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  • Writer's pictureHearst Pittsburgh

In the Zone: Mastering Geofencing Ads for Personalized Experiences

Imagine you're exploring your favorite neighborhood, debating whether to peek into a charming bakery or linger at the nearby park. Your pocket buzzes and you pull out your phone to find a notification that offers a tempting discount at a nearby cafe. Serendipitous? Not quite! That's a geofenced ads in action.


In this WTAE Advertising Quick Guide, we will unpack what advertisers should know to most effectively leverage geofenced targeting and craft ads that pop up at precisely the right time, in exactly the right place.


What is Geofencing?

Imagine a virtual fence, like an invisible line drawn around a specific area, be it your retail location, a concert, a bustling downtown street, or even your competitors storefront. This virtual fence isn’t there to keep anyone in or out physically; instead, it's a digital boundary created to do something pretty cool: deliver personalized messages or offers to phones when they move in or out of that defined area.


That's essentially what geofencing is—a smart way for businesses or marketers to connect with consumers based on their realtime location. It's like a tap on the shoulder when they're near something relevant to say "Hey, check this out! There's something cool happening right here!"


Done right, a geofenced ad is less 'Big Brother' and more 'smart buddy.' They can be used to tailor experiences that feel more like curated discoveries than intrusive pop-ups.

So, how does it work? Smartphones' GPS or location services help to create these invisible boundaries. When the phone crosses into or out of these zones, it triggers a signal that might send a special offer, a helpful tip, personalized content, or a timely message - whether that's a mobile ad sent over search, social, or push notification. Think of it as your phone knowing when you're in a certain place and deciding to offer you something useful or interesting related to that spot.


No need for complex tech explanations here—geofencing is essentially a way for businesses to be smart about reaching potential customers in a specific location at the right time, making their experience more personalized and relevant without being intrusive.


Location-based personalization boosts ad engagement

The location-based personalization that geofencing provides to advertisers goes beyond a run-of-the-mill promotion. It's like having a conversation with potential customers and saying, "I noticed you're here, and I've got something tailored just for this moment."


When it comes to boosting engagement, geofencing ads work like a charm. Because these ads are hyper-targeted and super relevant, people are way more likely to engage with a great deal or a personalized offer that's right at their fingertips, literally?


That's the magic of geofencing - it's a direct line to your audience at the perfect moment. No wonder it leads to a 20% increase in store traffic and a 50% boost in mobile ad engagement.

Geofencing Use Cases

As you gear up for the upcoming year, let’s explore explore the ways different industries can wield the power of geofencing ads to create impactful, location-driven campaigns to get your creative wheels turning.


  1. Retail:

  • Shopping Mall Promotions: Retailers within a shopping mall can target customers with exclusive discounts or offers when they enter the mall or specific sections.

  • Competitor Conquesting: Target customers entering competitor stores with enticing offers or promotions to drive them to your store nearby.

  1. Food and Beverage:

  • Restaurant Deals: Encourage foot traffic by offering time-sensitive promotions to people passing by or in nearby areas during peak dining hours.

  • Food Delivery Services: Target areas during meal times, offering first-time discounts or free delivery for nearby orders.

  1. Entertainment:

  • Event Ticket Sales: Promote ticket sales for concerts, shows, or sporting events to people near the venue or within a specific radius.

  • Theme Park Offers: Attract visitors by sending exclusive offers to individuals near or within the vicinity of theme parks.

  1. Automotive:

  • Car Dealerships: Target potential customers in the vicinity of the dealership with special offers on test drives or limited-time discounts.

  • Service Centers: Promote maintenance services to individuals near service centers based on their vehicle's last service date.

  1. Health and Fitness:

  • Gym Memberships: Target fitness enthusiasts in nearby areas with trial membership offers or discounted rates for sign-ups.

  • Wellness Centers: Promote spa services or wellness retreats to individuals in areas known for high stress or busy lifestyles.

  1. Real Estate:

  • Open House Alerts: Notify potential buyers about nearby open houses or property listings as they enter specific neighborhoods or locations of interest.

  • Property Management: Advertise rental listings to people in the vicinity of available properties.

  1. Travel and Hospitality:

  • Hotel Bookings: Offer last-minute deals or discounts on room rates to individuals near your hotel location or in tourist hotspots.

  • Tourist Attractions: Promote nearby attractions or sightseeing tours to tourists in popular travel destinations.

  1. Education:

  • Universities/Colleges: Target high school students or parents in nearby areas with information about open days, campus tours, or scholarship opportunities.

  • Tutoring Services: Advertise tutoring services to families in areas known for a high density of students.

  1. Technology:

  • Electronics Stores: Promote new product launches or exclusive deals on gadgets to people near electronics stores or tech hubs.

  • Software/App Downloads: Encourage downloads or subscriptions by targeting users in tech-savvy or startup-centric locations.

  1. Local Services:

  • Plumbing/Electrician Services: Advertise emergency services to people within a specific radius during times of high demand or adverse weather conditions.

  • Salons/Spas: Offer discounts on services to individuals in the vicinity during slower hours or specific days.

These use cases illustrate how different industries can leverage geofencing ad campaigns to target specific audiences in precise locations, encouraging foot traffic, driving sales, and fostering brand engagement in 2024.


Mini-Case Study: Burger King's Whopper Detour Campaign & the Art of Geo-Conquesting

The Burger King Whopper Detour campaign is a stellar example of the creative and effective use of "geo-conquesting." Geo-conquesting is a geofencing strategy where a business sets up a virtual perimeter around a competitor's location to target their customers with better deals or offers. This approach allows businesses to directly engage with potential customers who are in close proximity to a competitor's business, enticing them with more attractive alternatives.


In their innovative Whopper Detour campaign, Burger King set up a geofence around 14,000 McDonald's locations across the United States. When customers entered the geofenced area, they were prompted to order a Whopper for the price of 1 cent through the Burger King mobile app. This bold and cheeky approach to geo-conquesting, targeting their biggest competitor's customers, garnered significant attention and engagement.


The results of the Whopper Detour campaign were nothing short of impressive. The campaign drove a substantial increase in app downloads, with over 1.5 million downloads during the promotion period. Furthermore, foot traffic to Burger King locations surged, clearly demonstrating the impact of the geofencing campaign in driving real-world customer actions.


The campaign not only showcased the power of geofencing in capturing consumer attention at key moments but also highlighted the potential for creative, location-based marketing strategies to deliver tangible business results.


The Whopper Detour campaign stands as a testament to the ingenuity of geofencing in the marketing landscape, illustrating how a well-executed geofencing strategy can not only capture the interest of consumers but also drive them to take meaningful actions, such as app downloads and store visits. This case study serves as a compelling example of the potential of geofencing to disrupt traditional advertising approaches and create a direct impact on consumer behavior.


Conclusion: Unleash the Power of Geofencing Ads with WTAE

Imagine the possibilities—engaging potential customers near your storefront, enticing them with tailored promotions, or even creatively outflanking your competition a la Burger King's Whopper Detour.


At WTAE, we're not just about storytelling; we're about transforming narratives into action. Discover how our geofencing ad solutions from Hearst AnyScreen can elevate your brand's visibility, drive foot traffic, and boost engagement in 2024. Whether you're craving strategies that rival the Whopper Detour or seeking to tailor experiences for your unique audience, our digital ad guru Jeff Biletnikoff is on hand to guide you through the realm of geofencing ads.

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