Geofencing and its role in marketing
Often some of the hardest businesses to make great digital marketing process work for are the ones that have geographical audience limitations. How can we effectively advertise for a hyperlocal business who only want their effective marketing reach to extend to the edge of their village? The usually accepted answer to this is persistent but subtle strategy to as much of the populous as possible, creating as many touch-points as possible with everyone. All well and good, but in reality, the efficacy of typical ad campaign likely won’t achieve desired results, that’s where geofencing comes into its own.
Geofencing as a concept is not necessarily a new concept. If you’ve ever been to a supermarket and noticed the trolley has magnetic wheels you’ve definitely been through a type of geofence. They can be best compared to – a virtual ‘movie laser grid’. In more detail geofencing is service by where an app or other software uses GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi or mobile data to activate an action when a mobile device or RFID tag enters or exits a virtual location boundary.
While the majority of this blog will concern itself with geofencing’s application in the marketing industry it does have a lot of other uses within a vast range of businesses. They can be used to both interact with digital devices and monitor movement inside or between different fences. Some push messages and notifications to phones; others allow for the automation of business timekeeping; the checking in and out of company property; and some of the most common are used at logistics handling companies to track packages and provide real time data to their customers.
So, how does it work and what can it do for your hyperlocal marketing strategies. Well in simple terms making use of a geofence requires a software/app developer to create a virtual boundary around a location in a GPS or RFID-enabled application. This may just be a ring pulled out around a location on Google Maps, integrated with APIs, when developing their app. This digital fence will then trigger the programmed response when a location-service enabled device enters, exits or stays in that area.
The marketing application of all this is the last piece of the puzzle. The programs that run this sort of software can enhance visibility to the audience in the targeted area exponentially. Social media has become a much bigger player in the marketing ecosystem and takes full advantage of geofences with its advertising arrangements: Snapchat has its geofilters, that can add visible branding to consumers images when they are near certain participating locations; Facebook and Instagram use geofences to allow their stories and posts to be location tagged, visible to billions; and most social media with the capability to display advertising use geofences to allow better targeting of its platform users content. Push notifications are a fairly consistent part of the current mobile application infrastructure. The worst thing to be in marketing is forgotten, even if your marketing message isn’t visible it’s better to be in the consciousness of those you want to appeal to; so some applications use push notifications when people travel near points of interest to re-engage them. The fences can be used to engage with audiences or crowds at events allowing messages to be distributed or coordinated mass social media interaction, a very cost-effective way of reaching those already in the vicinity of the business.
The key things to consider before undertaking a geofencing project are:
- Know your audience, it’s all well and good to put up a fence around your business to retarget the customers and sales you’re missing out on, but if your goal is improved foot-fall the likelihood is the customers are not passing your location in the first place. Geofences can be set up anywhere, learn your target market and their habits, those places are the key locations for you, not necessarily your front door.
- Test different things, if your geofences don’t seem to be having the desired effect the ability to move them does exist! Starting out small is always the best way, maybe just a medium sized ring around the location you selected in from above. But things change, audience habits can shift due to the smallest of factors, and it is very unlikely to find your ideal location first time so starting small, A/B testing and progressive upscaling are key to a successful strategy.
- Stick to the point, one of the key limitations of geofencing and push notifications is their impact. Notifications are often limited to around 100-150 characters so making an impact in each and every message, as well as using great marketing first principals regarding calls to actions etc, are absolutely essential. Be direct, but interesting and incite engagement before a confirmatory ending that draws the recipient further into your process.
Geofencing is a great, and currently under-utilised, tool for the marketing community, but its popularity is growing at a great rate, now is the time to consider how it could help you.