Marketers: Let’s Not F*ck Up Geo-Push


Let’s face it, we marketers have a pretty horrible track record when it comes to making effective use of new messaging channels. Rather than being disciplined and judicious when presented with a new way to communicate with customers, we tend to grab any channel that has the promise of higher-than-average performance and beat it like a rented mule.

Case in point: pop-up ads. The bane of me and my 56k modem circa 2000, pop-up ads were so terrifically misused that an entire industry was born to combat them. What was meant to be a way for ads not to disrupt the on-site experience turned into a spamming epidemic. We have so thoroughly abused pop-up ads that in 2014, their creator publicly apologized for even inventing them.

After the debacle that was pop up ads, you would have hoped that we learned our lesson. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Over the past seven years we’ve repeated many of the same sins in mobile marketing with push notifications. Too many mobile marketers have abused the potential of push by sending irrelevant, unhelpful, and downright obnoxious push notifications to their users. It’s gotten to the point where over 50% of smartphone users find push notifications annoying, despite their ability to provide highly relevant and timely information. The good news is we haven’t lost push yet, but we are at a crossroads. Marketers need to become more disciplined about when they use push notifications and who they send them to.

My fear is that the growing popularity of location-specific push notifications (“geo-push”) could tilt the balance in wrong direction and permanently damage the reputation of push. That’s because it’s incredibly easy to use geo-push incorrectly. So we figured it’s a good time to go through some best-practices and make sure we do geo-push right.


Rule #1: This Isn’t a One-Way Street

Geo-push is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s about as intimate as marketing can get, which makes it an incredibly effective channel if used properly. On the other hand, users are understandably protective of their personal information. Having access to data like a user’s location is a privilege and we must always treat it as such.

This leads us to the golden rule: If you expect a user be okay with the idea that you know their location, you better be damn sure they’re getting something valuable in exchange.

“Something valuable” means using that location information to improve the user experience and make their life easier/better than it would otherwise be.

Rule # 2: Would You Want to Receive This Notification?

This rule applies to all forms of marketing, but it’s especially important for geo-push, because of the intimacy of location-based marketing. Before you send any communication to a user, ask yourself a simple question:

“If I were this user, would I want to receive this message?”

If the answer to the question is anything other than a solid “yes”, then stop and think very carefully about whether or not you should send the notification. Remember, you have a relationship with every customer and like any relationship, there needs to be something in it for both parties.

Rule # 3: You Don’t Have to Message Everyone Who Walks By Your Store/Venue

An effective geo-push strategy should rely on quality over quantity. Good geo-push products (cue shameless plug for Localytics Places) will send messages to users in specific locations, even if they don’t have your app open. However, rather than bombarding every passerby with a notification, you should create campaigns that will be relevant to specific groups of users. The issue with sending a notification to every user that walks by your store is that it’s very difficult to create a universally compelling message. This is important because the minute you send an irrelevant or uncompelling notification, there’s a very high likelihood that the user will disable push notifications or even abandon your app.

To illustrate this, let’s take a look at an example:


This is the sort of message that could be the undoing of geo-push. It’s generic, uncompelling, and unhelpful. Can you imagine what it would be like if you walked down the street and got a push notification like this from every store you passed?


This message is a lot better, but it still could fall flat if sent to the wrong user. However, if you only send this message to users who have purchased sun dresses in the past, now you’ve got a message that you can be confident will be seen as relevant and valuable to the majority of recipients.


Rule #4: Have Some Fun

Because geo-push is so personal, it has some great potential as a way for you to deepen relationships with your customers. In other words, it’s the perfect way to surprise and delight. If it’s snowing out, invite your customers into your store for hot chocolate. Hold an unannounced city-wide scavenger hunt for a $1,000 gift card and use geo-push messages to provide the clues.

Considering how fickle app users are, anything you can do to give your brand a human face can have a huge impact on user loyalty and retention, so put geo-push to good use and deepen those connections.


Remember: Users are People Too

This should go without saying, but sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there’s a human being on the other end of your push notification. Geo-push is the epitome of a personalized interaction. The most effective geo-push campaigns will take advantage of this fact to build deeper customer relationships. The least effective campaigns will disregard this fact and suffer the consequences: weak campaign performance and churned users. The choice is up to us, but we’ve seen what happens when we abuse a marketing channel.

Want to learn more about Geo-push? Localytics just launched Places. Check it out.