Apple announced the launch of iBeacon last Friday, today in Adweek is the tale of a Russian supermarket using Amazon style recommendations for in-store shopping experiences.  Sprooki launched in the Phillipines last month. It seems that everyone is jumping on the micro location, in store, geo bandwagon for pushing merchandise to consumers as part of the overall shopping experience.

Will consumers see this as a good thing or an invasion of their privacy?  If you think about it, its really a bit of both.

Enabling shoppers with the ability to find products they are looking for in store, get access to special promotions and pricing based on use of the apps, these are the good bits about the technology.  In one way, I’m all for it.  I want the store to woo me, give me deals, perhaps know my size and tell me they have a specific shirt in stock at a discount in my size and in colors that I’ve purchased before (and therefore must like since I didn’t return them lol) and that the merchandise is located on aisle three.  Or perhaps realize that I’m trying to make shrimp and pineapple curry and need to find glass noodles and chili paste ASAP since my dinner guests are coming in two hours and I’m not even home yet.

On the flip side of this coin – and understandably since it seems the NSA even snoops on WOW and possibly GTA players – do we have the right to be concerned that this information can be used for evil as well as for good?  You know, the sort of thing, “oh look, Sarah buys a lot of cat litter but she doesn’t post cat pics on her Facebook, she must be making a bomb”, or “wow, now we know that Mr. Jones buys an awful lot of cooking oil, perhaps he’s a closet fetishist and we can blackmail him with it, someone check his credit card records to see if he’s been watching porn”, that is really creepy when you stop and think about it.

The technology to manage micro location based promotions is certainly coming into its own.  The new iOS7, with its fingerprint security (which does apparently work sometimes) indicates a step in the direction of using the phone as a digital wallet by Apple, something that Google has been working on diligently, and others as well – which is also a mixed bag of goodies.  In Asia and other non US parts of the world, paying by cell phone has been de rigeur for what seems like centuries in internet time (even though it’s probably more like a decade in real time), but the carrier set up in the US precludes any effective billing via mobile phone, since the merchants spend even more than they do allowing the AppStore or Google Play to process transactions for them, and they wait for what seems like a decade to receive their payments (not good for inventory control costs or cash flow).

So what could one (as a small to mid size merchant) effectively do with this technology?  For starters, refer to my comments above regarding shirt size, price and availability.  Most people would love to have relevant data at their fingertips in a timely manner, and would likely act on it.  Or perhaps in the grocery/food store situation, someone selects a recipe and the ingredients they have in the cupboard, then the store sorts the location of the remaining items, along with the pricing and some sort of suitable discount or reward for using the app and presents it to the user.   Or maybe something along the lines of a Foursquare meets Valpak – the consumer loyalty program is administered via the phone app, and real time coupon solutions are applied.

What’s NOT a good idea?  Spamming passersby with offers that have zero to do with their habits or preferences.  Someone that doesn’t eat meat won’t like a butcher shop pinging them every time they’re in the shopping plaza, and sending offers just to be sending offers is rather annoying as well.  A thought out promotion, especially one managed at a more macro level – say, by the landlord of the shopping plaza – could have great effect on steering traffic through the space and offering patrons the information and direction that they would appreciate.  Along with the opportunity for an afternoon pick me up at the coffee shop, perhaps with a gratis pastry, if they are doing a marathon shopping day in a single location (or in multiples that have the same app management backend).