Using Geotargeting to Follow the Consumer from Desktop to Aisle

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As I mentioned in my previous Street Fight column, “All Geotargeting Methods Are Not Created Equal,” the choice of a location-based solution should depend on what message marketers wish to convey to whom and when, along with how much consumer contact and engagement they want.

As consumers continue to demand the ability to shop on their own terms and the local shopping experience becomes even more entrenched in the buying psyche, retailers will need a three-pronged digital strategy with a strong geotargeting component to be competitive:

Web – According to recent research from rich media company Zmags, consumers still strongly prefer purchasing through web and mobile browsers (as opposed to apps). In fact, 87% said they preferred using websites and mobile sites. Though the web is the least local channel, technologies such as IP targeting are giving marketers more and more granularity to hone messages based on location.

Apps – Zmags research also found that before arriving in a store, 81 percent of consumers use smartphones to aid in their shopping. Apps represent a more one-on-one, intermediary channel whereby consumers can get help reviewing items, comparing prices, discovering fleeting deals, and collecting coupons in local stores, assuming they opt in to location-based services.

AisleeMarketer reports that 38% of consumers use smartphones in stores (but not in the specific aisle where desired products are); meanwhile, 44% use them in the actual aisle. While targeting here is somewhat relative, it’s more about users opting in to a proximity network once they’re in the store.

Having a layered geotargeting strategy allows marketers to facilitate engagement at every step of the buying process. Whether shoppers are researching, comparing products, or making a final decision to buy, it’s all about building trust through relationships using a multitouch approach. Geotargeting, when administered strategically, helps consumers realize the value of more local and personalized content as they move down the funnel, opening the way for them to opt in to more location-based services.

The following three-pronged geotargeting strategy represents a real-use scenario for a big-brand sports retailer. The general strategy involves providing users with default city, zip, and postal-code-targeted information at the top of the funnel, for example, on the retail website using IP targeting. This gives users a taste of more relevant, local information, encouraging them to possibly opt in to receive even greater benefits relying on other, more granular targeting methods. Users are generally more willing to opt in for more precise targeting (such as GPS or Wi-Fi triangulation) if they perceive they’ll benefit from the interaction.


For the Web

  • Incorporate a store locator to automatically highlight shops in users’ areas down to a postal-code level.
  • Showcase regional products such as windbreakers for Floridians and ski coats for Coloradans.
  • Run local promotions that encourage shoppers to order online and pick up and return in a store, helping to drive more traffic to brick-and-mortar locations.
  • Prompt users to take advantage of other location-based services for better targeting, offering a “locals-only” discount at a store down the street in exchange for users’ opting in.

Geotargeting Solutions in Play: IP targeting, Wi-Fi triangulation, GPS, location-as-service, user-supplied location information, cookies


For an App

  • Encourage web visitors to download a free app and receive a $5-off coupon for running shoes at a local store.
  • Offer location-based services through the free store app.
  • Identify stores close to users’ general area and provide coupons and daily discounts for overstocked items.
  • Compare prices on sports equipment at other nearby retailers, allowing the sports store to grant a promotion matching the lowest price found.

Geotargeting Solutions in Play: IP targeting, Wi-Fi triangulation, GPS


For the Aisle

  • Promote local retail locations enabled with in-store technology to website visitors and offer a 20% discount on purchases they make using this mobile application.
  • Direct in-store shoppers to specific aisles or departments that have special sales on jerseys tied to the hottest local professional player. (For example, in Atlanta, maybe a given week it would be for shirts related to the Falcons’ Matt Ryan and ones of the Hawks’ Josh Smith the next week)

Geotargeting Solutions in Play: IP targeting, location-based proximity networks, GPS


There’s not a real geolocation technology front-runner in the digital marketing race. The solutions all function together, like the layers of an onion, with IP targeting being the ubiquitous, primary outer layer, Wi-Fi triangulation or GPS being the next layer, and in-store proximity networks being the very valuable innermost layer. Relying on this mentality, stores can incorporate IP targeting to leverage their web presences and identify mobile devices to drive app and in-store technology usage. Additionally, mobile shoppers who don’t opt in to location-based services can still be targeted with local information based on their IP addresses.

It is important to have an interplay between these technologies to ensure retailers reach as many consumers as possible and at different intervals in the buying cycle, thereby moving users down the funnel and straight to the cash register.

Rob Friedman is executive vice president and cofounder of Digital Element, an early pioneer and an active player today in the hyperlocal IP-to-location data industry. Since 1999, Friedman has worked with large networks, websites, video portals, and social networks to deploy effective geotargeting solutions across multiple industries.