Zeroing in on Your Consumers With Geo-Marketing

Mobile geo-marketing is growing at a rapid rate. This growth is driven by applications such as navigation, local search and social networking, as well as the public’s understanding of location-based marketing. With the increasing comfort level of sharing location data, brands are turning to location-based marketing to tap into consumers’ behavior to deliver more timely, personalized mobile experiences

Mobile geo-marketing is growing at a rapid rate. This growth is driven by applications such as navigation, local search and social networking, as well as the public’s understanding of location-based marketing. With the increasing comfort level of sharing location data, brands are turning to location-based marketing to tap into consumers’ behavior to deliver more timely, personalized mobile experiences.

Geo-marketing comes in a variety of flavors that utilize different technologies depending on how you are communicating with your consumers:

  • Geo-Fencing: This method is essentially a “virtual fence” designed to enclose a specific area for a marketing purpose. For example, a retailer can run a geo-fencing campaign where they “fence” in an area around their stores for the purpose of pulling in consumers who are near, but not shopping at their stores. Geo-fencing is not location detection in itself, but the geo-fences you setup—and the business rules you define as to what message to communicate to consumers when they are inside, or outside, those geo-fences—can be leveraged in conjunction with location detection capabilities.
  • Broad-Range Location: Some campaigns can leverage general area, such as city or ZIP code, to determine the right message to communicate. For example, an airline simply needs to know the metro area a consumer is closest to in order to personalize offers for flights out of the nearest airport. Location detection in this case does not need to be highly accurate to get the job done, and can generally be supported through most any mobile interaction.
  • Geo-Conquesting: This specific method of geo-targeting allows businesses to capture consumer spend away from competitors. The effectiveness of these campaigns can be further enhanced if the technology partner you are working with can layer on additional data that helps to understand the consumer better, such as third party sources that identify likelihood to purchase certain types of product.

For this article, let’s focus on geo-fencing. What you need to know is that geo-fencing simply needs to be paired up with a location detection technology, such as GPS or carrier network triangulation. Once detected to be inside a geo-fenced area, a brand can then alert potential customers who may not have visited your store otherwise. Retailers can also choose to send information, such as directions to the store, or run hyper-local promotions.

Retailer Takes Geo-Fencing to the Next Level
Belk, the nation’s largest family owned and operated department store, has added geo-fencing to drive in-store traffic and increase revenue across all of their stores by selecting very specific times, like major holidays (Easter and Mother’s Day) or sales (Belk Days) to geo-target customers with time sensitive coupons. For example, coupons for 20 percent off between the hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. were sent out to customers who were near a Belk store to act now before the coupon expires. By offering relevant, time-based coupons, Belk has been able to grow their mobile marketing database and target real customers more effectively.

More Data, No Problems
Today, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled smartphones are capable of aggregating and sharing huge amounts of data. This data is very helpful for marketers to get a better understanding of their consumers’ behavior and target them in a more relevant manner.

Geo-Fenced data can then be used to see which offers and locations actually attract more customers, and whether that translates into more sales. Other possible metrics include the effectiveness of advertising, how often a customer visits the store, and how long they shop for. Additionally, geo-fencing can lead to better customer rewards programs. Once you know where your customers are and how they behave, you can encourage and reward them effortlessly.

Geo-fencing gives the customer a much more personalized interaction with brands by offering them timely, relevant offers via their mobile devices. 

Although privacy has been a concern in the past, recent surveys show that customers are happy to trade their personal information in favor of receiving special offers —but it needs to be additive, not intrusive. If it’s done right geo-fencing will revolutionize location-based sales and drive customer loyalty.

How Evolving Mobile Behaviors are Raising the Stakes for Marketers

While none would argue that 2011 was the year of the mobile app, marketers have been hearing more noise about the mobile web as a cross-device alternative to apps that are downloaded and installed. The reality isn’t so clear-cut.

While none would argue that 2011 was the year of the mobile app, marketers have been hearing more noise about the mobile web as a cross-device alternative to apps that are downloaded and installed. The reality isn’t so clear-cut.

If anything, the division of the mobile smartphone space into iOS and Android, as well as demographic and usage patterns on these platforms, means that targeting and developing effective mobile experiences just got a whole lot harder. But this is translating into more options for mobile marketers in 2012.

When you look at actual user behavior on smartphones, you might wonder how the mobile web would effectively fit in at all. The focus for both iOS and mobile users is on app usage versus mobile web access. Apps have become so successful that they’re moving us away from the web in general. The reasons are rather straightforward:

1. Curated content apps have become primary experiences. Whether public or ad supported, curated content sources (e.g., NPR and The Wall Street Journal) have found the niche within application environments that move users away from the web and directly toward branded experiences they trust as either primary or authoritative sources of information.

2. Excerpted content typically satisfies curiosity. Even more popular apps don’t necessarily translate to more mobile web activity. This has always been the fear with content syndication in general, but combine it with a preference for a more focused and curated experience and you get a further erosion of mobile web traffic.

3. The ease of use and established reliance on app stores. The effectiveness of the app store model combined with mobile context to include desktop environments further reinforces the shift from the web search route as a first stop for function resources.

Websites are driving traffic to apps instead of presenting a mobile-optimized version of themselves. Many sites could take advantage of users visiting via mobile device to optimize their experience. Instead, you should drive them to download apps that provide a specific or focused subset of content and functionality. Focus on creating a controlled and curated environment for experiencing content.

Further complicating matters are the differences in demographics and behavior between iOS and Android users. Android users tend to be heavier app users than iOS users (by a significant percentage), according to recent Fiksu research.

According to a recent Hunch.com survey, gender balances, income levels, age ranges and other important segmenting criteria also differ significantly between audiences. Certainly there’s enough to merit taking a closer look at these considerations when designing mobile experiences for these platforms. Android adoption rates make it clear that supporting Android isn’t an option; it’s a requirement in order to reach as broad a mobile and tablet audience as possible.

Tablets are an important area where the mobile web, and the higher percentage of mobile web usage among iOS users, comes into play. Tablets offer a superior web browsing experience. In addition, differing usage patterns and behaviors mean that tablet-based experiences can be deeper and richer than mobile-optimized executions and will track close to desktop browsing.

What does all of this mean for mobile marketers and advertisers in 2012? Android’s broader audience and superior mobile ad performance will make it a focus for mobile display advertising efforts. Apple’s advertising formats are of primary interest within the context of specific applications where their inclusion and application usage merit the investment. In-app advertisement effectiveness becomes even more critical to understand and measure in this context, as those investments tend to be higher than broader mobile ad networks buys.

Social platform mobile integration efforts need to be watched closely. Emerging apps and potential ad integration capabilities are key focal points for marketers already heavily invested in social platforms or for those looking to leverage location-enabled social networks more heavily.

Tablet and touch-optimized experiences via the mobile web will be critical to support the heavier skew of browser usage among tablet owners. Give specific consideration to the ability to leverage touch-enabled HTML5 implementations and the superior browsers offered by these platforms.

2012 will certainly be the year when marketers’ attention will be firmly focused on mobile, but in reality that represents separate and to some extent distinct experiences — e.g., mobile apps, mobile websites and tablet-optimized versions of both.