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SMS geofencing: What it is and how it works

SMS Geofencing may sound intimidating, but it’s one of the most effective ways to reach your audience. Use this guide to understand how, when and why to leverage it.

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If you’re still navigating text marketing, “SMS geofencing” might sound like one of a long line of complicated, scary terms you have to learn. 

In reality, though, it’s a pretty simple concept. It’s the practice of sending customized texts to subscribers based on their location.

SMS geofencing can be done in a few different ways depending on your text marketing provider and tools.

If you’re using SimpleTexting, you won’t be able to track your customers in real time to text them based on where they are, but all is not lost. You can still run geofencing effectively with us (and I’ll get to that shortly).

Let’s get into all things geofencing.

What is SMS geofencing?

SMS geofencing works by sending out text messages when a customer enters a specific location.

With that said, we need to lay out two very important rules before you get started. 

  1. You must get consent to send SMS marketing messages to your customer.  If you are new to business text messaging, the first thing you learn is that every one of your subscribers must opt-in to receive text messages from you.

    One of the quickest and easiest ways to obtain consent is by setting up a keyword (pictured below). A keyword is a specific word or phrase which, when texted into your allocated number, signs up the customer to receive your marketing SMS.

    If one of your opt-in methods is a keyword, you can trigger a message immediately to request the location of your customer. This, as you’ll see in point 2, is critical.
  2. You must get permission to use their location. Once your customer has opted in, you then need to request permission for their location. Location is not automatically enabled via message, so to track your subscribers they need to enable it.
Thank you for becoming a Sundaze Icecream subscriber! 🍦Would you like to share your location with us to receive local offers and promos? Reply YES or NO.

We get it, most businesses would love to send out a blanket SMS to anyone within a 5-mile radius, but unfortunately, that is not possible.

How does SMS geofencing work?

Once you have both types of permission from your customer, you’re ready to go.

To track your customer’s location, your SMS provider will have to tap into the customer’s GPS or RFID signals. As most messaging apps do not permanently have location information switched on, this ‘location lookup’ process is necessary to determine when your customer enters the geofence. 

This means that instead of tracking your customers 24/7—which is both costly and time-consuming—you can optimize your chances of successful SMS geofencing by choosing when to look up their location.

For example, if you’re a coffee shop using geofencing, you’ll want to check customers’ locations in the morning and at lunchtime. You can then send out a local promotion to customers within your geofence.

If you’re a sushi restaurant, you would check customer locations just before lunch and dinner, to catch customers when they’re in the mood for food and in your geofence.

How to use SMS geofencing

If you’re ready to introduce SMS geofencing to your marketing strategy, here’s how to set it up.  

  1. Set up custom fields for your preferred location details. Use zip codes, cities, or your various locations. 
Creating a custom field in SimpleTexting for a geofencing strategy
  1. Use Data Collection to collect your subscribers’ location. You’ll use those custom fields you set up to fill in an automated series of data collection questions for your subscribers to answer. 
Setting a up an SMS geofencing data collection series
  1. Put that data to work and create segments for each location you need to communicate with. A segment is a group of subscribers with something in common (like their zip code or local store). You can send messages to each individual segment so your subscribers only get messages relevant to them. 
A view of segment creation in SimpleTexting

Why is SMS geofencing effective?

There’s a reason SMS geofencing is used by Uber, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, and more. It’s one of the most effective ways to increase marketing performance.

Pizza Hut trialed sending out a text promotion to customers within half a mile of its restaurants. The result? A 142% increase in sales.

That isn’t just a fluke either. The data tells us that: 

  • Mobile location-based coupons may boost additional mobile sales by more than 99%.
  • Marketers who use location-based data say they’ve found more engagement and responsiveness of 48% each.
  • 72% of computer, tablet, and smartphone users are interested in advertising customized to their location or zip code.
  • Per 90% of marketers, location-based advertising and marketing boosted customer base expansion (86%) revenue, and consumer engagement (84%).

Leveraging geofencing for marketing is simply about contacting your customers at the right time and place. By knowing their location, there’s no need to guess when or if it’s the best time to contact them.

Use location-based SMS marketing to optimize your marketing efforts

Though SimpleTexting doesn’t have a built-in feature for geofencing, you can use several location-based SMS marketing tactics within our SMS platform.

To get started, sign up for our free two-week free trial, no credit card required. If you like what you see, you can take full advantage of our suite of SMS marketing features when you upgrade.

Alice Dodd
Alice Dodd

Alice is a copywriter at SimpleTexting. When not teaching the world about the benefits of business texting, you can find her feeding family, friends and strangers with her latest baking experiment.

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