If you want to get a sense of the future of iBeacons and the Internet of Things you can’t go wrong if you start in the UK.
With a vibrant start-up scene, a truly mobile-first culture, and large companies that are innovating like scrappy upstarts the country will continue to be one of the world’s hot beds for the ‘becosystem’.
(But let us know in the comments below why YOUR city is an iBeacon hot spot!)
We’ve just wrapped up a week in London and have reaffirmed that we made the right decision to open an office there.
We met with some amazing people, expanded our network of partners, and were just generally impressed with the vitality and energy in a country that’s long since shrugged off a reputation for bad food and stodgy bankers.
We had every intention of blogging throughout the trip, but it seemed like each meeting opened another door, and by the time the week was done we had a rare craving to be stuck on an airplane for 8 hours so we could recover.
Mobile First, Omnichannel Everything
The first lesson is that omnichannel isn’t a theory in the UK – it’s everywhere.
While it might seem strange to a Brit, the ability to order groceries on the go and have them delivered to your home, or to go online and choose your goods so that you can pick them up at the store later is uncommon elsewhere.
In Canada (which, sure, innovates in other ways) the idea of mobile ordering and in-store pick-up sounds like some mythical future. In the UK, it’s already here.
The country is an early innovator in ‘omnichannel marketing’ (although frankly they don’t really need such a buzzy word for ‘customer centric’) and it’s a reminder that while beacons are about physical places, they also need to find a home in a larger experience that includes multiple devices, engagement channels and ways for customers to interact with brands.
While we were there, reports of pilot projects in Tesco stores got a lot of coverage. But after visiting the UK our own response was more along the lines of: “well, of COURSE that’s what you do with iBeacon.”
The company is piloting a project which uses iBeacons to assist customers with the check-out process:
The test is initially only being used to trigger messages to consumers who are picking up an item in-store. According to a report from Marketing, Tesco plans to build on its mobile initiatives in the next year with a vouchering effort. The iBeacon technology is part of a bigger mobile push for Tesco to create a personalized shopping app that uses location to pinpoint the exact location of items in stores for consumers.
So while the project validates that iBeacon and Bluetooth LE beacons should provide more value to consumers than just pushing coupons, it’s still a natural extension of a country that views mobile as a natural extension of the physical anyways.
It is, after all, the home of Burberry, a company which perfected the blending of digital and physical. Its success, in fact, inspired Apple to snap up their CEO (and which inspired our own thoughts on how to growth hack retail).
But it isn’t just retail which will get the iBeacon treatment. In respect of the confidentiality of some of the folks we met or are partnering with in London we need to be a bit circumspect about what we say – but there’s some incredibly thoughtful and provocative innovation that has nothing to do with retail, and which might just change the world for the better.
We saw examples of beacons being used to democratize content production, devices being made that push the limits of the single beacon, and use cases that will make both commercial sense and do some social good.
iBeacon Hackathon UK
Our good friends at BeMyApp will be duplicating the success of their San Francisco iBeacon Hackathon.
They’ll be holding an iBeacon Hackathon in London April 25th – 27th. We’re pleased to be a media partner for the event and can’t wait to see what the UK comes up with as innovative uses for Bluetooth LE beacons.
You don’t need to be a coder to join the event – just come with your ideas and energy.
Judging from our week in London we might not have managed to get a lot of blogging done, but we had enough inspiration to last a year…and can’t wait to get our operations up and running over the next few weeks and connect with even more folks doing amazing things out of the UK.
Share Your Thoughts
And don’t let us just put a plug in for London! We’d love to hear about your city and why it’s rocking the world of beacons. Let’s get some global boosterism going – and let us know why your corner of the world is an iBeacon hot spot. And if you’re in the UK, drop us a line – if there’s enough people, maybe we’ll throw a party to celebrate our UK offices.