How to Leverage Geolocation for Your Mobile App

By David 'DJ' Oragui / 29 August 2018

Find out what geolocation marketing is all about, and how you can use it to increase customer engagement, strengthen your brand, and market your mobile app.

Geolocation has recently become quite the buzzword in the mobile marketing industry.

With location-enabled smartphones in nearly every one’s hand or pocket these days, geolocation marketing makes it possible for brands to send just the right messages to the right people at exactly the right time and place.

This article will help you understand what exactly geolocation marketing is, and how you can use it to market your app, increase customer engagement, and strengthen your brand.

We will cover:

  • What is Geolocation?
  • How to Leverage Geolocation to Market Your App
  • The Future of Geolocation Marketing

What is Geolocation?

In its most basic sense, geolocation is the technology that helps identify the physical location of a device. A device’s location data can be accessed through different ways, such as IP address, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and more.

Geolocation is famously known for its use in navigation apps, for example. But it has greater uses.

Geolocation marketing, also known as location-based marketing, is the concept of leveraging the location data of your customers (obtained through their devices) for various marketing purposes, such as sending out targeted messages.

How to Leverage Geolocation to Market Your App

Where are my customers right now? For marketers, this question is more important than ever in today’s mobile-focused era.


Because even when they are on the go, customers are constantly on the lookout for relevant messages that meet their constantly changing needs and wants.

For example, a person who lives in a rainy area is more likely to be in need of an umbrella than a person located somewhere where it hardly rains at all.

Similarly, more people are likely to crave ice-cream when it’s hot outside than in cold weather.

Where you are at any given time makes a big difference in what you find relevant. That’s where geolocation comes in handy.

Here are 6 ways you can leverage geolocation to market your mobile app:

  • Geotargeting
  • Geofencing
  • Geo-conquesting
  • Beacons
  • Weather-based Advertising
  • Predictive Analytics

1. Geotargeting

Segmenting users based on their location data, and then sending out targeted messages within that segment is known as geotargeting.

Geotargeting graphic

For example, you can choose to send out personalized push notifications or ads to only females aged between 20-30 years located in New York. Only users who meet your specific criteria will see the messages.

Geotargeting typically involves leveraging location data through IP addresses. Because it can be difficult to target specific neighborhoods and areas through IP addresses, geotargeting is better suited for targeting broader geographic locations, such as an entire city or country.

Facebook is one of the best examples of geotargeting. The next time you open the social media app, take a closer look at the ads you see.

Facebook ad carousel

Most, if not all, of the ads you see belong to businesses located in your city or country. It’s highly unlikely you’ll come across an ad from a business in Singapore if you’re browsing from Canada.

That’s because Facebook uses your location to show you ads that are relevant to where you are.

2. Geofencing

Although geofencing is a term often confused and used interchangeably with geotargeting, it’s an entirely different concept. Unlike geotargeting, geofencing sends out messages to every user located within a certain virtual boundary, or ‘fence’.

Geofencing graphic

Geofencing essentially relies on a GPS to collect data, which makes it more accurate and allows brands to target customers on the go.

For example, you can choose to send out push notifications about discounts or deals to anyone who enters a 20-mile radius around your store.

Sephora uses geofencing to send out push notifications to remind users to drop in when they’re near a store:

Sephora push notification

A simple gift card reminder can not only help Sephora increase customer engagement with their app, but can lure people in-store to make a purchase.

Uber also uses geofencing to attract users by sending them push notifications at just the right time:

Uber push notification

You can also use geofencing to send out emails or notifications about an event nearby. Getting people to show up at events can be a tricky business, but geofencing can help you generate more footfall.

3. Geo-conquesting

Similar to geofencing, geo-conquesting involves placing virtual ‘fences’ near your competitors instead of around your own location.

When a customer is near your competitor, geo-conquesting lets you send out attractive notifications or ads to direct them towards your own store instead.

This technique has proven to work wonders in ‘stealing’ traffic from competitors.

Dunkin’ Donuts stole a big chunk of traffic from Starbucks and saw a 3.6% redemption rate by launching a geofenced mobile coupon campaign.

The campaign was essentially targeted at people who liked Dunkin’ Donuts, but chose to visit Starbucks instead simply because it was nearer to their daily commute. A simple discount proved enough to incentivize them to make the extra effort and go for Dunkin’ Donuts instead.

Another popular example of geo-conquesting was Meat Pack’s ‘Hijack’ campaign. The departmental store in Guatemala sold multiple sneaker brands, including Nike and Adidas.

Each time a customer was near an official stores of any of the brands Meat Pack carried, they got sent a ‘countdown discount’ for the same brand through Meat Pack’s mobile app:

Meat Pack discount

The discount started at 99% and decreased by 1 percent each second, so customers had to rush as fast as possible to Meat Pack to get a great price. This technique hijacked more than 600 customers from the official stores.

Moreover, every time a customer managed to redeem a discount, their Facebook status was updated to showcase their achievement, which helped promote the campaign even further.

4. Beacons

Beacons are small, physical devices placed at certain locations, such as inside a supermarket, which can connect to user devices within the range through Bluetooth technology.

The good thing about these little devices is they can work perfectly well offline. Secondly, you can track movement down to a granular level, and send out individualized messages to customers as they roam inside your store.

Macy’s implemented beacons in all of its stores throughout the US:

Macy's beacon graphic

These beacons enhanced customer’s shopping experiences by sending out reminders, promotions, deals, and offers throughout their in-store journey. This was a great way to increase customer engagement with their app and encourage purchases.

The problem with beacons is they can only connect to Bluetooth-enabled devices. This means if some people don’t have Bluetooth switched on when they are within the range of a beacon, they won’t be able to receive any targeted messages.

Macy’s countered this problem by reminding customers to switch on their Bluetooth and download their app to take advantage of specials deals and discounts. They also showed people a video to teach them how it was supposed to work.

Another disadvantage of beacons is that since they are physical devices, installing them in public places requires constant monitoring and maintenance to ensure they are working properly.

5. Weather-based Advertising

Geolocation technology also offers brands the advantage of tailoring their ads according to the weather their users are experiencing.

The environment around us has a strong impact on our demands at any given point in time. Cold weather is all about warm clothes, socks, and hot coffee. Can you say the same about a sweltering hot, sunny day? Of course not.

In 2013, Pantene partnered with The Weather Channel to regain its market share and rescue declining sales. The brand worked on a metro-targeted ad campaign with a focus on solving weather-related hair problems.

The brand identified key meteorological factors that triggered hair problems, such as high humidity and heat. Then, it served targeted ads on pages that forecasted those problematic weather conditions, along with offering discounts and directions to the nearest stores.

As a result, Pantene saw a 28% increase in sales, along with over 600,000 social media impressions.

6. Predictive Analytics

Geolocation makes it possible for brands to take targeted ads to a whole new level.

Instead of targeting based on a user’s current location, brands can also leverage historical location data and track customer behavior to discover patterns and predict certain actions to deliver tailored ads at times when they have the most impact.

For example, if you find out from a customer’s past location data that they frequent a shoe store at least once a month, you can send out a targeted ad offering a discount on shoes at just the right time.

McDonald’s used this geolocation strategy to target Chicago’s football fans:

McDonald's geolocation strategy

The fast food chain sent out promotional offers and deals to customers they predicted would be at the game, which helped them connect to their customers on a more personal level.

Geolocation: The Future of Mobile Marketing

The world is getting chopped into smaller chunks by the second, and keeping relevant is key to standing out of the crowd. Geolocation marketing makes this possible by narrowing things down to a granular level, making individualized experiences easier to offer and implement.

The future of geolocation marketing is clear. As the world goes mobile, it is more important than ever to connect to customers on the move.

The key is to realize that even when customers are on the go, they are still open to receiving messages relevant to them. Brands should seek to integrate seamlessly into their journey, instead of pestering them with ads or coming across as a stalker.

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