Is Geo-fencing a Good Fit for Your Marketing Plan?

By Jake Dumesnil

It may feel like marketing your business has become more complex in recent years.  The way consumers receive information has changed dramatically and as an advertiser, your message has to stand out from the clutter. Marketing plans need to reach consumers on every connected device, both in and out of the home, and all for good reason. 

According to comScore, two out of every three minutes spent online is on a mobile device, which means your consumers are a constantly moving target. Keeping that in mind, your goal is to capture a defined audience and deliver a short but memorable message, hopefully causing the person to act. While this may sound like a tall task, it is becoming easier to consistently hit that target.   

The evolution of technology has created an abundance of choice, especially in the world of digital marketing. One digital product in particular that always receives the most buzz, but also tends to cause the most confusion, is geo-fencing.

In general, geo-fencing is the use of GPS technology (latitude/longitude) to create a virtual boundary around an area. When a person enters or leaves that area, the system triggers a response on the user’s mobile device. For a marketer, that response is the delivery of your display ad (a/k/a banner ad) to the user’s mobile phone in the form of an in-app advertisement. While there are distinct advantages of geo-fencing, it is important to understand this technology is not the marketing equivalent of a silver bullet. 

First, let’s review some of the clear advantages of geo-fencing:
• Ability to deliver your ad to smartphone users in a very specific geography (remember the “two out of every three minutes” stat)
• Opportunity to present a relevant offer to a targeted consumer in real time
• Offers additional targeting capabilities in combination with your standard display ad campaign

Every technology has limitations, and geo-fencing has some drawbacks to consider:
• The mobile phone’s location services must be turned on
• The user needs to be using an app in order to receive the ad
• There is waste. For example, if you target a specific store, the employees may receive your ad.  

It is also important to know that all geo-fencing products are not created equal. Ask about the logistics behind the digital product, including:
• How accurate is it? Does it use GPS technology? 
• How specific is the radius around my targeted location?
• What data is included in the campaign reports? 

Accuracy is key with location-based marketing. GPS targeting using the coordinates of the mobile device ID ensures the impressions are actually delivered within the target area. In addition, the ability to see where your impressions are being served is a valuable metric in your monthly reports. Simply knowing the impressions were delivered is no longer good enough as every dollar counts when determining your overall ROI.

Depending on your marketing partner, their geo-fencing product may also have the ability to add a retargeting feature known as “geo-recency.” Using the same geo-fencing strategy to start, your message is delivered to a smartphone user after they have visited a targeted area. Once that person leaves, additional impressions are delivered within a 10-mile radius of your target over a 30-day period. Geo-recency usually includes a frequency cap so your audience isn’t bombarded with ads, but the ability to stay top of mind with these customers is a valuable addition to your digital marketing campaign.

Like with any successful marketing plan, you start by setting goals and expectations. Based on those factors, you determine which digital marketing products will provide the best results. In some cases, video makes the most sense and in others, a high-frequency display campaign may drive the most traffic. For the average advertiser, it would be difficult to move the needle with a standalone geo-fencing campaign.  But, when geo-fencing is integrated as a layer in your marketing strategy, you’ll find much more success in not only hitting that target, but converting them into return customers. 

Jake Dumesnil is the digital sales manager for Spectrum Reach in Albany, N.Y.  Jake has a spent his entire career in the marketing industry, both as an in-house marketing professional and on the client side, as a marketing agency executive. In his spare time, you can find him either at home with his wife and two young sons, or working on a renovation project at one of his rental properties.