FORTUNE — Welcome a frequent customer with a personal message. Offer an in-store deal on excess boot inventory before summer sandals hit the shelves. Remind tailgating season ticketholders to head to their seats before kick-off.
Ever since smartphones became virtually ubiquitous, marketers have fantasized about mobile engagement scenarios like these, specific to a certain location. The biggest obstacle has been technical: GPS positioning satellites and Wi-Fi wireless networks aren’t reliable when it comes to pinpointing an individual’s whereabouts, especially indoors in multi-floor shopping malls or sports arenas.
But the emergence of Apple’s iBeacon late last year — and the very visible use of the technology in U.S. retail stores to guide shoppers and even help them complete purchases — has rekindled interest in systems that can broadcast messages to the right person, in the right place, and at the right time. High-profile retailers such as Macy’s and American Eagle Outfitters, along with Major League Baseball and the National Football League, are actively testing them. (More…)