15 Ways Geolocation Is Totally Changing Marketing

February 6, 2017, 7:00 PM UTC
A man uses a GPS app on a smartphone during a Google promotion event at the City of Fashion and Design (Cite de la mode et du design) in Paris on November 4, 2014. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Geolocation is the next buzzword in marketing.

As brands discover the power of GPS-fueled augmented reality (think Pokémon Go), they’re finding new ways to reach customers. For them, it’s meaningful not only to know not only where a consumer is, but also where that consumer’s attention is, and technology is making that possible.

“Every advertiser has an understanding of where consumers are located through their devices translated as specific GPS coordinates,” says Jim Kovach, vice president of business development at CrowdOptic, an augmented reality technology firm that has worked with L’Oreal, Sony and IMG.

Kovach sat down with me to talk about trends to watch as geolocation sweeps marketing and advertising. Here are 15 trends to watch.

1. Augmented reality events

Augmented reality, the technology behind the wildly successful Pokémon Go game, relies on geolocation to manipulate physical reality with tech-discoverable easter eggs. Using the same technology, advertisers can craft virtual experiences around a brand or product.

“L’Oreal was an early adopter of augmented reality events, and we’re going to see more of this in 2017,” Kovach says. Using CrowdOptic technology, L’Oreal created a virtual art exhibit. Thanks to advanced geolocation technology, exhibit attendees used their mobile devices to uncover works of art that appeared onscreen, as if they were physically present.

2. Augmented advertising

Pushing the limits of advertising, augmented reality technology can be used to enhance a viewer’s experience when an ad comes into view at a particular event. Kovach says that an augmented reality ad “can instantly ‘come alive’ in the user’s view, giving them more information than previously possible with static advertisements.”

3. Focal clustering

Advertisers are vying to know which ads are attracting attention, why, and the types of consumers they draw. Focal clustering can provide that information in more detail than ever before. Marketers, using advanced geolocation data captured by mobile devices or wearable technology, can identify so much more than the physical location of the consumer. Focal clustering illuminates where the consumer is looking.

Focal clustering is meaningful because it allows event planners, for instance, to tailor events specifically to consumer desires in future visits.

4. Location-based offers will transform with predictive analysis

While location-based offers are nothing new, artificial intelligence and predictive analysis will take offer personalization to another level.

“Marketers can provide just-in-time, context aware offers to anyone with a smartphone,” says Tarun Gangwani, CEO of Grok, a tech company that leverages artificial intelligence to increase business productivity. “Predictive analytics algorithms can be used to forecast a user’s location, sending an offer before a user leaves the house, or during the week based on their routine.”

These same algorithms can be used to send offers based on overall trends of a user — a running application can use AI to analyze a customer’s location history to suggest a sponsored offer for hiking boots if they tend to visit areas with rough terrain. Information about behavioral patterns will allow advertisers to forecast a consumer’s location and serve meaningful deals based on routine.

5. New viewing experiences for the consumer

CrowdOptic’s technology also allows users to gain multiple perspectives at live events. People can, for example, aim their viewing device at a different vantage point at a sporting event, and receive that location’s perspective, allowing them to control their viewing experience in ways never before possible.

This gives audiences an incentive to return to the venue and, have their own highly-personalized Jumbotron at their fingertips.

6. Using geolocation in e-commerce will drive traffic to brick-and-mortar stores

Physical retailers are vying to stay competitive amidst the threat of e-commerce, and using
geolocation can help drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar storefronts.

“Right now, there’s a disconnect between physical retail inventory and digital retail inventory,” says Joseph Nejman, founder and CEO of ShareRails, a firm specializing in online to offline technology. “By making the inventory of physical retail locations available online, shoppers can conduct a simple Google search to find merchandise they’re likely to purchase in-store, and then be directed to the local retailers that have their items in stock.”

7. Digital influencers will be activated based on location

To date, most large-scale influencer marketing efforts have happened on a national level, which makes it difficult for local retailers to reap the word-of-mouth benefits offered by the relatively new marketing discipline.

Using geolocation will allow advertisers to seamlessly activate local influencers, enabling them to align with social media personalities that are likely to inspire action in local audiences.

8. Beacons will become commonplace

Beacons, which are small sensors placed throughout retail locations, can provide outlets with a detailed picture of how customers shop by tracking to tracking things such as foot traffic.

Retailers can use beacons to better understand precisely where a customer is located within the store at any given moment, enabling advertisers to push timely messages and offers to customers and providing invaluable data about that customer’s behavior.

9. Event marketing will improve

Anyone with experience in event marketing will tell you that getting people to attend events is much harder than it looks.

Expect to see more businesses using geolocation, such as with targeted Facebook ads, informing customers when nearby locations are having special events, and offering deals to get them through the doors.

10. Time-limit local marketing to drive sales

Expect to see business attract local customers through time-limit marketing. Local companies providing special coupons that are only available for a small window of time will become increasingly frequent in the next year.

11. Drone-based trend monitoring

In tandem with other organizations, CrowdOptic has already used its technology for understanding trends in crowd focus in drones through experimental work with the government. That technology can also be applied to see how customers move and shop in large areas to better manage space and to target specific types of ads to them.

12. Incentivizing data collection

Brands have long-since recognized how useful customer shopping data can be in all aspects of marketing, but customers will not always give privacy away easily. Using special deals and membership perks in conjunction with geolocation data will allow companies to more easily collect data from customers locally. Think of it as the updated version of those customer rewards cards most grocery stores have, filled with juicy metadata.

13. Instant check-in
We’ve already established that check-ins are an extremely useful marketing tool. But customers are reluctant to do so, because it adds an extra step to their experience.

More and more local businesses and business branches will begin incorporating instant check-in to their in-app purchasing experience, gaining valuable data on customer spending habits.

14. Geofencing

Geofencing creates a zone around a business for advertisement targeting. For example, a customer can be reading an article on their phone in the check-out line at a business, and see a specifically-targeted ad for the business next door, because they are within their Geofenced zone. The rewards for this type of advertising are clear, and easy to set up.

15. Weather-based geolocation advertising

Brands will use weather data to advertise specific products and services to customers based on the weather they’re experiencing: “Sunny day? Why not come in and cool off with an iced tea, or come to our store for sunscreen and a hat” or “Snowy outside? We’re offering a deal on tire

Since advertisements began printing, businesses have sought to reach customers as personally and immediately as possible. With tools like the ones outlined above, companies will make the customer experience more individualized and instant than ever before. Is your company ready?