It has become common practice to utilize smartphones for everything possible.  A smartphone is capable of making the average person feel like MacGyver with a Swiss Army Knife, capable of deploying a vast array of tools in a matter of seconds.

Smartphones are evolving at a staggering pace.  Oddly enough, the race to become the smallest and thinnest phone has spun around faster than a cornerback covering a go route.  With phone companies blurring the line between phone and tablet, perhaps it’s fact that the guts of these devices are growing as well.

More on the inside means more features, more sensors, and more processing power.  For instance, the recently unveiled Samsung Galaxy S5 comes equipped with a heart-rate sensor.

It’s no surprise then, that a company like Apple is finding some useful ways to implement their iBeacon technology.  With baseball season looming, fans equipped with their iOS 7 devices will be pleasantly surprised as they approach their local ballparks.

What are iBeacons?

The idea behind iBeacons is simple, yet packs a tremendous amount of potential.  iBeacons are a type of Bluetooth Low Energy peripheral.  In simple terms, they are localized positioning systems.

Here’s how it works:  A baseball fan is walking around the concourse of a stadium.  They have ventured near the team store with their iPhone 5s.  The iBeacon has been pre-loaded with a unique identifier that sends information to the ballpark app on the fan’s iOS 7 device.

This process is only triggered when the device is in proximity to the team store’s  beacon.  With the user in range (around 50 meters), the beacon can then send specific information to the user’s mobile device.  This info could include anything from promotional codes to product information. iBeacons even have the power to make wireless payments.

iBeacons will certainly have the capability to streamline processes.  But how much potential does the technology really have?

A Marketer’s Perspective

Any marketer, including those that deal with Major League Baseball teams, is responsible for grabbing the attention of the fans, interacting with them, and earning their repeat business.

Arm a marketer with a useful tool and they are sure to utilize it.  Because iBeacons have so much potential, they will be utilized in baseball stadiums during the upcoming season.

One of the most simple, yet useful things iBeacons can be used for is mapping.  If a fan has purchased their tickets directly from MLB, there is potential in having a push notification sent to the users phone as they approach the gates.  The notification would provide the fan with a barcode that quickly allows them to enter the game.

From there, a map of the field would show up, highlighting things like bathrooms, food vendors, and team stores.  And since this “fictional fan” had purchased tickets from MLB, they’re seat location could easily be depicted on the map, perhaps accompanied by directions on how to get there.

Additionally, fans who find themselves meandering through the New York Yankee’s Museum located within their new stadium could be sent information on specific displays. Or perhaps iBeacons could present a new way to explain more about the team’s 27 World Series trophies. The possibilities are really up to each specific team.

Each of these ideas is simple.  But for iBeacons, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Enter the World of Quantitative Data

iBeacon-in-Stadium-MLB techOne of the best features of iBeacons, as far as marketers should be concerned, is their ability to collect quantitative data.  This data can be transformed into a type of “heat map”.

The benefits of creating a heat map based on quantitative location data are vast.  Think about a marketer knowing exactly which locations get the most standing or foot traffic.  Information like this can be used to strategically place ads.

Because of this knowledge, MLB marketers should then, in theory, be able to sell those ad spaces for more money.  In turn, a higher-calculable ROI may be possible.

Quantitative data could potentially provide fans with information as well.  If this data can be analyzed on the fly, perhaps it could aid fans in finding the shortest lines for food, beverages, and bathrooms.

Additionally, high priority promotions can be strategically placed to allow for as many views as possible.  For instance, an MLB ballpark is trying to promote their off-peak fan festival.  Something like this is important because teams can get fans into the stadium during non-game days.  Using iBeacons, a highly visible promotion can be placed where fans are more than likely to take notice.

Quantitative data is one of the greatest perks of iBeacons.  But as a fair warning, the little things should not be overlooked.

It’s the Little Things in Life

While baseball has remained largely unchanged over the years, MLB ballparks have certainly stepped up to take on the future.  Swimming pools, internet cafes, and nightclubs have become commonplace in baseball stadiums.

Take Roger’s Centre in Toronto; the stadium has a Marriott Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel above the outfield.  Fans can stay the night in their hotel rooms while catching the Blue Jays game in comfort.

From a marketer’s perspective, these in-stadium attractions present opportunity when paired with iBeacons.  To fill vacancies, fans that find themselves near the hotel can be alerted to the open seats.

With PayPal wireless payments becoming effortless because of iBeacons and fans can book themselves rooms in no time flat.

A team such as the San Francisco Giants and AT&T Park have a great feature in their @Cafe. If this unique internet cafe isn’t drawing as much attendance as desired, an iBeacon can be set up to pull in customers. Wifi names and passwords can be sent directly to the fans device to streamline the connection process.

And in today’s world, loyalty programs are as common as a Yu Darvish strikeout last season. So why not reward fans for certain actions within a ballpark?

Considering the cost of attending baseball games, fans should be rewarded. A loyalty system could be based on team store purchases, frequent ballpark visits, or walking nearby a “bonus zone”.  These zones could be areas that are set up with iBeacons and additional ads spots. Not only does the fan win, but advertising partners benefit as well.

With a little bit of thought, it’s easy to see how iBeacons could become a marketer’s go-to tool. In every aspect, fans will remain engaged, which happens to be a top priority in the marketing world.

Baseball fans can be on the lookout for iBeacons during the upcoming MLB season.  While some of the features mentioned are still just ideas, the potential is there.

It’s also important to remember that the technology is relatively new. As time goes on, new features and uses will spring up like Brian Wilson’s beard in the 9th.

Only time will tell exactly how useful I Beacon will become. But for now, MLB marketers have their eyes set on something shiny and new.