Several high-profile companies have so far tapped into the unique benefits of geo-targeting – an advance in marketing that is enabling brands to directly target customers with news and offers via their mobile phones, as well as gauge their precious shopping habits and preferences.
Whilst still a relatively new practice, geo-targeting has the potential to change the face of corporate marketing in various ways; not least of all by breaking down yet another wall to bring brand and consumer that bit closer together. However, if companies are to follow the footsteps of brands like Starbucks, Tesco and Zoopla, and maximise geo-targeting to its full potential, there are certain precautions they should bear in mind.
What Is Geo-Targeting?
So what is geo-targeting, and how could your company benefit?
Geo-targeting is the use of location-based data to reach out to customers via their mobile phones through the delivery of information, such as news, surveys, discounts, adverts, friendly reminders or shopping tips. Thanks to its dependency on GPS technology, wi-fi, and sometimes even 3G and 4G networks, geo-targeting enables companies to monitor a customer’s whereabouts so that offers can be appropriately timed when someone approaches a store.
It also allows brands to gauge their customers’ shopping patterns and product preferences, as well as their age, gender and location. This allows information to be uniquely targeted for specific demographics, or customers who are likely to respond to certain campaigns.
Starbucks was one of the first major companies to make active use of geo-targeting in 2010, when it worked alongside mobile network O2 delivering coupons to customers’ smartphones that enabled them to claim 50% off when they came within close proximity to a store. The delivery of the coupons was carefully timed and O2 customers were required to opt in to enjoy the service, which reduced the possibility of customers feeling pestered.
Zoopla is another company to have used geo-targeting efficiently in a slightly differently way. With the help of BrightMove Media, Zoopla managed to advertise properties within various locations via electronic displays on taxicabs. The information displayed changed according to the whereabouts of the taxi, and Zoopla were able to broadcast available homes across 172 postcodes in this way.
The Benefits of Geo-Targeting
Geo-targeting undoubtedly has many benefits for brands, one of the most prominent being its ability to reap a greater return on investment. As it is faster to roll out than traditional types of marketing (such as television, billboards, print and radio), its results are likely to be more instantaneous, so companies can measure a campaign’s effectiveness more acutely. It’s flexibility is also a contributor here – geo-targeting can be turned on or off at any time, meaning that companies are less likely to lose money when an ad has run his course, or isn’t garnering much attention from certain demographics.
This instantaneity also means that brands are able to react more swiftly to customer demands and preferences, and if information is appropriately targeted, customers can be presented with a higher quality of information and customer service than what is provided by other types of ‘one-size-fits-all’ marketing.
The timing factor of geo-targeting means that discounts and offers can be released to suit the routines of customers and make them more likely to make a purchase. This is unlike paper coupons and vouchers that fall to the bottoms of purses only to be revived after their expiry date has gone by. (Not only is this frustrating for customers, it also leads to lost expense for the company.)
Deciding Whether To Use Geo-Targeting
Geo-targeting has so far received mixed reviews, with some brands implementing it in a ‘model’ light, whilst surveys by institutes like the Internet Advertising Bureau raise the issue of customer wariness. There is also the fact that much of geo-targeting technology is only available to major large-scale businesses at this moment in time, enabling them to get the best results. That said however, this is likely to decrease in cost if there is sufficient take-up in the industry, and the concept has various implications for businesses of all sizes and budgets.
Deciding whether to invest in geo-targeting can be a tricky thing, but it is ultimately worth trying if:
– Yours is a premise-based business looking to entice new customers (this is especially relevant for start-ups)
– Your company is based in several locations and wishes to gauge the popularity of products and services in various areas or stores
– Your company is simply looking to further engage with customers of a particular niche in a way that is more tailored than social media
– Your audience are primarily smartphone users
– You have noticed a significant increase in mobile purchases among your customers and wish to shift your point of contact accordingly.
Making Geo-Targeting Work For You
Even if your company doesn’t have the budget for the enhanced technologies of Starbucks, it’s still very much possible to make it work for you. Location-based sites like Foursquare and Facebook Places make it possible for companies to see who is using their services and (in the case of Foursquare) roll out rewards and discounts for dedicated customers. Be sure to ‘claim’ your business on Facebook Places and merge it with your business page. Consider offering incentives to checked-in Foursquare users, or offer discounts on higher-end products after a customer has made a certain number of visits.
Above all, however, there are some important points you should consider when incorporating geo-targeting into your marketing plan.
– Consider the quality of your content – this comes before timing and consistency (although these too are important). Your content needs to be relevant and valuable to customers if you don’t wish to see a campaign fall by the wayside. It can be difficult to gauge personal preferences at first, so start with the basics like location, age, gender and age bracket, or consider using a mobile user database system like Weve.
– Think about how regular your updates will be. Delivering information too regularly will cause your customers to become immunised to the presence of your brand or strive to shut it out over time. Geo-targeting should be used sparingly, and only when you have something specific to say or offer. Save the casual chit chat for social media.
– The tone of the information shouldn’t be too sales-specific, or customers will be likely to feel like a commodity than a person. A friendly, informal tone is ideal and likely to get more results – focus on simply informing or notifying your customers of current offers, rather than directly selling them a product.
– Have an adequate system in place for monitoring your customers’ responses, and be prepared to act on these accordingly. It may be worth trialling a campaign in certain stores or locations at first in smaller batches to test the waters. Pay attention to which targeting information beings results; which types of customers are most responsive; which times of day bring about the most action and so on. It doesn’t do to waste time or money on campaigns with little or no uptake.
Sophia Wright is a writer and researcher for Customer Service Guru, having worked in the consumer marketing profession as a Customer Relations manager and consultant for the last seven years.