We marketers have been trained to think like snipers: Hit the bull’s eye. In other words, target the right segment of consumers, and the more accurate, the better, right?
After all, the closer we can get to our customers—the more we can get inside of their heads—then the better our brand marketing, the more conversions we can create, and the higher the ROI.
Today, geolocation with mobile devices enables marketers to build “fences,” based on a customer’s location and proximity to goods and services, to get as physically close to the customer as possible. However, before we can effectively construct fences around these mobile consumers, who are constantly on the go, we need to understand what geolocation analysis and targeting is.
What Is Geolocation Targeting?
Every smartphone includes Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation capability. A GPS-enabled app understands your current position (latitude and longitude) and can calculate the best route to your destination. As I previously discussed on CMO.com, marketers need to “think mobile unique to deliver mobile delight.” Because geolocation is unique to mobile devices, it must be considered in every mobile marketing campaign or tactic.
Geolocation targeting is basically personalizing customer communications based on their whereabouts in the world. Targeting can be done by country, state, city, ZIP code, or GPS location. Targeting moves in concentric circles, with GPS location being the most specific or granular—the center of the bull’s eye, if you will.
Basic location analysis has been around for some time. Since the invention of the Internet, marketers have been able to target people using the IP address of their PCs. Using this address, marketers can understand where the user is located, from country to state to ZIP code. This differs from people accessing the Internet on smartphones—the IP address is less accurate because it could provide the location of the datacenter for your wireless carrier. That’s why organizations should request access to a person’s GPS location, from which you can as close as 10-feet in accuracy to the consumer, according to the Mobile Marketing Association’s “Location Terminology Guide.”
The Hottest Terms You Should Know
Now for a vocabulary lesson:
1. Global Positioning System (GPS): GPS is considered “the gold standard” of geolocation. Unlike Wi-Fi, it doesn’t require a user on the go to connect to multiple Internet hotspots. All modern smartphones have built-in GPS capabilities. According to the MMA's “Location Terminology Guide,” GPS is “passively active” as long as consumers have their settings enabled to allow access to this information; most do. For example, on my iPhone, GPS is enabled via the location services setting (found under Settings > Privacy > Location Services).
According to MMA, GPS has a few cons: It’s best used outdoors because “interference with building structures” (while indoors) limits this technology. Also, the audience that marketers can target with this technology is more limited because GPS opt-in may vary by each app used by the consumer.
How is it used? Realtor.com’s mobile app, for example, collects consumers’ GPS locations to personalize the real estate search experience, with options such as “Nearby For Sale.” Instead of having to enter location data, consumers can choose one button in the mobile app that displays all homes for sale around their location.
2. Wi-Fi Triangulation: Wi-Fi triangulation targets people inside of stores and in dense urban areas. MMA notes that it has high reach and midlevel accuracy. For example, Nordstrom used this technology to detect customer movements and time spent within their stores in order to “increase staffing during certain high-traffic times or change the layout of a department.” However, the technology did raise some concerns in the media about consumer privacy and the right to collect information about consumers via mobile devices. (I will discuss some best practices regarding data collection and privacy in a future article.)
3. Bluetooth: Most of us think about wireless headsets when Bluetooth technology (BT) is mentioned. But it’s beginning to be used for so much more. If you’re looking for highly targeted, location-based marketing inside of stores, then BT is your best option. According to MMA, BT is a wireless technology capable of “exchanging content and data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices with high levels of security.”
Apple’s latest invention, iBeacon, is an example of Bluetooth technology. iBeacon uses the low-energy version of BT that you can activate on your smartphone. Once enabled (on my iPhone, I would choose Settings > Bluetooth > On), the smartphone can send and receive signals with other Bluetooth devices, such as a “transmitter” in a physical store. Apple has rolled out iBeacons in its retail stores to deliver relevant communication to customers. For example, when walking around the store, you could receive a push notification from the Apple Store app to tell you about accessories for sale.
What are the cons to this technology? MMA writes: “This method is considered geo-precise and therefore has privacy implications. It requires users to have BT turned on and VISIBLE, losing those potential customers who don’t have the right settings turned on.”
Apple has partnered with Major League Baseball (MLB) to use iBeacons in stadiums for this year’s baseball season. Let’s say, for example, you are attending a San Francisco Giants game. Your smartphone with the MLB app could automatically display the ticket’s barcode as you approach the gate and present a map of your seat location. In addition, if you leave your seat to go to the restroom, the app could direct you to the nearest hotdog vendor and provide a coupon to your smartphone: “Hungry? Nathan’s Hot Dogs. Turn left at the top of the stairs.”
Now that you know more about the basics of geolocation, how can your organization leverage its capabilities? Tune in next week for the second part in this series. I’ll be examining some best practices and success stories.