Macy's testing in-store iPhone shopping

The retailer is testing new Apple-based technology which alerts customers to nearby bargains as they shop -- and possibly more.

By Staff Nov 25, 2013 6:15PM

Women using smartphone in a department store © sturti/Getty logo

By Gary Krakow

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It won't be long before retailers will be able to send special sale information directly to your smartphone as you walk through the store. Macy's (M) is currently testing a Bluetooth-based system that alerts Apple (AAPL) iPhone and iPad users of nearby sale items as they stroll down the aisles.

The wireless notification system is called "shopBeacon" from a privately-owned firm named Shopkick. It's based on Apple's iBeacon -- a low-power, Bluetooth micro-location-sensitive technology which is standard in iOS 7 devices. Unlike other indoor location-sensing technologies, Apple's system doesn't rely on in-store GPS signals to track customer movements. 

The system is capable of greeting shoppers as they enter the store as well as offering discounts and recommendations as they shop. There is also an at-home component which allows customers to "like" an item in their home and then have their iPhones remind them when they approach the item when they're in the store shopping.

For retailers, shopBeacon consists of a small, battery-powered transmitters which mounts on a wall or any flat surface. Batteries are projected to last five years with constant use.

The pilot program is currently in a "closed Beta" mode while being tested in Macy's Herald Square and Union Square, San Francisco, flagship stores.

Major League Baseball is also on board with iBeacon technology. The NY Mets' Citi Field will be used as a test platform to determine different ways of improving the baseball fans' experience while attending a game. 

A number of industry experts think the same Apple technology could also be used to create a future mobile payment system including links to a user's iTunes account.

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