Is Geofencing Losing its Creepiness?

NEW YORK – Geofencing was a hot topic Monday at the Mobile Shopping Fall conference. The tactic involves marketing to an opted-in mobile customer via SMS messaging based on the customer’s proximity to a certain location.

Most geofencing takes place in that particular merchant’s store. But technically, a merchant can geofence someone who is standing in another merchant’s store.

But is geofencing creepy, dirty pool, or smart marketing?

“It’s fantastically effective for us, and it’s a big traffic driver,” Mark Parrish, vice president of loyalty and retention for Barnes & Noble, said during a session.

He says they can offer coupons and discounts via geofencing and drive 1,000 customers to its stores. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but Parrish says that’s 1,000 customers who may have just walked on by.

Geofencing is location-based. A merchant cannot reach an opt-in customer via geofencing unless his phone is turned on and the GPS is active. In some cases, a consumer must make a credit card purchase before the geofencing takes place.

Parrish said geofencing can be considered creepy. But he added that it’s something today’s teens and 20-something seem to expect from marketers.

Case in point: When a consumer turns on an Android for the first time, he is told straight up that Google is going to track his every move. And Parrish said the consumer does not complain about having to opt in to use the device.

If a customer is at Macy’s, and there is a Sears in a mall, Sears could hypothetically geofence a customer while he is standing at a checkout at Macy’s, said Jim McDonnell, marketing manager for digital media and emerging channels for Papa John’s.

“I don’t call geofencing creepy, I call it really, really, really, really good customer service,” McDonnell said.

What do you think about Geofencing? Creepy, or smart marketing? Leave a comment below.

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