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How geofencing could work for your B2B company

Last updated on February 8th, 2016 at 02:24 pm

A person walks into a store with their mobile phone or smartwatch and suddenly a discount code or targeted product ad appears from that store on their device. Welcome to the threshold of a geofenced boundary. B2C geofencing is a common practice that is becoming more popular with the saturation of smartphones and smartwatches, high usage of social networking applications, and widespread data connectivity.

As we investigated, there are also opportunities for using geofencing in the B2B market with trade shows as a primary vehicle for deploying a geofence campaign.

You can find plenty of articles online discussing use cases and the endless possibilities of using geofencing, but our research found that documented usage, costs, and widespread implementation continues to be more of an idea than reality.

Privacy concerns, made more popular by recent news of government-sponsored spying, may have slowed the adoption of location-based advertising.

Getting to know geofencing tech

Every smartphone today has an integrated GPS receiver so the location of each user can easily be determined within a few meters of their actual position. Mobile operating systems are also now integrating location-based tracking at the core as a theft-deterrent and tool to help aid in the recovery of lost or stolen phones.

Given that the tech is integrated into most all smartphones, it’s up to developers to provide the applications to take advantage of the location-based data. Preferably, developers are creating applications that benefit both the consumer and the business targeting the consumer.

Those applications can provide a virtual coupon code, a destination for the consumer to reach using integrated navigation programs, and even information for a business-related (by type of product or location) opportunity so that the consumer can shop more efficiently while the businesses can both achieve success.

“You need to be found wherever consumer traffic is. … If you’re just out there in browsers, you’re missing out,” said Sharon Rowlands, CEO of digital marketing software company ReachLocal. “You have to be found in apps.”

ReachLocal's illustration of how geofencing works for the B2C market
ReachLocal’s illustration of how geofencing works for the B2C market

On the business side of things, companies can benefit from collecting location-based data from consumers shopping inside the geofence. Displays can be better targeted to customers, focused coupons or campaigns can be refined to reach more people, and store associates can provide customized services to shoppers.

Geofencing for B2B

Beyond the obvious B2C benefits, for both the consumer and the business, there are opportunities for the B2B market as well. Let’s take a closer look at B2B opportunities at trade shows. Booths are expensive and without a targeted, engaging plan you could be standing around talking with fellow employees while possible clients march past you.

“Decision-makers are using smartphones and tablets to navigate their buying journey in new ways. If you plan to stay in front of your audience, you’ll need a plan to be a resource and guide the discussion to drive conversions,” according to Vimal Val, Dun & Bradstreet VP of Partner Solutions Strategy.

A business can use geofencing to track the number of show attendees browsing the booth, or walking by without stopping, while determining the most popular hours, how long visitors stayed at the booth, and even which sections of the booth were most popular. With this data a business can offer attendees an optimal experience without having to request a visitor survey or specifically ask for the information.

With a trade show application provided to attendees, a business can provide specific directions to the booth location. As a regular trade show attendee, I’m regularly frustrated trying to find a company booth and have often missed out on opportunities because of the scale and density of exhibits.

In addition to the location, and an embedded link to a navigation application, business can also provide information on new products, or services targeted to the attendees’ business needs, and special offers to encourage that business to visit and discuss opportunities.

If a physical booth is too expensive for your company, you can even set up a mobile-based geofencing campaign at the show. Everyone at the event is likely using some kind of smartphone so you can purchase mobile advertising space and target attendees with relevant content and points of contact for further discussion during or after the show.

One of the primary reasons I attend trade shows is to network directly with people and one of the most popular ways to do this is at the post-event social hour. Businesses can use geo-location to invite attendees who may be in the local area of your party to further engage with them off the show floor. A savvy firm may even offer drink-discount coupon codes via geofencing.

One of the most popular uses of smartphones is social networking. Show attendees will no doubt be staying in touch with associates, family, and friends on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Facebook offers affordable local-awareness ads so businesses can use this social platform to find new customers in a defined, geographic area. They are easy to set up, roll out, and reach potential customers without requiring that those customers install a specific application. Facebook is installed by default on most iOS and Android devices.

Geofencing roadblocks

Privacy concerns are usually the first thing brought up when discussing using geofencing by businesses. Not every customer will be encouraged to use your coupon when they realize their smartphone has been harnessed by your tech.

Geofencing also appears to be a great way to leverage the mobility of smartphones, but ads and offers may still not attract business customers because it is difficult to capture behavior of people based simply on location. Companies such as Sense Networks and NinthDecimal are working to try to integrate behavior profiles with location data.

Do you think geofencing could work for your B2B company? Let us know below or via @b2bnewsnetwork on Twitter!

Main photo via


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Matthew Miller
Matthew Miller
Matthew Miller started using mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host, with ZDNet's Kevin Tofel, of the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned more than 200 different devices running Palm, Linux, Symbian, Newton, BlackBerry, iOS, Android, webOS, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone operating systems. He's a professional engineer by day and a mobile writer by night.