargeting users in digital media based on offline signals and for location-based advertising – for instance; a customer walking past a shop will receive a push notice telling the customer that it is a sale going on in the shop.
iBeacons – Integrity Issues
Using the iBeacon system will help many companies to analyse and find patterns in the behaviour of potential and existing customers, and to target their marketing in a more precise way. While this may sound great from the companies’ perspective, some customers may find the retargeting problematic from an integrity point of view. With multiple transmitters targeting your phone, every step you take could in theory be traced. Realizing that your behaviour is being mapped out and analysed may be experienced as a violation of the personal privacy, regardless of the intention with the use of the information.
That Swedish consumers are truly concerned is concluded by the consulting firm Capgemini in the report “Privacy Please: Why Retailers Need to Rethink Personalization”, a major study within the field. Capgemini has studied over 220 000 customer reactions on social media linked to 65 major retail companies in the world. The report shows that consumers in general are keen to have personalized offerings – but preferably without having to hand over personal information. According to the report, Swedish consumers are most extreme in both respects – they are most open to personalized offerings but also most reluctant to share their personal data, and most concerned about how their personal information is being handled. They simply don’t rely on the companies being cautious with their information and the use of it. The report shows that safety and privacy violations are key issues that companies using beacons must take seriously. To become successful, companies need to be compliant with data protection law, become skilled at the analyzes necessary for creating personalized offers, but equally important is to create confidence and comfort among customers that their data is being handled safely in accordance with applicable data protection legislation.