How to Make Geofencing Work for Your Small Business

geofencingnotification

Article was originally published March 18, 2014. Updated for content.

What is a Geofence?

By now, you’ve probably heard of geofencing, or the establishing of a virtual fence around a predefined geographic area. Maybe you’ve even sent a geofenced push notification yourself, but you still have some questions about how the technology works and, more importantly, how to make push notifications work for your business.

Let’s hit the basics first. Say you decide to build an app for your small business with an online app builder. Push notifications are one of the best available app features with the most potential for return on investment—and geofencing takes push notifications even further. When one of your app users enters or exits a geofenced area, a targeted push notification is sent directly to their device. This timely, relevant mobile messaging is great for customer engagement. Users hear about offers or announcements when they’re in the area and able to act on them.

what is a geofence

How is geofencing used?

Many businesses use geofencing to simply send special offers to customers when they walk or drive near a business’s location. But there’s plenty of opportunity for creativity beyond that. For example, real estate agencies can send push notifications to possible buyers when they come near open houses, and bands can send messages to fans when they walk by a concert venue the band will be performing at soon.

But there’s no real limit on location. Coffee shops could trigger geofenced push notifications when users are downtown and in need of some pre-work caffeine. A wedding planner could set up a geofenced push notification around bridal stores and bakeries, offering helpful shopping tips or highlighting the best deals for users. Retail stores could alert users to deals when they’re nearby the local mall.

The possibilities are broad. If you’re creative, geofencing can serve as a phenomenal sales and customer retention tool.

What is the ideal size for a geofenced area?

It’s clear that businesses can set the radius of their main location’s geofence to whatever size they wish, but how big is too big? Well, a citywide radius obviously won’t help much—it lacks the location-based relevance that makes geofencing a great engagement tool. Instead, if your business has a lot of competition, it’s best to focus on your own backyard. Try your neighborhood first. If you’re not generating the attention you want, expand a bit.

geofencing push notifications

 

Other key considerations

Now that we’ve answered the question of exactly “What is Geofencing“, let’s take in other considerations. It is not about bombarding users with messages wherever they go. If you do that, they’ll opt out of your messaging altogether or, worse, uninstall your app. Instead, the customer has to come first. Always consider whether or not you would want to receive your messages as a hypothetical user, and think about the value your program provides.

To accomplish this, don’t think of geofencing as just another way to sell to your audience. Instead, use it as an organic way to connect and add value. You wouldn’t want your favorite companies exploiting every channel to boost sales, but if they pop up every now and then with something timely, relevant, and useful, it can be kind of neat.

Your goal should be to leverage geofencing to improve your customers’ experiences and provide them with benefits. If you can do that, while also driving traffic to your location and activity on your promotions, all the better.

 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March, 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Comments (29)

  • Ghery Mar 18, 2014 at 21:03 PM

    super good feauture!!!is it available now?

  • Steve Mar 19, 2014 at 00:03 AM

    Can you have more than one fence per app? Are there limits. eg: a chain of coffee shops might want one per location? If so can it have unique offers per location?

    • Bizness Apps Mar 19, 2014 at 00:03 AM

      Hey Steve, for now it’s just one fence PER MESSAGE but it’s highly customizable. You could in theory create multiple messages with multiple difference fences, so yes you can. 🙂

      • Steve Mar 19, 2014 at 12:03 PM

        So if you did a “City Guide” app for someone and there were various offers in various places. So you could various fences across the city and a message/promo for each place that was part of it. I am thinking of an app for a customer in London you see who has relationships with various retailers. Q. Can fences overlap?

    • Andrew, CEO at Bizness Apps Feb 20, 2016 at 02:02 AM

      Hey Steve, yes you can set up multiple geo fences for a businses. A good example of this would be a restaurant where you could potentially put geo-fenced push notes around all of their competitors to lure customers over to your restaurant client and away from competitors. Geo fencing is a really power way to use push notifications and bring people back to your business!

  • ralph Jun 03, 2014 at 04:06 AM

    Sorry to say, “A law firm could, if it wished, send a notification to a user when he or she entered a bail bonds office”…… this would be wrong and get the law firm in trouble with the bar! you cannot promote near courts jails or bail bondmen. Ralph

    • Andrew, CEO at Bizness Apps Feb 19, 2016 at 14:02 PM

      You’re right Ralph, this feature can be abused but if used correctly geo fencing can be a powerful marketing tool to bring customers back into your business.

  • Brian Jun 26, 2014 at 22:06 PM

    Is it possible to send push notifications to a group of people. Example a restaurant / bar that specialised in wines and special beers. Could they send a PN to the Wine lovers and a separate PN to the Beer lovers?

  • Adam Jul 10, 2014 at 13:07 PM

    Is this feature up and running yet? If not, any idea of when?

  • brandon Sep 17, 2014 at 21:09 PM

    In order for this to work, you would need users to download “your” app.There is not possible way to alert “smartphone” users entering that specific location? Or is there?

    • Andrew, CEO at Bizness Apps Feb 19, 2016 at 14:02 PM

      Hey Brandon, yes in order for geo fencing to work the user would need to download the app. The main reason for that is the mobile app needs to create a location to enable geo fencing. This cannot be done without their permission and when they download the app, we ask for this permission. Hope this helps clarify things!

  • Paula Jan 15, 2016 at 04:01 AM

    Hi Andrew. I questioned the accuracy of geofencing to your support crew. I understood that the geofence needed to be at least 2 blocks around the business sending out the message, and you needed to be within that zone for approximately 60 seconds before the push note is received. Has this changed? can be now be more specific to the businesses physical location?
    Thanks

    • Jana Barrett Feb 09, 2016 at 16:02 PM

      Hey Paula,

      Good question. Geofence accuracy really depends on the device’s GPS, not so much the geofencing capabilities of the app. I’ll explain a bit more in depth…

      Apple and Google have large restraints on which applications can use GPS data, as it’s a large battery suck for devices. To access GPS on iOS devices, for example, we tap into the core location framework to pick up significant location changes. This means that when an iOS device updates its location, it should in turn send that new location to the app, then to our servers. So, if your device sends its new location to the app and that location falls within a geofenced area while the geofence is active, you should receive the message.

      However, there’s no way to get a location update to fire at a specific time—it’s sent at the discretion of the operating system and device, which are beyond the app’s control. Additionally, what Apple has programmed as a “significant change” is not public information. Some believe that driving in a car may prevent the device’s location from firing as often as walking, for example. When walking, the device’s gyroscope and accelerometers would notice a large amount of movement giving way to a smaller change in location. When driving, this motion would be drastically reduced, potentially preventing the location from updating.

      Long story short, the communication between GPS and app can’t be hacked enough to promise in-store responsiveness, since geofencing depends on your device covering a distance for which most business locations would be far too small. It’s best to use this feature more as a hook for users who are in the neighborhood.

      I hope this helps!

  • Stephanie Hall Feb 09, 2016 at 22:02 PM

    I can’t find any information of utilising non-app geofencing in business is it even possible?

    • Andrew Gazdecki Feb 13, 2017 at 22:02 PM

      Hey Stephanie, you don’t have to use geofencing in business apps, but it’s a really powerful way to send targeted messages to your users once they enter the geo-fenced area.

  • Amit sharma Nov 22, 2016 at 03:11 AM

    hi Andrew
    My name is Amit sharma …iam from india. first of all i congrats and Thanku you for wonderful information about Geofencing ….hi am intersted to buld mobile application with Geofencing Geofence pls i need your guidance and support…..how is possible i want start my own mobile app with this system…..pls guide me thanks and regards..
    Amit sharma
    919463900311

  • Dave Apr 19, 2017 at 05:04 AM

    So what if I don’t have an app or plan to build one? Is there still a way to utilize geo fencing?

    • Kimberly de Silva Apr 19, 2017 at 08:04 AM

      Hi Dave, geo push notifications are only possible through a mobile app, as they use the users mobile information to determine their location. This technology can only be leveraged through mobile.

  • Sylvia Apr 21, 2017 at 11:04 AM

    Hello,
    Am I able to target any one that has an app on their phone that was created through BiznessApps or does it have to be my app specifically?

    • Kimberly de Silva Apr 24, 2017 at 08:04 AM

      Hello Sylvia. You can only send push notifications and messages to people who have downloaded your app. People choose to receive your messages on their phone. I hope this helps!

  • Art Apr 23, 2017 at 10:04 AM

    Please explain how it appears on the smartphone. Does it come as a text message? Or is there a certain type of app the receiver must have on their phone to make getting the message possible? Either way, don’t many people, like me, consider this as intrusive as an unwanted telemarketer call?

    • Kimberly de Silva Apr 24, 2017 at 08:04 AM

      Hi Art, these messages (or push notifications as they are called) are sent to the user’s notification center. When they unlock their phone, it will be stored here and they will be able to read it. People can opt-in or opt-out of push notifications, so it is definitely not as intrusive as a telemarketer. If users choose to receive these notifications, it means they see value in the brand’s messages. And if they downloaded your app, it means they are already interested to a certain degree. I hope this helps!

  • sy Jun 21, 2017 at 21:06 PM

    what is the limitation size of setting a geofence?

    • Kimberly de Silva Jun 23, 2017 at 13:06 PM

      Hi, could you shoot an email into support@biznessapps.com? We are happy to answer all your questions:)

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