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A beginner’s guide to geo-location marketing

geo-location-marketingDo you run a bricks and mortar business that’s dependent on local footfall? Are you looking for more ways to capture the interest of potential customers and bring them through your door to buy your products or services?

If so, geo-location marketing and advertising could be exactly what you need. I’ve been working with several clients recently to explore geo-location technology and how it can be used. The potential really is amazing.

Geo-location technology enables you to interact with your customers in real-time at different stages in their buying journey, dependent on their location. It can also help you to understand customer behaviour by providing you with real-time contextual data, usually supplied through GPS satellites.

Location services

Using geo-location technology, it’s possible to present your customers with personalised offers or product suggestions based on their physical location and past buying behaviour. For example, if someone has just purchased a T-shirt from a clothes shop, that retailer could then send them a list of accessories that would go well with their purchase.

You can even run predictive advertising that’s based on a customer’s everyday routine. Imagine, for example, that a person visits their local climbing centre multiple times during the week and spends their weekends at locations known for their fantastic climbing opportunities – if so, a company selling goods for outdoor activities might use this data to show the customer ads about climbing equipment.

Location services can work for other types of businesses too. You could enhance a guest’s stay at your hotel by sending them details of local shows, events and entertainment that still have available tickets during their stay.

Cafes and restaurants are beginning to use geo-location data to enable people to place their order and pay by their phone before they arrive. All that’s left to do is pick up their order or wait for it to be delivered to their table.

Geo-location data also provides an invaluable tool for heritage and tourist sites, providing real-time data about how people are moving through the attractions, where they spend the most time, and any areas where there are bottlenecks or queues that prevent people moving easily through the site.



Beacons are small sensors – often placed throughout retail locations – that can send and receive nearby location data via Bluetooth. You might use beacons inside your store to show virtual ads or product videos to customers when they stand in front of specific displays.

The downside is that customers have to have their Bluetooth switched on to interact with a beacon. The upside of beacons is that they can be used to enhance a shopper’s experience and give plenty of extra product information such as instruction manuals, videos, tutorials and more at the touch of a mobile screen. You can also use beacon data to track foot traffic and how people move around your store.


Geo-fences are a kind of virtual fence that runs around an area, creating a zone within which location-specific adverts and other content can be shown to customers on their mobile phones. It is possible to create a geo-fence that’s as big as a city but, from my research and experience, the most effective geo-fences cover smaller areas such as a specific street or the interior of a designated store.


Similar to geo-fences, geo-lines tend to use technology that is able to further pinpoint a customer’s location. Geo-lines can include a tripwire technology that triggers a specific action on their mobile device when they cross the line.

For example, a local coffee shop could extend their geo line and tripwire to the retailer next door. As a customer is waiting to pay in the neighbouring premises, crossing the trip wire at the till, the coffee shop could send them a text ad saying something along the lines of, “It looks like you’re nearby. Why not take a break and enjoy 20% off your favourite coffee when you order from your phone? Just pick up your order in-store when you’re ready. Offer expires today.”

The aim of an ad like this is to create scarcity with the time-limited offer and encourage potential customers to think that they might as well pop in while it’s convenient and they’re nearby. It also enables retailers to reach the customers of other local businesses.

Local ads

There are several ways to create and use ads by utilising geo location technology. Both Google Ads and Facebook Ads can be highly targeted to specific locations as well as the demographics and behaviour of your audience.

It is also possible to advertise on Google Maps itself to stand out from your local competitors and attract more local foot traffic. Google has recently expanded local advertising options to help you increase your visibility across the Google Display Network, including Google My Business and Google Maps.

Augmented/virtual reality

The recent Pokemon Go craze showed how augmented reality can capture the imaginations of mobile phone users. The game manipulates the physical reality of the players by encouraging them to look for creatures that are only visible through the screens of a mobile device.

Retailers are using this geo location technology to craft virtual experiences around their brand or products. For example, people may be able to explore virtual art exhibits as they move around a venue or see advertising that only comes into view at a particular location.

It’s even possible to use ‘Focal clustering’ technology that not only understands where a person is standing but also where they are looking. With this data, you can change the person’s view of the reality in front of them when they look through the screen of their mobile phone.

Want to experience what it would be like to sit in the front row of a match at your team’s home ground? Now you can. Geo location and augmented reality technology are changing the way that people view sports events, concerts and live performances by giving them the option to view the event from someone else’s perspective in a different seat in the venue. In some cases, all you need to do is point your mobile phone towards the seat you’d like to see from to initiate a change in perspective.

Instant check-ins

Generally speaking, for someone to check-in to a business or location on social media, they have to manually authorise the check-in. Many of us are reluctant to do this, simply because it adds an extra and seemingly unnecessary step to using an app. However, it looks like more and more retail apps will include an ‘instant check-in’ feature where they use geo location data to determine when a customer is in the store. This means customers will no longer have to think about manually checking in.

Armed with automatic check-in information, the hope is that retailers can enhance the in-app purchasing experience with relevant offers and perks, and collect important data about how people are moving through a store.

The buying journey

As we’ve seen above, by using geo location technology it’s possible to target potential customers at every stage in their buying journey. You can track people who walk past your premises and create window displays targeted to your typical demographic, or you can encourage customers in with local time-limited ads and promotions, then show them augmented reality product videos in store, before asking them for feedback post-purchase.

You can even link your physical product inventory to your Google My Business profile to show people whether you have a specific product in stock before they leave home, or send special deals and membership perks to customers based on their location.

And let’s not forget weather-based geo location advertising that lets a café message its customers with an ad that says, “Melting in the summer sun? Why not come in and cool off with a Frappuccino?” or “Warm up on this chilly day with a deliciously comforting hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows”. The possibilities are endless.

Geo location marketing provides some exciting new opportunities to connect with existing and potential customers with content that’s entirely tailored to them. The intelligent and innovative use of location-specific data is immediate, relevant and a great way to cut through the noise of the marketplace to enhance the customer experience.


Have you started using geo location marketing or advertising to promote your business? Have you seen any brands that are using geo location technology to great effect? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.


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