updated 07:09 pm EST, Mon January 6, 2014
Safeway, Giant Eagle in some cities to get iPhone coupons, offers
A new campaign dubbed "Mobile to Mortar" by inMarket is bringing Apple's Bluetooth LE-powered iBeacon technology to over 200 Safeway and Giant Eagle grocery stores in Cleveland, San Francisco and Seattle. The "beacons," tiny signalling devices about the size of a quarter, would alert shoppers who have a Safeway app, or have set up specific reminders, of things such as applicable coupons, items they listed to buy or special offers as they enter a store.
The technology has already been deployed at Apple Stores, some baseball stadiums, and retailers like Shopkick and Macy's, and inMarket says the program will expand to other retailers. Users must have previously given permission for push notifications from associated apps (like shopping-list apps or loyalty/reward program apps) to be notified by the iBeacon of relevant sales, offers, coupons or whatever information the store wishes to promote.
Eventually, iBeacons and apps may entirely replace physical loyalty cards, printed coupons or in-store flyers -- the latter of which add millions in costs to grocery chains. Apple's iBeacons are used at some baseball parks to provide maps of the facility to aid in seat-finding, historical facts about specific exhibits in the park and offers on concessions, as well as triggering Passbook to display the electronic ticket when users approach the park.
The technology is currently being used to conduct a scavenger hunt at CES, with users collecting "virtual badges" as they visit the various corners of the show floor towards a potential prize. Early acceptance of Apple's Passbook and iBeacon technologies puts the iPhone maker on the path to succeed where NFC has largely failed in terms of engaging consumer interest and merchant enthusiasm.