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Geofencing is the technology that allows apps to track a user’s location. The benefits of geofencing are the main reason why it is still around for more than a decade. These days, this technology is more widely used than ever.
But one may wonder why location-based marketing strategies such as geofencing are becoming more and more prevalent.
The statistics show that approximately 92 percent of smartphones are geofencing compatible, a huge leap from what we had a decade ago. So what is the value of geofencing capabilities?
Well, research has shown that 53 percent of shoppers that received a retailer’s location-based message ended up visiting that retailer.
As such, with such strong evidence of the effectiveness of location-based marketing strategies, many apps are now using geofencing marketing to send personalized text messages, push notifications, and targeted advertisements whenever a user enters a certain area code.
While this might not seem sinister to most people, apps that use geofencing collect personal data about a customer’s location and use it to their advantage.
No one knows where the line is drawn concerning geofencing marketing and user privacy. This is because the same technology has been used to track potential suspects of crimes, and in the wrong hands, it can be used to track virtually anyone.
Did you know some geofencing apps already use it to track you without your consent or knowledge?
No matter what your stance is regarding online privacy, it’s good to be well-informed about geofencing marketing and how it’s used to track you.
To help you better understand the benefits of geofencing and how it’s used, we’ve broken it down for you below.
Table of Contents
Geofencing is a location-specific capability of apps that uses GPS, nearby Wi-Fi, cellular data, and radio frequency identification (RFID) to pinpoint a user’s geographical location.
It allows apps to accurately track a person’s location and send them personalized prompts about what is available in the area.
Geofencing breaks up an area into different quadrants, all with virtual boundaries. All the boundaries of any given quadrant are called geofences.
So what makes geofencing an exciting feature for many? Consider the main benefits below:
Geofences are set up when an app is being developed, and they make use of the location tracking capabilities of a phone. It can also trigger mobile alerts based on one’s whereabouts.
The developer sets up a virtual geographic boundary around any area and turns them into a geofence. The size of the area does not matter. It can be as small as a department store or the size of an entire mall.
Whenever an app user enters or exits a geofence, it makes the app perform a preset action.
Some people have had concerns about how apps use the location-based marketing data that they collect. Many feel like it’s an invasion of privacy, and in 2017 Massachusetts enacted a user privacy law that blocked location-based marketing.
By tracking where you are, geofencing marketing apps can inadvertently collect personal information about you as they record the places you visit.
For example, if you visit a cancer center more often, apps can interpret this and know that you or a loved one have cancer.
The reach of geofencing campaigns is widely expanding, and law enforcement has started to use it as part of their investigations.
These are search warrants that are court-issued to allow law enforcement to track people within a particular area.
Companies that have access to many users’ data, such as Google, are compelled to provide the required information.
Law enforcement has been increasingly relying on these warrants to locate potential suspects. Google reported that since the inception of these warrants in 2016, there’d been a significant increase in warrants they receive yearly.
Number of Google Warrants Received
The problem with these is that they are not limited to one person’s location. If there is a burglary in a particular area, law enforcement can get the names of all the people that were close to that area at the time.
This has resulted in the wrong people being accused of crimes just because their accounts were logged in on a phone close to the crime scene.
Geofencing is not only used by law enforcement. Below we will discuss how businesses have been using it.
Geofencing has a wide variety of uses as companies are becoming more innovative about how they use it. Many companies have used geofencing marketing to improve their apps’ user experience.
Recently, Burger King used its app users’ location for the Whopper Detour Campaign. If an app user was within 600 feet of any McDonald’s food outlet, they could unlock a promo code that they were able to use to get a discounted meal at the nearest Burger King store.
Over 14,000 McDonald’s outlets were geofenced for this campaign and this resulted in over 3 million people downloading the Burger King App to be eligible for the promo.
As a result of this, Burger King managed to get more people to use their app which increased their profits.
Other companies have used geofencing marketing to reach out to potential customers and gauge customer engagement. Unfortunately, some of these attempts were a lot less savory.
A good example is when Copley Advertising was hired by a pro-life organization to set up geofences around abortion clinics and send anti-abortion ads to the women that would visit those clinics.
The Attorney General blocked this, but it shows how companies can use your location to know what you are doing and invade your privacy.
Geofences are widely used in shopping centers by different retailers. Stores use geofences to track when a customer is close to the store. When the customer walks through the door, they’re greeted by name, making them feel more special.
A merchant can track which of their customers are close to a store and start an online conversation with them through the retailer’s mobile app. This then leads to the customer visiting the store, driving them to perform a targeted marketing action.
This might seem like a pro, but can you imagine what it would be like to receive a personalized prompt from every shop in a mall? That would ruin your time at the mall, and you’d quickly get tired of receiving all those prompts.
Unfortunately, the ability to individually opt out of geofencing is restricted by your local privacy laws and who set up a particular geofence.
Many apps come with the geofencing marketing feature already enabled. To opt out, you need to switch geofencing off manually. You can go to your app settings and switch off location services or only allow location tracking when using the app.
Alternatively, you can download a VPN for your phone. This software will mask your whereabouts and make it harder for apps to track you.
However, some geofences are intricately involved in how your phone works (like Google Geofences on Android phones), which are hard to opt out of.
Instead, you can use tech that stops apps from being able to track location services whenever you want to go somewhere that you’d rather not be tracked.
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Geofencing allows advertisers to detect when a person enters a specific region so that they can receive a targeted ad or app notification. Geofencing has also been used to do the following:
Yes, geofencing can still work even if there’s no active connection to the internet. Instead of using an internet connection to track your whereabouts, apps can use GPS to locate you and send you targeted social media ads.
Geofencing allows apps to collect user information. This makes it easy for app developers to obtain personal details without permission and misuse it.
There’s no specific law that stipulates what apps that use geofencing can do with the data that they collect and this leaves users open to a possible invasion of privacy.