Geofencing mobile

Mobile apps can be a great way to get in to the hands of your customers, but as discussed in my previous post an app needs to offer different services or features to a website otherwise it becomes almost redundant. One feature apps can leverage which websites aren’t suited for is geolocation, which is where your app can pinpoint your location. This feature can be combined with geofencing to create a powerful marketing avenue.

What is geofencing?

Geofencing is a feature which can be built into software which uses GPS (Global Positioning System) to define “virtual geographical boundaries” in or around a location. On it’s own creating these boundaries doesn’t provide much functionality, but geofencing and mobile apps together allow the user of an app to realise they’ve entered or exited a geofence with the use of something like a text message or app notification.

Geofencing systems exist in many ways and is currently being used for a lot of situations such as:

  • Ensuring goods in warehouses or offices aren’t taken away without authorisation. This can be combined with RFID tags so non-electronic good can be tagged and monitored.
  • Monitoring individuals who have been given ankle tags and put under house arrest.
  • The taxi company Uber uses geofencing to send alerts to their users when they enter certain areas such as airports or train stations to ask if they’d like a taxi.

There are many other ways, but this post will go into how geofencing can be used for digital marketing purposes.

One of the uses I have first hand experience with is letting your users know they are near one of your stores. I’ve been working on a client app recently which uses geofencing for sending the user a text message when they are within 5 miles of my clients store. This is a great way of letting users know you’re nearby, or even promote a current offer or discount.

I’ve found that in order to get the best affect from this form of digital marketing, the user needs to be presented with a truly personal and tailored message. For example the system will probably know the users name if they are in your existing database, so include this in the greeting. Also only send information you know the user will be receptive to based on previous buying habits. This sort of marketing happens all the time in the form of discount leaflets or emails, so why not leverage the power of geofencing and apps to do this?

What are the other considerations?

One of the main considerations about geofencing is privacy. It’s more important than ever that the user knows exactly what’s happening with their data, especially when it comes to location tracking (which is essentially what geofencing is based on). This means including information in your privacy policy about exactly what data is kept, for how long, who it’s given to, and what it’s kept for.

With mobile apps specifically, geofencing has the greatest effect when the app is tracking the users location in the background, even when the app is completely closed. This may seem intrusive for users so it’s against the law to do this without informing them when they install the app.

There are some alternatives to geofencing, such as iBeacons. I made a post recently about this, so I’ll clarify the difference here because they have a similar purpose. iBeacons work from bluetooth and require physical bluetooth devices (the iBeacons) to transmit the bluetooth signal. In marketing, iBeacons are for situations when the user is in close proximity to the whole system, such as inside a store or museum. Geofencing on the other hand doesn’t require any hardware, and is best used for further proximity such as entering an area larger than a single building. However they can both give the exact same end experience to the user, so your ideal location based marketing campaign will depend on your situation.