LONDON: Brands and media owners in the UK are exploring the use of proximity based marketing tools and their incorporation into apps in order to drive greater in-store engagement and bring the digital and physical worlds closer together.

Apple's iBeacons is the latest such tool, based on Bluetooth and joining NFC- and GSM-based systems. Trials in the US are tracking the time customers spend in-store and targeting customers in particular aisles with coupons, a level of detail unachievable using GPS.

In the UK, Marketing Week reported that bookmaker William Hill will be using the iBeacons tool to trigger in-app messages and real-time betting information at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival – four days of horse racing in the west of England.

It also quoted a spokesman for snack food giant Mondelez, who said the firm saw "a lot of potential in this type of technology" for disrupting consumers' path-to-purchase.

Outdoor specialists such as Exterion Media are reported looking with interest at the technology, regarding it as more "consumer friendly" than NFC.

Elsewhere, tech entrepreneur Dan Wagner, talking to the Financial Times, claimed that his new PowaTag app, which also interacts with iBeacons, would completely change how people shopped.

The app brings together several technologies in one package and enables users to buy products directly from print and audio ads by detecting embedded codes, as well as receive special offers based on their location in-store.

Wagner said he already had 240 brands on board including retail chains such as Waitrose, Argos and Carrefour.

"This flips the balance from online players to physical retailers," he said. "It's an omni-channel platform that's unique in the world."

The iBeacon integration is currently restricted to marketing purposes but Wagner said it could ultimately act as a checkout by recognising when a consumer was leaving the store.

Data sourced from Marketing Week, Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff