Apple iBeacons find their way into McDonald's

Ever since iBeacon made its debut on the iPhone in 2013, it’s been heralded as the next big thing for retailers. Using the Bluetooth low energy radio on your smartphone, iBeacon technology can track your location within a few feet of where you are and push you special deals and advertisements onto your phone as you pass by stores. But so far, we’ve yet to see much uptake with retailers.

It looks like McDonald's is taking the plunge. 26 McDonald’s franchises in Columbus, Georgia have been testing out the technology with its customers. In a four week trial, these fast food joints have been pushing special deals for McChicken Sandwiches and 10-piece Chicken McNuggets. The promotions pushed McChicken Sandwich sales up 8 percent and Chicken McNuggets up 7.5 percent.

“In the [fast food world], these are big numbers,” said Robert Hanczor, the CEO of San Diego-based iBeacon startup Piper, which made the app for McDonald’s to send the promotions. “They saw significant statistical change in consumer behavior.”

Based on these initial results, Piper is working on rolling out iBeacon programs to other McDonald’s franchises in the southeast for an additional 263 retail locations.

On top of the app, Piper also makes money selling small, waterproof iBeacon boxes with the Bluetooth radios inside loaded with iBeacon firmware. Retailers such as McDonald’s need to install these in their stores to start the tracking their customers. The hardware goes for about $50 a pop.

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