beacon technology
The uses for mobile geofencing are only limited by marketer's imaginations and your company's budget PHOTO: Jona Nalder

We live in a connected world — this is a given. The fact you are reading this means you are linked to a vast network of worldwide internet users. As netizens, we travel through a world with few borders. Along the way, we make associations, complete transactions and leave digital footprints.

As digital marketers, we are always looking for new and innovative ways of reaching customers in this brave, new world. Mobile geofencing represents one of the most real-time ways for businesses to connect with users. 

How can you tell if mobile geofencing is right for your business?

What Is Mobile Geofencing?

Mobile geofencing is the process of using GPS, WiFi and RFID technologies to create virtual geographic boundaries that organizations can use in their marketing and analytics efforts. Program administrators and marketers can use custom applications, or one of several software as a solution (SaaS) programs to setup perimeters around stores, meeting locations, etc. 

When users enter or exit these pre-defined boundaries, we can send them device notifications with promotions, ads, coupons or similar announcements.

From a technical perspective, there are two types of mobile geofences: active and passive. Active geofences require an app or web page to be open and usually require users to opt-in. Passive geofences are always on and working in a device’s background.

Mobile Geofencing Use Case Scenarios

Use cases for mobile geofences are only limited to a marketer’s imagination. Below are some programs that marketers can employ:

Personalized Content

  • News articles based on a neighborhood
  • Sports scores and stats based on local teams

Store Proximity Notifications

  • Personalized messages based on account types
  • Loyalty point reminders

Coupons and Promotions

  • Current sales promotions
  • In-store event alerts

In-Store Assistance

  • Shopping list reminders
  • Store map assistance

Traffic Pattern Studies

  • Determine most active times of day by foot traffic
  • Create user journey analyses by correlating online and offline behaviors
  • Study how much time is spent in store
  • Segment users and study movement patterns by segment

Customer Scoring and Modeling

  • Engagement indexing
  • High value customer typing

Provided the right company resources, companies can use geofencing in any way they see fit. Geofences can be used with testing tools, like Optimizely, VWO, Adobe Target and Google Experiments.

Privacy: The Fine Line Between Cool and Creepy

One of the major business concerns with mobile geofencing is invading people’s perception of privacy. Customer privacy carries very serious technical, social and business implications, especially since consumer protection agencies and news outlets use privacy as a key platform.

Here are a few things to keep in mind around geofencing privacy:

  • No one set of practices will cover every type of organization
  • Make sure your privacy policy is clearly documented and accessible online
  • Choose your privacy policy words carefully
  • When referring to geofencing, avoid using phrases like “we watch where you go …”
  • Avoid collecting personally identifiable information in the data you gather
  • Implement security by design
  • Provide strong encryption during data exchanges
  • Protect your app from common vulnerabilities
  • Limit access to app lifecycles and publishing

Privacy is a concern, but it should not be a barrier. Thoughtful planning and deliberate wording can alleviate most of your customer’s concerns.  For more information on well-constructed privacy policies, please see: Privacy Guidance and Best Practices.

Is Geofencing Right for You? Make the Case

When deciding if mobile geofencing is right for your business, you should consider your company’s culture and technical resources. Also consider what type of messaging is best for your target demographic. Below are some points to guide your decision:

Know your company

  • Have you already established a distinct mobile presence?
  • Do you have the in-house staff to do the planning, development and Q/A work, or should you use a hosted solution?

Know your customers

  • Will geofencing enhance or detract from your brand messaging?
  • Know that high security businesses (i.e. banking) may not be good geofencing candidates
  • Retailers and businesses with mobile-centric users make the best geofencing candidates

Like most emerging technologies, geofencing requires marketing finesse and technical savvy to be done right.