GPS, Beacons, and Geofencing...Oh My!

Matt Labus Picture

by Matt Labus | Last Updated: Jul 9, 2018

There’s rarely a moment that we don’t have our phones on us throughout the day. Those little devices follow us around everywhere, and companies are getting better at using them as tiny billboards, and even little homing devices. Our phones are always aware of our location, and proximity-based marketing is a hot trend right now since 60 percent of consumers look for local information on their mobile devices. To put things in perspective, U.S. marketers are poised to spend more than $20.5 billion on targeted mobile ads this year. But what you might not realize is that there are multiple technology options that can help you make your location-based marketing dreams a reality. GPS Marketing GPS-based marketing is basically what you assume it is–utilizing GPS capabilities to enhance strategy. Where GPS technology used to be only available in standalone devices, it’s now hardwired into the devices we carry around constantly–our smartphones! When we opt-in to allowing our phone to track our location, we’re allowing our phone to use GPS, which in turn opens an enormous door for marketers. How can GPS technology be utilized as a marketing tool? With this type of tech, users don’t need to tell the phone where they are located, because the phone knows way before you! With that said, marketers can target ads to people who are close in proximity to one of their stores, restaurants, etc. For example, marketers are able to tap into GPS technology by creating mobile display ads on Google AdWords that are served based on location. Our phones are intelligent little things, and marketers can use location information to reach customers while they are in a rel­evant place. Geofencing Another cool way we can use technology to tap into the mobile space is through geofencing. Geofencing is basically setting a unique boundary based on GPS that, when customers enter (or exit) it, allows companies to send specific, targeted messages. It’s powered by bluetooth technology, meaning all smartphone users that have enabled bluetooth on their device can receive alerts and messages once they enter a geofenced area. A great example of this...Concert and event provider Live Nation geo-fences its amphitheatres in order to gather information (by assigning unique mobile IDs of each person) such as the age and sex of the person who bought a ticket, how much the person paid for their ticket, what food or drink they ordered, and other information like social media usage during the concert. When someone enters the virtual barrier within the amphitheatre, Live Nation is able to soak up a wealth of data that companies are able to use to modify their marketing and mobile advertising strategies for maximum impact. There are many practical ways for brands to integrate geofencing into their existing marketing strategies through platforms that already exist–for example, Snapchat. Given the 400 million unique Snapchat stories created each day around the globe, Snapchat allows companies to pay for geofenced Snapchat filters to increase mobile marketing, and these location-based filters have already been proven to raise awareness, increase consideration, and drive action for a brand (click here for some examples of awesome Snapchat marketing campaigns). More and more brands will begin to use location data to target their mobile advertising campaigns. Beacons Let’s talk beacons. Beacons are small, physical devices that send bluetooth low energy signals (BLE) to smartphones and tablets within a certain proximity. These radio waves interact with the  bluetooth on the user’s smartphone and enable mobile apps to trigger location-based push notifications or text messages. The beacon itself doesn’t send the notifications, but actually send a piece of geographic information to devices within the range via bluetooth. And the best part? This tech won’t break the bank. Beacon pricing depends on the beacon signal range and type of beacon, but one popular variation of beacons called Gimbal Proximity Beacons typically cost anywhere from $5 to $30 per unit. Beacons are already very popular and 50 percent of the top 100 brands already use them today! One industry getting great use out of beacons is the retail sector. Brands and even brick-and-mortar stores can use beacons to push notifications that might inform customers in a personalized way about special promotions, discounts or new products available within the store where the beacons are placed. These notifications are used to increase foot traffic into stores and sales volume by inviting customers into nearby stores, welcoming them when they enter the store, and providing them with a discount on their way out to encourage them to come back soon! There’s a lot of buzz surrounding location-based marketing across all industries, and as better technology reaches the surface, brands will be able to cash in on utilizing these awesome strategies. It all comes down to the fact that the smartphone is essentially everyone’s best friend, and companies are figuring out the most innovative ways to create the most personalized experiences possible.

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