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GeoMarketing 101: How To Build A Geofence

Geofencing is a great way to communicate with customers in real-time — and it’s a simple way for small businesses to enter the world of location marketing.

As physical businesses have come to realize that consumers’ mobile devices can serve as the ultimate bridge between online and offline, interest in proximity marketing has skyrocketed — with geofencing as a simple entry into the world of location.

It’s easy to see why local businesses are eager to try out the tactic: Geofencing is a way to engage consumers based on hyper-local location, and that can do a lot in terms of triggering immediate sales as well as understanding shopper mindset.

For example, a store could erect a simple geofence in an area surrounding its physical location. When users pass through, receiving a location-triggered alert or deal makes them considerably more likely to stop in and shop. And even if a geofenced offer or notification doesn’t provoke an immediate visit or sale, it allows a business to know exactly what location a consumer passed through — and where they were when they received the message — which may aid in refining targeting efforts in the future based on what communications were most successful.

But for businesses whose version of “nearby” targeting has mostly consisted of setting up a sale sign outside the door or handing out flyers down the street, the idea of running a geofenced campaign to reach shoppers on their smartphones can seem overwhelming. So, how can businesses of all stripes set up their first campaign and boost sales as a result?

How To: Geofencing 101

First, a recap: Geofencing is the practice of using global positioning (GPS) or radio frequency identification (RFID) to define a geographic boundary. Then, once this “virtual barrier” is established, the administrator can set up triggers that send a text message, email alert, or app notification when a mobile device enters (or exits) the specified area.

To keep things simple, we’ll divide this how-to into two categories: app-based messages and notifications versus web-based mobile ads.

Apps And Beyond

The “old” form of geofencing based solely on cellular data is largely being phased out in favor of apps that can actually send messages within a certain radius when customer’s opt-in for location services, determined through a combination of GPS, wifi, and/or cellular data.

Here’s an example: If Rita’s Vintage Shop creates an app for loyalty or other purposes with a location component, all that has to happen is for customers to receive location-based messages within a certain geographic area is for users to turn location services on in the app settings.

How can a business encourage app users to turn location services on so that these customers automatically receive messages or notifications in the app while in or near the store? Opinions on this differ, but sometimes it’s as simple as building awareness: Let customers know that they’ll receive special offers or discounts if they download the app and turn on location services with in-store signage or simply telling them at checkout and via social channels. For a slightly more sophisticated step, tie loyalty points and rewards to app downloads; stores have the option to offer extra rewards points immediately if they take actions like downloading the app, turning on location services, and checking in on social media.

For more sophisticated forms of geofencing, such as making sure that every customer — or every customer with certain demographic criteria — sees a mobile ad while passing through a specified area, businesses should work with providers that specialize in location-based mobile advertising and can facilitate a variety of proximity marketing campaigns, of which geofencing makes up one component. Examples of these types of companies include the likes of xAd, Thinknear, Digital Factory— which focuses on “micro-fencing” of geofencing small or irregular spaces — and many more.

Reaching customers in real-time with the additional insights offered by understanding contextual location can be a great opportunity for large and small businesses alike. Read more about geofencing — and location based marketing in general — below.

Geo 101: Driving Better Marketing Results With Geofencing

Elle Magazine Teams With Swirl, ShopAdvisor, And RetailMeNot On Beacon, Geo-Fencing Program

What US Open Attendance Can Teach Brands About Location Marketing

Verve CEO: We’re A One-Stop-Shop For Mobile Location Marketing

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of GeoMarketing.com. A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.