Skip to Navigation

Geo-Marketing: Getting Started

As consumers increasingly go mobile, geo-marketing will become an increasingly essential component of your marketing strategy. Not unlike your favourite ice cream, it comes in a variety of flavours that use different technologies (GPS, Bluetooth, IP addresses, etc.) to pinpoint consumer location and deliver more timely, personalized mobile experiences.

What is geo-marketing?

Geo-marketing allows you to send relevant messages to people based on their location. It’s an expansive topic that spans across search, social and mobile, but the key is always customer location – and using customer location to connect online (e.g. their smartphone) to offline (e.g. your brick-and-mortar store) with the right message at the right time.

Knowing where people are can help you greatly improve the context, timing and overall effectiveness of your marketing efforts. It can help you reach customers who are in the immediate vicinity and drive them into your location. It can also help you learn more about your customers’ behaviours – including their interests, preferences and patterns – to help inform your decision-making and make your future marketing more timely and relevant.

 The who’s who of geo-marketing

Here are a few key terms, tools and technologies that apply to geo-marketing:


Geo-targeting is a tool that lets you target a specific audience or demographic based on their location. It’s a carryover from online marketing on the trusty desktop, where a user’s location was determined via IP address to serve location-relevant ads. (For example, a Calgary homebuilder could serve ads to someone in southwest Calgary based on their computer’s IP address.)

Today, geo-targeting is evolving to help you reach mobile customers too. For example, Facebook location awareness ads allow you to reach new customers by showing ads to people who are near your business (for instance, an area covering one kilometre around The Fairmont Banff Springs). People will only see ads if location services are enabled on their phone, but nevertheless, it’s a great tool to reach people in your area.




Geo-fencing is a tool that allows you to get even tighter with your geo-targeting efforts. How exactly? By creating a virtual “fence” (or perimeter) around a specific area (for instance, the city block surrounding your location). Then, when a person enters the area, you show them a mobile ad in their browser (if they’re surfing) or on a mobile app (if they have a compatible mobile app active). You can also send them a relevant push notification (SMS text or in-app).

These push notifications could be a coupon or special offer to pull shoppers into your store. The only catch? In order to send push notifications to consumers, they must first be opted-in to receive communications from you (or subscribed to the network you’re using – e.g. Roger’s Alerts). Or they must have your app (or a third-party app you partner with such as Shopkick) installed.

Geo-Marketing Holt Renfrew



And finally, we have beaconing. While geo-fencing is great for specific areas outside your location, beaconing is ideal for inside your location (for instance, detecting someone who has entered your store) and other more precise targeting efforts. This is because beacons use Bluetooth technology instead of GPS to determine a person’s location and communicate with their mobile device (GPS signals are often blocked indoors).

As far as sending push notifications goes, the consumer must have a compatible app (e.g. your own brand app or a third-party app you partner with like SnipSnap) to receive beacon-triggered messages. However, it’s worth noting that once an app is installed it will “look” for beacons even if the app isn’t running (note: an iPhone will “look”; Android phones require an app running, at least in the background). This means you can still communicate with people even if the app is closed on their phone.     

Geo-Marketing - Macy's Beacon

SCREENSHOT: YouTube / shopkick

Macy’s is using beacon technology to track consumer movements within their store.

In our next article, we’ll dive deeper into geo-fencing and beaconing. We’ll explain these tools in further detail, provide some killer examples and demonstrate how you can start reaching more customers with location-based marketing.

And of course, we’re always happy to answer questions and walk you through in more detail on how geo-marketing can work for you. Just drop us a note here and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.