Coming swiftly on the heels of its high-profile partnership with Apple Pay, Macy’s secured its position as a vanguard omnichannel retailer yesterday with an announcement that it plans to roll out iBeacon technology across all of its stores nationwide.

iBeacons use Low Energy Bluetooth to communicate with mobile devices nearby, connecting a user’s digital experience to the physical space she’s in and allowing retailers to send highly personalized, context-specific messages to customers currently in their stores.

After a successful pilot last fall in New York & San Francisco, Macy’s will execute the largest iBeacon retail installation ever when it turns on over 4,000 beacons across every U.S. retail location in the next few weeks. The beacons will initially be used to prompt users entering the store to turn on notifications from Macy’s partner app Shopkick, but the retailer plans to scale up to an increasingly personalized experience in Spring of 2015 that could include site-specific sales (imagine a Levis coupon appearing right when you enter the jeans aisle) and recommendations for products nearby.

It’s no secret that mobile is redefining the way we shop online — mobile devices will account for 30% of global retail e-commerce by 2018, up from 15% last year — but Macy’s foray into Apple Pay and increased stake in iBeacon technology are both indicative of the growing relevance of mobile in support of a hybrid brick & mortar/digital shopping experience. 

Both iBeacon and Apple Pay support a seamless, targeted in-store experience in which shoppers can get out of the store quickly with exactly the product they want, at the best price possible. Personalization and speed are the watchwords; and consumers will reward retailers who get it right with larger purchases and more frequent returns. iBeacon has the potential to evolve into everyone’s personal shopper, delivering an engaging and entertaining shopping experience that keeps customers coming back for more.

And in turn, Macy’s will leverage iBeacon and Apple Pay to collect valuable shopper data — How often do you come in? How long do you stay? What do you like to buy? What items do you spend the most time looking at without buying?— and will use this data to further personalize consumer retail experiences. 

Traditional brick & mortar retailers should take heed: without digital implementations providing context and transactional simplicity to shoppers, you’re delivering an anonymous, tedious experience that’s far below consumer expectations. It’s time to plug in and execute a digital strategy that will turn customers’ mobile devices into powerful shopping assistants.

(Originally Published on the Centric Digital blog // September 17, 2014)