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I remember the first time I was the target of geo-locational marketing through the use of Bluetooth low energy devices. It was in San Francisco, while I was exploring Pier 39 in the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf area (this is the pier where all the sea lions hang out.)

My phone buzzed and I looked down. A strange looking pop-up window was in the middle of the screen, asking me to opt-in to receive offers from the local stores. Intrigued, I did so and was promptly sent discounts for the surrounding restaurants and shops. I probably bought some salt water taffy and then moved on from the experience, considering the marketing interaction a unique gimmick. Since then I haven’t received any further Bluetooth push notifications to my smartphone and I figured that marketing method hadn’t caught on. But if there’s any one vendor that can push a trend into the popular zeitgeist, it’s Apple. Now that seems to be the case with Apple’s iBeacon, its Bluetooth low-energy transmitter made to push messages or trigger events on devices running iOS 7 or later. (Installing an app from Google Play will also make many Android devices compatible.)

With Major League Baseball’s interactive media branch installing iBeacons in stadiums across the league as the 2014 season gets underway (including San Francisco), it appears there’s good reason to think brand marketers are seizing upon the concept of geographically-triggered messages. In a blog post on CMO.com, Adobe’s strategic marketing director for mobile solutions, Ray Pun touches on the baseball project and gives some other examples of marketers that are using the technology in the field today.

Why is Pun writing about iBeacon? Well Adobe just announced support for iBeacon in its Marketing Cloud suite last week at its Summit digital marketing conference. The first iBeacon features to appear will be in Adobe Campaign, allowing you to push messages to smartphones in the right place at the right time. There could also be future integration with Adobe Target that would allow marketers to set up specific trigger events for iBeacons in a store, such as discount offers. While there’s no doubt that iBeacon marketing tactics could lead to some happy customers who feel like they got a good deal or better service, and lead to the “wow” moment Pun says it will, there’s a lot of situations where it might not work to consider:

  • Apple users will need to have an iOS 7 and up device to be compatible with iBeacon. They will also need to have a retailer’s app installed in order to receive push notifications from an iBeacon.
  • Many older Android phones won’t support Bluetooth 4.0 LE, the iBeacon technology. Even Android phones that do support that will require the user to install an app to interact with iBeacon. Android doesn’t support push notifications via iBeacon at this point.
  • There are of course BlackBerry phones (still popular in Canada) and Windows Phones to consider, which won’t be compatible.
  • A user could choose not to opt-in to receive your push messages.
  • A user could have a compatible device, say an iPhone 5, but keep Bluetooth off in order to save battery power. Many battery management apps will turn off Bluetooth once battery levels drop below a certain amount.

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