Even The Biggest Brands Can Get Hyperlocal With Geolocation Targeting

As more consumers are turning to mobile, geomarketing is becoming increasingly essential for marketers. Columnist Andy Lombard explains why it should be a key part of your marketing strategy.


On average, we gaze at our smartphones around 220 times a day and pick up our devices a whopping 1,500 times a week. With some 2.1 billion smartphones now in use, it’s only natural that marketers would try to appeal to mobile-attentive consumers with personalized geolocation targeting and content localization.

Marketers initially used geolocation targeting primarily by asking consumers to “check in” at locations in exchange for special offers. In due time, entire businesses — think Uber and Tinder — sprang up around this technology, but there were a few stumbling blocks.

Nordstrom customers were famously creeped out in 2013 upon learning that its in-store Wi-Fi geolocation tracking service was analyzing their whereabouts for insights. And the city of London had to order UK startup Renew to stop tracking its citizens with high-tech trash cans. From these and other examples, marketers have learned to always announce their presence, keep it simple, and provide an easy opt-out option.

All Eyes On Geotargeting

In spite of these hiccups, consumers are increasingly comfortable existing within the Internet of Things, and marketers are conscientious about being less invasive and more helpful and transparent. The payoff, according to the Local Search Association, is that geotargeting doubles the performance of email campaigns and paid search, as evidenced by the click-through rate for geotargeted mobile display ads compared with the industry benchmark.

Many brands are now tweaking their national marketing campaigns on a store-by-store basis, localizing email blasts and regularly pushing out notifications about in-store promotions though multichannel and geolocation marketing. McDonald’s (disclosure: client), for example, is able to endear itself to its Chicago area customers by creating online and offline promotional offers related to the Chicago Bears. And in Phoenix, McDonald’s combines national English and Spanish advertising with local geolocation to direct consumers to its closest restaurant.

Starbucks has utilized geofencing, which is where you can set a virtual boundary around a specific location, like a store. Once they cross that set geofence, people with the Starbucks app receive a location-based notification highlighting a coupon or offer and reminding them there’s a Starbucks nearby. This kind of personalization inspires more engagement and brand loyalty and provides the ability for any business to make national campaigns hyperlocal.

What’s Ahead For Geolocation

As for where the geolocation market is headed, it’s growing ever more innovative and effective, thanks in part to the willingness of consumers. More than 50 percent of us now say we are willing to cough up our location information in exchange for coupons or loyalty points.

And as more people adopt smartphones, the value of geolocation targeting will only improve. Nearly two-thirds of Americans currently own a smartphone, per the Pew Research Center, and more than three-quarters of smartphone users access local content with their phones, as compared with 14 percent of non-smartphone users.

Certain industries, such as health care, are already very active in this space. However, geolocation technology has not reached its potential for widescale use — yet.

Each day, though, new players are trying their hand at geomarketing — finding surprising uses (Salatsurfing, the newly popular French app, lets Muslims find a place to pray) and employing novel tactics. For example, Ford dealerships are testing a marketing program that would send key info about a car directly to a consumer as they approach each model.

More and more national consumer packaged goods companies and retailers are feeling the pressure to implement marketing technology that targets consumers on a hyperlocal level, which is the next best thing to reaching them in-store, wallet in hand. After all, where a person is can be a pretty good indication of where they want to be and what they want to do. The organizations that meet them there by embracing the latest geolocation technology will have a huge advantage over their competitors.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)


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