Geolocation as a concept is defined as the identification or estimation of the real-world geographic location of an object, such as a radar source, Internet-connected computer or mobile device. Interestingly, the earliest known example of geolocation dates back to the ancient Greeks who used stars to triangulate their position on land or sea.
As a technology, Geolocation was first developed by the US and Germany in the 1930s and known simply as radar. However, geolocation, as we have come to realize it today, started with Google Maps in 2005.
Fast forward to the present day: Geolocation in marketing has become one of the latest industry buzzwords. But many mobile teams have only a vague idea of what it actually means, both in theory and practice.
Keep reading for an overview of what geolocation marketing means and why it matters.
Geolocation Marketing Explained
Geolocation marketing refers to the collection of data about a person’s physical location, usually provided through GPS satellites and internet protocol (IP) addresses. If you’ve ever opened a map app and zoomed in to see just how accurate the little blue dot is, that’s GPS-supplied geolocation data at work. Alternately, when you open a map on your computer’s browser, it will automatically open in your general location or city based on your IP address.
If the phone’s GPS is turned off (or if you are indoors), the location data is instead triangulated from cell towers. This method is less precise, but it still works relatively well. If you’ve opened your map while underground or in a building, you’ve probably received your location data from a cell tower.
So smartphones and handheld devices ping a satellite or cell tower to determine where in the world it is. And once the device obtains this information, it can then share it with maps, restaurant guides or weather and retail apps.
How Mobile Teams can Employ Geolocation Marketing
You can target users based on their location data in a three different ways.
Geo-targeting predates mobile and simply refers to the act of reaching someone based on their location. Marketers generally track a web browser’s IP address rather than GPS location. Since the early days of the internet, websites used a visitor’s IP address to serve personalized content. For example a retail site would display the local currency and store locations based on the visitor’s country.
The downside is that IP addresses aren’t very precise, and it’s difficult for marketers to target specific neighborhoods based on IP addresses. Therefore this type of geo-targeting is more commonly used for broad regions, like an entire city or state. For marketing teams that want to go more granular, they can use a system called geo-fencing, as discussed below.
Geo-fencing is the mobile generation’s answer to traditional web-based geo-targeting. This type of targeting uses a smartphone’s precise GPS location rather than its IP address. It’s also updated while the person is on the move, so it’s suited for timely mobile messaging. For instance if a clothing store app detects a user near a physical location it can utilize time limit marketing tactics like offering up a discount coupon to encourage an immediate store visit.
A geo-fence can be as wide as a city, but it’s most effective when targeting smaller regions like specific neighborhoods or streets. These targets are especially useful for apps that want to direct foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores or offer deals at nearby restaurants.
Beacons are the most granular of the three location targeting methods. A beacon is simply a small device that receives location data from nearby devices via a smartphone’s Bluetooth signal. Because it’s Bluetooth-based, beacons can be deployed in areas with poor cell reception, such as the interior of a department store.
Beacon data tells the app precisely where in the store customers are walking, which helps marketers optimize the in-store experience by directing them for example to the new Spring collection based on data gleaned from previous app activity. But the obvious downsides is that the device’s Bluetooth signal must be turned on and has to be within a short distance of the Beacon’s very limited range. What’s more, beacons are difficult to use on public property, since they must be physically placed, secured and monitored.
The Best Way to Improve App Engagement With Geo-Targeting
For mobile teams in search of marketing tactics that increase engagement, geo-fencing is a good place to start. The precision of geo-fenced audiences makes them perfect for mobile campaigns, yet they don’t require a brick-and-mortar presence to be effective.
For example, a travel app might want to alert flyers that their gate changed via push notification. Instead of triggering the notification based on time, the app publisher could establish a geo-fence around an airport and trigger the message based on location instead. This way, they’ll deliver the message with perfect timing.
Likewise, an app that curates local restaurants or events could trigger recommendations based on the user’s neighborhood. Instead of offering broad suggestions (e.g. “Trending restaurants in your city”), geo-fencing enables suggestions that are personal and immediately valuable (e.g. “Welcome to [neighborhood]! Here’s what you need to see”).
Predictive Analytics and Geolocation Marketing
Predictive Analytics through the use of artificial intelligence will quietly driving geo-location marketing into the future.
While location-based offers are nothing new, predictive analytics algorithms will mine historical geolocation data and user behavior for marketers to provide just-in-time, localized offers before a user leaves his or her home. For example a retail app will forecast when a user will purchase a certain item based on their in-app browsing and past shopping behavior. Information from these patterns and data can then offer up discounts on the day or hour the user plans to go shopping for a specific product or service.
How to Get Started with Geolocation Marketing
Geolocation is intuitive from a marketing perspective, but it can be difficult to implement from an engineering standpoint. However, mobile marketers can easily get started by selecting a mobile marketing platform that already supports location-based campaigns.
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