Up Your Personalization Game With Location-Based Marketing

Todd Grennan By Todd Grennan Apr 6, 2016

Imagine that you’re late for a meeting in a city you’ve never visited before and when you step out of your cab, you realize that you’re not in front of the right building. Where are you? And how do you get from wherever you are to the place you need to be? Twenty years ago, you would have needed to flag down a stranger to ask for directions. But today, things are easier. You just open a map app on your phone, look for the little blue dot that indicates your location, type in the address you’re headed to, and—bam!—you’ve got directions.

That’s transformative. And it’s all made possible by the location-tracking capabilities built into today’s mobile devices.

Location data can be just as transformative for marketers. How? It makes it possible for brands to power a new kind of customized outreach that takes advantage of location-based personalization.

In this piece, we’ll cover:

  • What location-based personalization is
  • How location-based personalization works
  • The benefits of location-based personalization
  • The downsides of location-based personalization
  • How to gather data for location-based personalization
  • And more…

What is location-based personalization?

Location-based personalized message

When a brand adjusts the outreach that they send to their customers based on the current physical location of each recipient, that’s location-based personalization. And the positive impact of this kind of customization can be significant—a study by Appboy (AKA us) found that using personalization in your messages leads to a 27% increase in conversions.

How does location-based personalization work?

Location Targeting

If your brand’s marketing automation platform supports location-based personalization of your outreach, the process is pretty simple. You identify a location that you want to target with customized outreach, create an audience segment made up of all customers who are within that location at the time the campaign is sent, create the message or messages, then send.

What are the benefits of location-based personalization?

By personalizing the campaign based on location, you can reach the members of your audience in a particular place or region without sending the rest of your customers outreach that’s not relevant to them.

What does that look like? Well, imagine that your brand has brick and mortar stores in Chicago that are having a one-day sale on jeans. You create a segment that targets individuals who are currently in Chicago, then send the customers who fall within that segment a push notification highlighting the sale and encouraging them to stop by a participating location.

Location-personalized push notification

The key is relevance. Brands that build durable, long-term relationships with their audience have a major competitive advantage going forward. And one of the best way to establish and maintain that kind of customer/brand relationship is to use your messaging to show your users that you understand their wants and needs and can play a role in satisfying them. Location-based personalization helps you do that by allowing your outreach to reflect the places where each recipient resides and spends time. That makes these messages feel more relevant to the people receiving them and increasing the odds that they find your outreach valuable.

In a world where 78% of people find most push notifications they receive to be irrelevant, that’s a big deal.

How can brands gather location data on their customers?

While there are other ways for brands to collect information on their audience’s whereabouts (including mobile beacons), the location data from customers’ smartphones and tablets is probably the most significant source of this information for marketers. Mobile is intimate by nature, with many people so attached to their devices that they carry them everywhere and even sleep with them. That means that the location information being tracked by each mobile device can give brands a detailed understanding of their customers’ whereabouts and support location-based personalization.

But marketers can only gain access to that data if their customers agree to share it.

Some customers will let you make use of their devices’ location data no questions asked, but you’ll see better results if you explain how enabling location tracking will provide them with real value before making a request. To do that, consider covering the benefits of sharing location during your app’s onboarding process, or sending customers a rich in-app message walking them through how you plan to use the data to provide them with a better experience. (For a more detailed look at how brands can effectively make this kind of pitch, check out our post on priming for push notifications.)

What happens if you don’t know a customer’s location?

Well, nothing. If you send a push notification that includes location-based personalization to your customers in Chicago, it’s going to reach the customers who meet all of the following:

  • Are currently in Chicago,
  • Have shared their location data with your brand,
  • And have opted in for push notifications

If your brand doesn’t have access to location data placing a given customer in Chicago when the campaign goes out, they won’t receive it. It’s as simple as that. The same is true if they have shared location information but don’t fall into the area targeted by the campaign, or if they haven’t enabled push notifications.

Are there any downsides to location-based personalization?

Brands will want to keep an eye on how their use of location-based personalization comes across to customers. Personalization can be a powerful, appealing tool for brands, but it can also be downright creepy if used thoughtlessly.

While many customers have qualms about having their location tracked, it’s not unusual for them to enjoy personalized interactions with brands once they’ve had the experience—in fact, 79% of US shoppers now seek personalized experiences from the companies they buy from.

On the other hand, 74% of people are creeped out by the idea of brands using location-tracking to allow sales representatives to greet visitors by name when they enter a store. That’s significantly different than using location-based personalization in your outreach, but it’s an important reminder that it’s possible to use personalization in ways that rub your customers the wrong way.

As a rule, customers want to feel understood, not monitored. If you’re referencing a customer’s location in a way that makes your messaging more compelling or more valuable to the people receiving it, you’re probably in good shape; if, on the other hand, your messages call attention to the fact that you’re monitoring your customers’ locations without providing significant value, that can feel unsettling and invasive.

Now what?

When you’re taking advantage of location-based personalization, be mindful. Think seriously about the experience that you’re providing your customers. Keep an eye on messaging opt-outs, uninstalls, and other negative KPIs that can indicate that your outreach is missing the mark. And make use of message testing to see if your personalized campaigns are resonating with customers the way you’re hoping before you begin targeting large segments of your audience.

Also, remember that location-based personalization is just one of the many kinds of personalization that brands can use to get more out of their marketing efforts. For more information, check out our blog posts on name-based personalization and personalization based on customer attributes and events.

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Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan is a New York-based writer and editor. When he's not writing about mobile marketing, customer retention and emerging technologies for Braze, you can find him trying to read his way through every Wikipedia article related to World War II.

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