Proximity Marketing: WiFi vs. iBeacon

The idea of “proximity marketing”, or the ability for retailers to target foot traffic with location-specific ads, offers, and other relevant communications, has gained traction over the past few years. That is, the idea has gained traction. Unfortunately, the technology behind the implementation of the idea has not met the enormous expectations associated with the opportunity. The introduction of Apple’s iBeacon technology promised a brave new world of ease of implementation and the physical world version of Google Analytics. But implementing iBeacon systems has left most retailers and integrators feeling less than excited.

With that pain in the marketplace, attention has turned (back) to a somewhat older, more reliable and predictable technology to provide retail establishments with the ability to communicate in context with the people who are already in their locations. That old reliable technology is Wi-Fi. Before you say or think, “Nope, that’s why Apple gave us iBeacon!” let’s do a simple compare-contrast exercise and see where that gets us.

The chart below shows us the biggest differences between iBeacon and Wi-Fi systems as they apply to on-site retail marketing technology.

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Looking at cost to deploy, cost to maintain, and customer experience provides a much clearer picture of which technology many retailers should investigate first, knowing that Wi-Fi is nearly ubiquitous in retail today. iBeacon is promising, but Wi-Fi is already known, and requires the customer or visitor to do nothing other than use their mobile device.