Geolocation: the next generation of customer engagement


Geolocation solutions could soon reshape the traditional consumer/retailer relationship and become the next key differentiator in retail.

The explosion in popularity of mobile devices and a continually constrained economy have pushed retailers to re-examine their processes of customer engagement, better aligning them to suit the growing demand of omni-channel.

If not doing it already, retailers will need to take an advanced approach to engagement, implementing solutions such as non-intrusive IP location to capture increasing amounts of data, breaking down the customer journey and filling in the knowledge gaps that give retailers sleepless nights.

Knowing where a customer shops when not in your store or how much they’re spending with competitors has always been a difficult problem to solve. In fact, just being able to recognize your customers when they walk through the door has always been headache-inducing.

Retailers and brands with aspirations to grow their m-commerce offering will need to position themselves correctly with better opt-in schemes and dynamic content to encourage consumer interaction. Developments such as HTML5 on mobile devices make increasingly dynamic content possible and allow retailers to provide better ways to attract consumers and extract a much deeper level of data that could revolutionize the shopping experience.

Systems that use the basic building blocks of geolocation are already becoming a key conversion tool for many online and traditional bricks and mortar retailers. They use WI-FI positioning to automatically reference an IP address against a ‘who is’ database service, locating a customer’s physical details

The next stage of this is not just to isolate where a person is positioned, in terms of map co-ordinates, but where they are at a street level, what are they interacting with and when they’re near your store – be it on a global scale.

Knowing the location of customers is only half the battle however, the true benefit of geolocation relies on having the ability to automatically send personalized data including; discount codes, local offers, news, tie-ins, and national promotions directly to customers. This could be a key differentiator in the future for building relationships and becoming trusted brands.

Other benefits include; being able to deliver the correct country or even regional website for your customers straight away, showing customers your nearest outlets to where they are right now, automatically calculate your customers’ local stock levels or shipping costs, reduce form filling, map out where your site visitors are for planning future campaigns.

Permission to use customer’s personal data remains key and will be a hurdle on the horizon before the technology will be fully adopted. Customers can feel as though their privacy is being invaded and retailers will need to ensure that they tackle this issue fully before investing heavily in rolling out any expensive technology.

Trust validation symbols and SSL certificates may not be enough to convince customers of trusted data security and retailers will need to work hard to encourage them to sign-up or opt-in to a geolocation ‘scheme’, which will bypass a lot of security issues.

Mobile will also unlock ‘self selection’, where the customer views geolocation as an asset and not an intrusion. Customers must be handed a transparent option that is secure and is an obvious asset to their shopping journey – giving them more control and something that will facilitate faster service.

For those who implement successfully, sales could grow rapidly in-line with consumer confidence, along with the ease of buying on the go through a one-click sale strategy that is optimized for mobile devices. As customer user numbers grow so will conversion rates.

Mobile is now being seen as a glue that will hold the bricks and mortar outlet and the online sales place together. Surprisingly, a high percentage of mobile users still log on to use basic functions such as store opening hours.

Mobile retailing can mean different things to different businesses. Many retail media experts are starting to eliminate the tablet device from the mobile sector, as they are generally a replacement for a laptop (often used in front of a TV). Many retailers still include them and they can swing the conversion data and sales reported. This skewing of the numbers has come under much debate as to whether the full picture over mobile retailing is yet accurately known.

Some retail strategies are moving on from in-store kiosks to replace them with one aimed towards a Bring Your Own Device – fitting in perfectly with geolocation and utilizing customers’ own devices.

Larger on-site screens can still add value but or perhaps is used to attract the eye of customers. There are even moves to personalize this display through data gathered through geolocation.

Throughout the consumer journey, shoppers want to be inspired to act and engage in an interconnected way. It is clear that brands and retailers now need to be fearless in their approach to mobile retailing, the omni-channel environment and geolocation.

An inspiring and well thought through adoption of geolocation technology could raise the consumer relationship to new levels, accelerate user adoption, trust, brand loyalty and reduce brand abandonment, while a poor one could generate scepticism and even lose sales.