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Mobile offers startup Shopkick leads the way to customer engagement with huge new iBeacon rollout

Tech prod­uct man­agers love it when the prod­uct they’re over­see­ing under­goes a major enhance­ment. This almost cer­tain­ly means that tech start­up Shop­kick, which spe­cial­izes in loca­tion-based offers, has a very hap­py prod­uct man­ag­er right now. The com­pa­ny has just announced a major new retail deal facil­i­tat­ed by its instal­la­tion of Apple’s iBea­con tech­nol­o­gy in 100 Amer­i­can Eagle Out­fit­ters stores across the US.

Deals on the hoof 

For prod­uct man­agers who are only vague­ly acquaint­ed with iBea­con, it sends Blue­tooth LE noti­fi­ca­tions to prospec­tive con­sumers when they’ve phys­i­cal­ly stepped inside a store. Its deploy­ment by Shop­kick rep­re­sents the biggest dis­tri­b­u­tion to date of iBea­cons for cloth­ing sales.

Encour­aged with its tri­al of iBea­con func­tion­al­i­ty in two Macy’s stores last Novem­ber, Shop­kick decid­ed to roll out the tech­nol­o­gy to anoth­er of its long-term part­ners, Amer­i­can Eagle Out­fit­ters – the very com­pa­ny whose Times Square store was the launch­pad for the startup’s first alerts back in 2009.

The more dis­cern­ing prod­uct man­ag­er will, of course, want to know exact­ly what Shop­kick offers cus­tomers and retail­ers. Its orig­i­nal tech­nol­o­gy, which is still live, con­sists of a piece of pro­pri­etary hard­ware that retail­ers can use to trig­ger actions on poten­tial cus­tomers’ smart­phones via very high fre­quen­cy sig­nals. Cus­tomers must first have the Shop­kick app installed, so the whole prod­uct is in effect a twin­ning up of hard­ware and soft­ware. But the apps kick into life when they walk into a Shop­kick-enabled store, with retail­ers using the sig­nals to pass mes­sages and deal noti­fi­ca­tions to cus­tomers from a dash­board.

Zero­ing in

The iBea­con enhance­ment – and it is an enhance­ment – allows for more pre­cise tar­get­ing depend­ing on which sec­tion of the store the con­sumer is vis­it­ing. And the roll­out costs are sub­stan­tial­ly low­er, too. iBea­con also works even if cus­tomers haven’t opened the Shop­kick app, as they would need to do with the startup’s orig­i­nal tech­nol­o­gy. It also sends reminders to cus­tomers to search for items they’d tagged before vis­it­ing the store once they’ve stepped inside.

A valu­able by-prod­uct of the tech­nol­o­gy is that retail­ers get to build a more con­stant rela­tion­ship with their cus­tomers as well as lever­ag­ing more sales. Bricks and mor­tar com­merce is still much larg­er than ecom­merce but the writ­ing is on the wall: no retail­er can afford to stand still when it comes to inno­v­a­tive meth­ods of cus­tomer engage­ment.

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