Geofencing is a location-based service that allows applications and other software to trigger a pre-programmed event when an individual enters the designated area.
It is a virtual fence or perimeter of a physical location that can be created both outdoors or indoors using a range of positioning technologies such as WiFi, GPS, RFID, cellular data, geomagnetic and Bluetooth beacons.
As a business owner or marketer, you have to constantly think through innovative ways of driving traffic and making money. Even if your business is sustainable now, technologies and consumerism is continuously changing and so should your business model if you want to survive. This is true regardless of the industry. The idea of geofencing is to bridge the gap between the physical world and the digital world. By optimizing the customer experience with hyper-personalized campaigns, your business can drive more sales and conversion.
How Does Geofencing work?
What technologies you use depends a lot on the use case and where the geofencing will occur specifically. You can technically define them anywhere you want, which is what makes geofencing so versatile and applicable to a variety of industries. For larger, outdoor geofences, you could rely on cellular and WiFi data which gives better battery efficiency than GPS. For smaller, indoor geofences, you’ll need WiFi, Bluetooth or geomagnetic information.
Geofencing works the same way regardless of location: you define a certain area of interest, listen to the phone’s position updates, compare those to that of the geofence, and trigger (or not) a particular event based on the position. GPS, cellular and WiFi data are available from Google and Apple databases (called native positioning) which means you don’t have to do any mapping yourself.
How to Use Geofencing?
Geofencing has been used for a long time but is recently making headways in many different ways:
- Social Networking – Find My Friends and Snapchat utilize it.
- Marketing – retailers have often used geofencing to deliver in-store or near-store promotions and deals but other industries are tapping into geofencing for various marketing initiatives.
- Audience Engagement – whether it’s a massive festival or a small conference, geofencing can engage crowds in a variety of ways.
- Smart Appliances – The Internet of Things is booming to incredible heights, and the connection of devices coupled with geofencing can make the most forgetful task an easy reminder. For example, you can get an alert sent to your phone if you are near a grocery store and your smart refrigerator identifies you’re out of milk. Or you can program your lights to turn on as soon as you are entering your home.
- Human Resources – Geofencing can be used both for internal management as well as external recruiting. For existing employees, companies that have many off-site locations such as construction work can set perimeters to track when employees come to work and when they leave. For external hires, HR can send ads to a group of prospective hires when they enter a certain identified area.
- Telematics – road safety, productivity, governance compliance, fleet optimization and tracking.
- Security – Although it might seem invasive, geofencing can actually heighten security. For example, you can program your computer to automatically lock as soon as you leave your house or have your home security system turn on as soon as you get home in the evening. You can also track your family and friends to ensure their safety.
- Personal – using “if this, then that” commands, end-users can program applications to set reminders for location-based tasks such as picking up the dry cleaners or getting certain files/documents from work.
- Analytics – what data you collect with depends on your specific industry but in any circumstance, geofencing provides an insurmountable amount of data for insights
The above are just some examples of use cases, but the ways in which you can use geofencing is really only limited by your imagination. In general, there are 5 main things you can do when a subject enters a geofence:
- Send a push notification
- Display visual content and media in an app
- Gather analytics in the background
- Verify entry/exit
- Trigger something in a 3rd party API
A geofence can also be set up by end-users in certain mobile apps for personal matters in “if this, then that” commands. These apps are programmed to trigger an action based on another action. For example, “if I’m five feet away from pulling into the driveway, then turn on the lights and set off the alarm.”
The wide range of applications utilizing geofencing has improved everything from personal to-do lists to enterprise security management and everything in between.
What Does it Require?
Depending on how exactly you set up your geofence there could be various software and hardware components. Most geofencing campaigns involve a mobile application in which the users have installed on their mobile phone. With that, users are prompted to accept location permission sharing.
The Benefits of Geofencing
For marketers, geofencing casts an assortment of opportunities for hyper-targeted, personalized location-based marketing to:
- Enhance local sales
- Increase analytics and tools for metric analysis
- Provide personalization for customers
How Law Firms Can Use Geofencing
In regards to marketing, law firms can utilize geofencing to target individuals who may need legal assistance based on their current situation. For example, if you’re a personal injury lawyer, you can set up geofences around hospitals and advertise to those injured in the chance they’ll need a personal injury attorney.
If you’re a criminal defense attorney, you can set up geofences around a jail and target those that have been released on bail or from the drunk tank who may need legal representation. You can even target family and friends leaving nursing homes with information regarding elder abuse and signs to look out for. The opportunities are infinite. As a law firm, you should think through the entire journey and ecosystem your target audience goes through and find pockets in which you can target them at.
The whole concept of combining personalization with geofencing is a fantastic strategy for customer acquisition, retention, and loyalty. Law firms specifically can take it a step further and provide improved security measures and customer service, which is a profitable strategy.
Things to Consider
Before you start building your own geofence application, it’s important you take into consideration a few essential items.
Indoor Setup – if you plan on using geofences indoor, such as at retail shops, you’ll need to conduct additional preparatory work as you will only be able to map out fences using WiFi or geomagnetic or have Bluetooth beacons installed.
Background Functionality – most people do not walk around with their phone screens and applications open and running all the time. You’ll want to make sure your mobile app has a geofencing function running in the background. The background functionality differs with Android and iOS.
Size – there is no limit to how big a geofence can be. It can be as big as an entire country, city or neighborhood. The minimum size depends mostly on the technology you use. If you are using native positioning, you should not go under a 5-meter radius as you’ll run into issues with unstable triggering. If you are setting up a geofence inside with beacons, you can go as low as 2 meters. The general rule is to keep a 4 to 5-minute travel radius, whether that’s walking in a large metropolitan city or driving in suburban areas. You’ll definitely need to determine the size you need as it pertains to your goal and campaign.
Shape – a standard geofence is circular in shape. If your geofence isn’t captured in a circular area, you can create a polygon shape so long as you have experienced developers who can manipulate the code and build out advanced algorithms to set up such configuration. Because detecting polygonal geofences is much heavier, it will not be as fast or reliable as with circular shapes.
Scale – if you are hard-coding geofences into an Android or iOS app, the maximum amount of geofences or regions an app can detect is 100 and 20 respectively. If you are running a small campaign requiring no more than 100 geofences in a single contained area, an in-house app may be sufficient. Anything above 100 will present scaling problems. As a solution, you can use an external geofencing platform capable of going over the limit.
Battery Consumption – battery consumption will, inevitably, increase when using location services. When you are building your application, make sure to consider the background functionality as well as the overall battery consumption needed to run your app successfully. With a well-designed positioning stack, you can optimize the use for your customers.
Accuracy – you’ll need to start with a latitude and longitude point for each area of interest you would like to fence off. Keeping up with the exact location coordinates can be extremely strenuous work. Depending on what addresses you need, you may have challenges in obtaining the correct lat/long points. If you don’t have an internal database of locations to pull from quickly, you may have to license locations from 3rd party databases who specialize in keeping business addresses up to date. Additionally, depending on how you build your app, you may rely on WiFi signals of MAC addresses and develop an algorithm in conjunction with machine learning to identify the proper points those signals belong to.
Respect Privacy – as mentioned above, mobile applications require a users permission but more often than not, people very briefly scan over them. You can provide additional transparency with your mobile customers in acknowledging you have access to their information and give them the confidence that this information is used for a more enjoyable experience and to ultimately benefit them in the long haul. In that same vein, whatever content you push onto your audience, make sure it’s of relevance and value. The last thing you want is to annoy your users enough they’ll want to delete your app.
Targeting Techniques – from context targeting to day-part targeting to retargeting and everything in between, there are various types of targeting methods you can achieve with geofencing. Make sure to bake the multiple processes in your overall strategy as each option lets you customize and focus on a hyper-specific level.
Know Customer Demographics and Insights – as with all campaigns, before you begin any marketing initiative, you must understand your customer demographics and ideal customer persona. Doing so ensures the campaigns driving your promotions are the most effective ones to get you the successful results you are aiming for.
Call to Action – whatever content or advertising you are pushing to your audience, make sure the call to action is clear and elicits an immediate response. The goal of geolocation targeting is to get people to a specific location immediately and take action.
With the widespread adoption of smartphones, millions of individuals have GPS/WiFi/Bluetooth in their pocket, creating an incredibly cheap and ubiquitous platform for marketers. What used to be a very costly practice limited to large corporations or commercial verticals, is now free for developers to utilize in consumer applications. As a result, geofencing capabilities have been available in every facet of every industry. Additionally, because geofencing is dynamic, marketers and business owners can use data to tweak your configuration settings for optimal advertising. For instance, you may want to have a smaller geofence during the busier times of the day but expand your zone in the slower times to grow your reach.
Location-based advertising allows marketers to send hyper-personalized messages at the right time in the right place and geofencing is positioned to be the tool used to do so. The geofencing industry is expected to grow by over 27% by 2022. With a nearly 2X industry average CTR performance, geotargeting is going to be the game changer for businesses of all sorts in the future.