October 12, 2017

Your Customers Don’t Hate App Alerts: 3 Geofencing Myths Debunked

Written by
Kim Harris

Geofencing is having its heyday. As we move from place to place in the physical landscape, we are continually entering and exiting through electronic frontiers via our smart devices’ GPS. The many uses of geofencing include land-mapping, asset protection, surveillance, and even home security and child watch systems.

The technology is now also being used to deliver hyper-localized marketing to consumers. Geofencing is quickly becoming one of the most effective new tactics for bringing people closer to a company through location-triggered messages and alerts. This may seem intrusive, but recent research suggests that we are surprisingly comfortable with technology that tracks our location. Businesses, however, remain wary.

ALSO READ: How to Know if GPS Tracking is Right for Your Employees

What is Geofencing?

But let’s back up just a bit. What even is geofencing and what purpose does it serve? Think of it this way. A geofence is a virtual boundary created by GPS points that surround a physical location, like a shop, an airport, or an amusement park.

A geofence can trigger an app to send alerts to a visitor’s mobile app when they cross over the invisible boundary and into the specified location. A business can set up a geofence to detect when a customer is nearby and send them an offer, reminder, or information about products and services.

But as useful as this technology has proven to be (and you’ll see that it has), many companies are only just starting to discover its potential. Let’s get to the bottom of the fears business owners might have about setting up geofences and see if we can debunk any of the myths associated with the tech.

In May 2017, TSheets commissioned a survey of 400 people in the U.S. about geofencing to find out whether they have been exposed to the technology and what they think about it. The findings were surprising. Not only were most people accepting of geofences for location tracking and alerts but also accepting of their use in promoting products and businesses. With that in mind, we debunked three geofencing myths all business owners should be aware of.

Myth 1: People don’t like to be tracked

It’s hard to make the argument that location tracking isn’t useful in our day-to-day lives. We use GPS for everything from finding the quickest route to the party to finding the nearest gas station. But what about the apps we use to buy things? As customers, are we happy to allow this type of app to track our location? According to the data, we are.

The survey found that 77 percent of respondents allow these kinds of apps to track their location when they’re not even using them! And whether people enable location tracking depends on how much they trust the app, if the app is useful, and how frequent the notifications are. Customers are becoming more comfortable with this type of brand interaction — it’s time for businesses to catch up.

Myth 2: People don’t want to receive alerts

With the rise of product placement, content marketing, and the ability to pause and fast-forward TV, people have long predicted the death of disruptive advertising. Brands have become much smarter about how they interact with their customers. But that doesn’t mean geofencing is getting in the way.

The survey found that 78 percent of consumers are happy to receive alerts, like special offers and discounts, from apps on their phone. So when we assume that our customers don’t want to hear from us, we’re ruling out our potential to build relationships and brand awareness and make sales that could cost us in the long run.

But as ever, there is a fine print. Send too many notifications or the wrong type of notifications and people quickly tune out. The research found that the more notifications you send, the more likely people are to ignore them.

Myth 3: Geofencing isn’t worth the investment

Yes, businesses have been getting by without geofencing technology for centuries just fine, but if you look at the numbers, it would be silly not to consider it. When push notification comes to shove, 84 percent of respondents said they not only appreciate the alerts they receive, but they actually use the special offers sent from apps by companies. With this perfect combination of automation, GPS, and geofencing, drawing people to your product just got a lot easier.

Geofences are already all around us, and with the widespread adoption of smartphones equipped with location tracking, they’re only going to become more common. Last year, Forbes contributor Shalyn Dever, CEO of Chatter Buzz, reported that with the increase of smartphone use comes an opportunity to deliver advertising that is localized and optimal for local growth.

Dever recommends a few useful tips for setting up a geofence for your business, including hyperlocal campaigns in which the fences encompass areas within five minutes of your location. Targeting specific audiences is another piece of advice to note. For best result, filter message recipients based on demographic and deploy targeted social media advertising to people who are using apps like Twitter with location settings turned on.

However you decide to use geofencing for marketing, the first step is to realize that it’s what customers are used to, it’s what they expect, and when all is said and done, they’re actually going to use the offers you send.


Kim Harris is a copywriter and blogger based in Boise, Idaho, who has been putting her journalism background to good use telling true stories and helping businesses grow since 2008. When she’s not writing for TSheets, you’ll find her queuing up entertainment and plotting her next escape.