May 11 2018

Understanding When to Use Beacons and Geofencing

Because they can significantly enhance the customer experience, beacons and geofencing have become some of the most powerful mobile marketing tools available to businesses today. However, they can be tough to use in ways that are both effective and improve customer trust. Mastering the proper use of each technology, though, will help you take advantage of these new mobile marketing techniques.

What Are Beacons and Geofencing?

Beacons are small sensors that use Bluetooth low energy (or BLE) to detect smartphones and other devices within range. When integrated with a marketing platform, the sensors send push notifications to these devices.

Geofencing works in conjunction with Google Maps and other mapping programs. With these, you create a shape (such as a polygon or a circle) to define a specific geographical area. When customers enter or leave this boundary, geofencing technology sends content to that person’s smart device.

For clarification, these technologies don’t spontaneously send information to the customer’s device. Customers need have location-based services enabled and also need to have opted into the app. They can often do this by downloading an app. Choosing in is both ethically important and helps maintain the customer’s trust.

Indoors vs. Outdoors

These technologies may seem very similar both in underlying technology and implementation. However, you may notice some critical differences, especially concerning indoor or outdoor implementation.

Beacons allow the precise pinpointing of a location. They often have a smaller range than geofencing and are more accurate, which makes them great for indoor applications. For instance, if someone’s walked into a very narrow range, such as the shoe aisle in a department store, a beacon may activate and send a notification.

By contrast, geofencing lets you target broader locations, as well as outdoor areas. A beacon outside may get damaged or stolen, and can only cover a limited range. But geofencing can cover any geographic area (usually with less precision than a beacon), and located indoors or out.

Beacons and geofencing are two of the most exciting developments to emerge in mobile marketing over the last several years. While they may seem very similar on the surface, each technology has critical differences. Knowing how and when to use both will give you an effective way to increase sales by creating exciting new customer experiences.


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