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Frank & Oak leveraging Apple’s iBeacon in pop-up holiday store

November 8, 2013

Frank & Oak is taking advantage of iOS 7's new iBeacon feature

An executive from men’s online retailer Frank & Oak who spoke during a Mobile Commerce Daily webinar yesterday revealed that the online retailer will soon be opening a pop-up store for the holidays that will leverage Apple’s iBeacon technology to enhance the in-store shopping experience as well as push marketing to customers.

The Webinar, How iOS 7 will affect apps for retailers and brands, focused on the challenges and opportunities that come with Apple most significant update to its mobile operating system since the launch of the iPhone. IBeacon, which leverage Bluetooth Low Energy, was a popular topic of discussion, both because of the perceived opportunities its presents as well as because there are still a lot of questions about how it works.

“IBeacon is really bringing the vision of omnichannel together. It is not about traditional commerce, it is about multi-touch experience,” said Ethan Song, CEO of Frank & Oak. “IBeacon will enable retailers to market to their customers in a more precise way and to really personalize the experience.

“IBeacon is one of the ways that Apple is looking to bring together the local and the online experience,” he said. “To be able to market to your customer as they walk into the store in a unique way that’s hyper, hyper local that is within a specific retail environment.”

The Webinar was sponsored by Artisan.

Please click here to view the archived Webinar.

User-generated photography
IBeacon enables retailers to take advantage of proximity marketing, the indoor experience, personalization and payments.

With iBeacon, retailers will be able to do push marketing based on a user’s proximity to a particular store or product.

Retailers can leverage iBeacon in their stores via a separate device or an iPhone or iPad can also serve as a beacon.

For example, a retailer could put an iPad in the men’s section of a store and when a customer who has download that retailer’s app walks near the iPad, it can send them a notification.

IOS 7 is a significant update to the Apple mobile operating system.

One of the other opportunities with iOS 7, per Mr. Song, is with user-generated photography as the new camera and related functionality is significantly improved.

“User generated photography is a huge factor in the conversion in ecommerce,” Mr. Song said. “People like to look at pictures of real people in clothes not just models.

“I always encourage people to integrate photography as part of their in-app experience,” he said.

Fast adoption rate
Not only is iOS 7 Apple’s most significant mobile OS release since the launch of the iPhone, it is also being adopted at a much faster rate than iOS 6, with 73 percent of iPhones having updated to iOS 7 as of Oct. 18.

As a result, it is not enough for retailers to simply recompile their mobile apps but may need to reconsider a more significant reimagining of the app.

Marketers should also consider bringing the C-level suite into the discussion around iOS 7.

“This is happening very, very quickly,” said Bob Moul, CEO of Artisan. “If you are not already moving on this, you are probably falling behind at this point.

“I know of at least one mcommerce company if not more already talking about dropping supports for iOS,” he said.

“I think unfortunately a lot people are thinking about it as sort of a technical upgrade. In reality, this is a big business issue and you want to make sure your c-level execs are on board with that and understand the magnitude of what you are dealing with.

Deeper relationships
The significant differences in iOS 7 can be a challenge for retailers but the also significant opportunity it offers suggests allocating resources here will be worth it.

For example, with a completely new look to the user interface, this means everything looks different. The iOS 7 aesthetic is smooth and layered with fewer drop shadows and gradients.

“There are all kinds of new things that will help you build a better experience with your customer and really deepen that relationship and the engagement and loyalty with your customers going forward,” Mr. Moul said.

Automatic updates
Retailers should consider taking advantage automatic app updates on iOS 7.

This means information in apps should always be fresh and up to date because Apple will push these updates automatically, which means consumers expectations are going to rise.

“You can update the app and even if users don’t go into the app for a couple of months, they’ll go into it and have a total new user experience. It really shows the brand being reactive and caring,” said Dan Kenger, digital creative director at Gin Lane.

Another change with iOS 7 is that Newsstand is not as relevant. However, retailers can get more visibility by creating non-Newsstand apps and still have the same functionality.

One new feature is the Apps Near Me feature in the App Store, standardizing social, local, mobile by showing users apps from nearby businesses.

With 64-bit support on iOS 7, this means there is processing power beyond any other operating system.

Mobile experience management
Other important new features to keep in mind include that Passbook users can now scan QR codes directly from Passbook and the fingerprint scanner, which could become an important feature for enabling mobile payments in the future.

The new AirDrop feature enables content to be shared with a select group of contacts. This could be used for in-store marketing, for example by sharing discounts, promotions and ideas with everyone who has signed on to the in-store Wi-Fi.

Significant updates like iOS 7 point to the need for retailers to have strategies in place to ensure strong app user experiences.

One way to do this is with in-house development teams. Retailers should also be proactive and start testing with the beta versions of a new OS comes out.

It also important to test apps across a variety of devices.

The Webinar also addressed mobile experience management and how managing the mobile app development and optimization process is critical.

A mobile experience management strategy includes a consistent process for designing and modifying, testing and deploying app updates at specific predetermined intervals.

“The traditional way of doing things just isn’t going to cut it going forward,” Mr. Moul said. “We need new ways of doing things and new solutions that allow us to iterate rapidly.

“We want to be able to try things quickly, see what’s working, what’s not,” he said. “The pace of mobile is just going to keep getting faster.

“Traditional coding approaches aren’t going to be fast enough. Mobile is all about being nimble.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York


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