If you’re not familiar with the term “geo-fencing” that’s ok. The tech industry has a tendency to come up with odd names for new technology… usually using a metaphor of some kind. In this particular case though, it’s a rather accurate name for visually representing the technology. It leads us to imagine a physical fence or perimeter surrounding a location. When this perimeter is breached… that’s when the exciting work really begins.
What Geo-Fencing Is
Geo-fencing is actually a rather obvious evolution in digital marketing given the popularity of mobile phones. For those not in the know, a rather basic explanation of this process is this: Advertisers, utilizing a number of emerging service providers, specify geographical locations (ie a city block, a single building, a 30×30 foot square in the middle of a park, etc). Whenever a person who has opted to see notifications enters the designated area a notification can be sent to that person’s mobile device.
The nature of this notification is purely up to the advertiser and is proving to be a strong method of engaging consumers in real-time and based on their current location and/or activities.
Whenever a user enters the designated area within the designated timeframe they will receive the following notification on their phone:
Restaurants are a great example. Let’s say SeaFood Restaurant, located in a decently populated urban environment, has an extra large delivery of lobster to meet with seasonal demand. For whatever reason, Lobster dinner hasn’t been very popular lately and they foresee a good deal of their stock going to waste unless they can move it quickly. SeaFood Restaurant chooses to run a geo-fencing campaign starting Friday evening through Sunday within a 3 block radius of their restaurant. OR, if they’re feeling more devious, they can erect geo-fences near competing restaurants like Seafood Shack or Crabs Ahoy.
“Looking for a romantic dinner for two tonight? Try out some fresh lobster right down the street. Buy one meal and you get the second one for half off and one free appetizer. Come on Down to SeaFood Restaurant to take advantage of this limited time deal. Click the link below to turn on your GPS and head on over.”
Now, I don’t write advertisements for a reason, but the benefits are obvious. Real-time interaction with potential customers who are close to your (or your competitor’s) physical location. The amount of engagement potential for this technology is staggering and for many it’s admittedly a little scary.
It’s important to note though, what Geo-fencing is NOT.
What Geo-Fencing Is Not
Geo-fencing is NOT big brother tracking your every move. When utilized properly, Geo-fencing simply uses your mobile device’s default wifi and location services to track when that phone enters a certain designated location. While some ad providers CAN track details about the user, it is generally frowned upon.
Ultimately though, the advertiser doesn’t need to know your private information to effectively push notifications to your phone. All they need to know is that someone who has opted into receiving notifications from said advertiser has entered a specific location that the advertiser feels would help lead the customer to a sale.
That being said…
As with any emerging technology, there is room for abuse and opting into services such as this should only occur if you are familiar and have confidence in the advertiser.
Why Geo-Fencing Changes Everything
As mentioned earlier, this technology isn’t exactly surprising because we’ve been waiting for it for years. Sci-fi movies for the last decade have depicted the core elements of Geo-fencing in one form or another, even before the popularity of mobile devices skyrocketed.
Being able to directly target customers who are within a reasonable distance of your store or service is a powerful tool in your advertising arsenal. Reminding someone to pick up eggs and milk as they pass by the grocery store is the most basic of uses and still it’s revolutionary compared to other, less active and less direct methods of engaging potential customers.
It wouldn’t be much of a challenge to come up with example after example of how this technology can be used to improve your engagement with consumers. And as the technology behind it improves and more and more companies adopt Geo-Fencing, the potential for collaborating with social media and geo-fencing advertisers becomes staggering… and scary.