5 things about geofencing that will make you a better mobile marketer

5 things about geofencing that will make you a better mobile marketer
Maria is a marketing communications manager at Plot Projects. If you can replace any word by an emoji, she's done it already. Plot Projects helps digital marketing professionals to easily integrate location based marketing, such as geofencing, in their apps. If you want to know more about how you can use geofencing, check out Maria's Ultimate Guide to Geofencing on the Plot Projects website.

Nowadays, mobile devices are pretty much an extension of our bodies. Where we go our phones go: work, holidays, yoga classes, Friday night drinks. On average, we engage in 76 separate mobile sessions a day which amounts to almost 3 hours a day. All those mobile sessions take place at many different locations. Using this information creates an opportunity for marketers to:

1.     Reach out to customers during those mobile moments

2.     Learn about customers’ behavior in the real world

BUT mobile is also a very personal channel to most people. Therefore, contextual marketing tools, like geofencing, are getting more popular with marketers. 

In this article, we’ll touch upon what geofencing is, how you can use it for marketing, what the difference is with other popular location-based marketing methods, how you determine whether it is right for your business and how to stay on the right side of privacy issues. Once you have read it, you will have a good idea about how useful it can be for you. 

What is geofencing?

Geofencing is a location-based marketing technology. Marketers use this technology to collect information about and target their customers as they enter, leave or stay in specific areas, also known as geofences.

A geofence is a virtual fence around a real geographic location, like a restaurant or an airport. It can be as small as store or as big as a city. Geofences can take different shapes. For more straightforward use cases it could be round. For complex situations, marketers could build polygon shaped geofences.

The general functioning of geofencing is that it uses cellular triangulation, WiFi tower triangulation or GPS to locate a user’s device. Geofencing comes in the form of a software plugin that can be implemented into a mobile app and managed through an online dashboard.

Geofencing requires mobile users to give permission to the app to use their location and to send notifications (in case the app wants to send them).

Using geofencing in marketing

There are 2 ways any marketer in any industry can go about using geofencing, sometimes referred to as active and passive. In the first scenario, marketers actively reach out to customers with notifications at certain locations. The second approach is all about collecting data related to these locations and customer behavior. Let’s look into them in more detail.

Location Based Notifications

Location based notifications are the most well known way to use geofencing. It involves using a geofence to trigger notifications on a mobile device when a customer enters, leaves or stays in a certain area. The use cases for notifications are countless, here some of most popular ones:

○     Sending promotional messages with coupons, discounts, seasonal updates

○     Capturing feedback when customers leave your business, take your flight etc.

○     Giving loyalty points to returning customers only instead of everyone

○     Geo-conquesting competitors locations with deals and luring customers away

Location Data

An up and coming way to use geofencing is monitoring geofences and collecting insights about customers. This involves keeping track of the amount of visits to geofences, how long customers stay there, what type of locations they visit and so on. Here are the most used scenarios:

○     Measuring and attributing foot traffic to online marketing campaigns

○     Building profiles based on location customers visit for enhanced personalization

○     Retargeting customers based on physical visits with ads, email etc.

How does geofencing compare with beacons and geotargeting?

Geofencing, geotargeting and beacons are all used for location based marketing and different providers choose to rely on either one or several of these technologies, but the difference lies in the way they generate location data and their target range.





Data collection




Target Range


(state, zip code)


(store aisle, bus stop)

Medium to large (store, neighborhood)

Real-time targeting




Best for

Browser marketing

Mobile &  app marketing

Mobile & app marketing

Location data collection




Hardware and maintenance





Is geofencing right for your business?

Hopefully by now you’ve grasped what geofencing is and what the benefits and use cases are. But truth is, it’s not right for everyone. Industry, resources, audience are usually the determining factors; so are you the poster child for geofencing or is it just not made for your business? If you can relate to one or a few of the points below, it most likely is for you.

❏     You have an app

❏     You have already an established mobile presence

❏     You have tech resources available to implement technologies like geofencing and beacons

❏     You are a brick-and-mortar business or you have location-relevant content (e.g. travel guide)

❏     You are a business with mobile-centric users

❏     You would like to calculate the effects of your marketing on foot traffic

❏     You are looking for ways to engage with your customers in a more contextual way

Geofencing & Privacy Concerns

Privacy concerns are an important part of the discussion about geofencing. Geofencing relies on location services which naturally brings up customers’ concerns about companies accessing their location and mobile phone data.

From a customer’s perspective, geofencing can be both useful and alarming. As consumers, we want information and offers that are relevant to our personal interests and needs. But it can feel a little scary to think about companies having access to your location.

So here are a few things to guide you when it comes to privacy and geofencing:

○     The power is always with the customer. By default, to be active geofencing requires permission of the customer to share their location data. Customer can as easily revoke this permission at any time later

○     The key to geofencing is being transparent. You need to explain to your customers why you need to access their location. Customers will be more willing to support you if they know how and why your are using their information

○     The rationale behind you accessing and using your customers’ location and mobile phone data is important: it must benefit the customer experience, not just you

○     Provide security to keep customer data safe.

○     Make sure that as an app, you have a privacy policy that communicates all the assurances you deliver to your customers. It needs to be clearly documented and available online

○     Choose your words carefully. When communicating with your customers about location sharing, your choice of words is crucial, it can take all of their concerns away or scare them away

By now you should have a clear idea of whether geofencing is right for you and how to use it. It is a powerful tool for collecting valuable data, providing consumers with highly relevant information and gathering feedback.

If this article inspired you, start thinking about how you can use geofencing today.


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