The Ins-and-Outs of Priming for Location

Location data can take your marketing to the next level, but you need permission to use it first

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Location marketing services have been one of the most revolutionary advances since the dawn of smartphones only eleven short years ago. Once upon a time, knowing your customers’ locations meant having the magical ability to send them a flyer at their home address through the postal service.

Now, thanks to GPS and Bluetooth, you can enhance your user’s experience of your service and product while beefing up your own knowledge of how, when, and where they need you. For example, you can set up customer notifications to be triggered by someone’s physical movements (as they approach your store, for example), and at the same time, you can collect data that puts users’ movements into context in order to help you better understand their interests and priorities. With a deeper understanding of customer interests and priorities, you can segment your audience ever more precisely based on needs and desires.

But here’s the catch: You can’t do any of that if your app’s users don’t agree to share their location information. And the best way to get users to agree to share location? Priming.

First of all, what’s “priming” and how it different than “asking”?

Eventually, you will just ask. In one form or another, you’ll say, “May we please use your location data to serve you more relevant marketing communications?” At which point, they’ll accept your proposal or not. Priming is what comes before the ask.

Priming versus shooting straight to the ask is like the difference between cold calling to drum up new business and appealing to existing customers for repeat business. Obviously the latter has been proven to be more effective, and to generally work better. Priming warms the customer up. It’s how you get your audience ready to respond.

Why should users opt-in to share location data?

Users cite privacy concerns and conserving battery as the chief reasons for keeping location services off. Some users also share that they don’t see the value of keeping it turned on. A relatively small percentage of users turn off location data with avoiding advertising as the primary intention.

To the contrary, a large percentage of users enjoy receiving location-specific app content, enjoy receiving timely offers and coupons, and expect and prefer personalized communications.

So, that’s the equation. If you can convince your users that their privacy won’t be compromised, and that the battery purge won’t happen (or at least that it would be worth it). And if you can likewise convince them that they’ll receive all sorts of goodies like timely, personalized content,then you’re well on your way to top-notch location priming—and hopefully the opt-ins to prove it.

How to prime for location

We’ve already discussed how to prime your audience to accept push notifications. Push and location services are similarly lauded and reviledthey’re convenient, but can feel sketchy! They afford for cooler services, but they can be invasive! Priming for location is not altogether dissimilar to priming for push. So let’s have a look at lessons learned from push and apply them to location.

1. Wait patiently for context

Don’t ask for opt-in before the user has had a chance to explore the app. That would be invasive. They don’t even know you. Why would they want to open themselves up to you in that way? You haven’t proven your worth.

So, wait until the user tries to do something that requires location information, or that would be way cooler if you had access to their location information, and ask then, in the moment. Provide evidence, right then, as to why it would be greater for everyone if they’d turn location on right now.

2. Assuage concerns

If battery and privacy issues are the main concerns for users regarding location data access, assure your users that these issues are actually non-issues, or that you’re worth the perceived risk.

BLE enabled devices, for example, will barely see any movement in battery life with Bluetooth turned on. If your location based services require Bluetooth, it could help to assure the customer that your service won’t drain their battery.

Likewise, assure your users that your location based services use their location only for whatever it is you plan to use it for, and that your network is secure.

3. Provide simple explanations and clear instructions

Once you’ve demonstrated your worth, explained the value proposition, and addressed concerns, explain how it’s done. The user might not know. Use just a few quick words to get the idea across. Make it as simple as possible.

4. Leave the door open

No matter what you do, the user may say no. That’s their right. Maybe they don’t want to play the game part of your app, or whatever it is you need location for.

The challenge is that once a user tells the app not to allow access to location information, changing that setting becomes more complicated—opt-in at a later date (if they change their mind) becomes less likely.

You can save your customers (and yourself) the hassle by creating a custom opt-in prompt for use down the line. Saying yes triggers the generic prompt (this does mean they’ll have to say yes twice). Since the real, generic prompt never even launches, the app doesn’t know the customer said no, freeing you to ask the question again.

Know the value of location data, communicate that clearly, and use it consciously

Location marketing is a win/win, and if you can paint this picture for the user, they’re likely to say yes to your missive. Anything that allows you to better understand and communicate with your customers makes your efforts more effective.

Priming for push is simply laying the groundwork for the ask.

Once you have that permission, use location services ethically and cleanly. If a user says yes, it’s a gesture of trust. Use it wisely.


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