Using iBeacons for Airside Retail Loyalty – #airport #marketing #retail #loyalty



Confession, I Love Airport Retail Spaces

My fascination with loyalty goes way back, I’ve pushed and prodded the corners of this area and it’s enabled me to learn and eventually work in some very cool areas such as mobile and, more importantly to me, data science and engineering.

So I always keep an eye on things as you never know when opportunity will present itself. Over the weekend yet again I was thinking about airport retail and mobile loyalty and I glanced over the editorial press releases in Airports Magazine (yes there is a magazine for airports) and I read a press release from Eye Airports partnering with Proxama to deploy 200 iBeacons in 8 UK airports.

Is This How Passengers Want to Be Treated?

I’ve done a lot of flying this year so I’ve spent a stupid amount of time sat in departure lounges. So plenty of time to observe. There are three issues with iBeacons that always have bugged me.

  • It’s an Apple based technology
  • What’s the battery drain impact?
  • What are the privacy implications?

It’s an Apple Based Technology

Ultimately the iBeacon is an Apple creation, while the underlying technology isn’t anything more than Bluetooth 4 scanning for phones and devices Apple are going to greater lengths to cut out other vendors. So much so that Google are developing their own for Android. Now no retail space wants to start keeping two beacon devices just to keep two vendors happy. If there’s anything I’ve noticed recently there are a lot of Android devices being used by travellers.

Battery Implications

Air travel is stressful, the main aim is to get through security relatively unscathed.


Once you’re through then stress levels drop while you enter the retail space known as the departure lounge. Even when you board your flight the stress level is far lower than getting through security.

A new element in the mix is that of device battery life. With the era of electronic boarding cards preserving battery life is now a clean cut fly/can’t fly decision. Unless you can find a charging point (Newcastle does this well, Leeds Bradford I struggled a bit and Belfast International has one table at Starbucks holds plug point nirvana) then you will do everything to preserve battery, first things first is turning Bluetooth off. Once this happens then every marketing play by beacons is redundant. You always need a Plan B for how you’re going to reach a customer.

Privacy Implications

Privacy will always be in the back of people’s minds when it comes to this form of technology. There’s a pseudo opt-in mechanism, you’ll need some app developed by Proxama for example in order to be picked up by the beacons.

But every push and pull will be recorded so the data that can be gleaned is going to be retail gold dust to those that can analyse it. And recently customers are turning away from deals, daily deals and being force fed “buy this”.

There are a couple of instances where I’d want to be forced ads but that’s from an operational standpoint where certain events could happen.

The Trial

Eye Airports and Proxama are on a two year contract to roll this out and see how it performs. I’ve got reservations of the amount of passengers that will actually use the technology just based on the basic logic of how passengers behave in airports with mobile technology, the technology stack itself and whether passengers want to be creeped out by being tracked.

I’ll never get to see the final metrics I’m sure, but I think it will make interesting reading to those who can.





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