How Will Covid-19 Affect Location-Based Marketing?
How location-based marketing can see a surge due to changing consumer habits during and post the pandemic.
Last Updated:  June 4, 2020
Covid-19 has fundamentally changed life as we know it.
Seemingly the entire world is practicing “social distancing,” and people are doing their best to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. This has had an effect on every aspect of our daily lives, and our economy has taken a large hit because of it. No doubt that you’ve felt the effects as well in your home life, and in your business, too.
More people are working from home than ever before, and while many will go back to the office at some point, there will be a large portion who simply stay working from home in perpetuity. It’s always been important for a local business to adopt effective local marketing strategies, but it has never been more vital with an unprecedented number of people at home.
At this time, we simply don’t know what the future holds. Will there be a vaccine? Will life get back to normal? If the answer to these questions is yes, then when will that be? With so much uncertainty, businesses with potential local clients need to take action immediately to stay afloat and get ahead.
What Is Location-Based Marketing?
Location-based marketing takes advantage of something that just about everyone has on their person at all times: smartphones. With so many people using smartphones, LBM is more important that ever since it leverages that usage along with the data that users provide. It takes into consideration habits, preferences, and location to target the prospects who are most likely to consume your product.
How is Location-Based Marketing Changing Right Now?
Pretty much everything in the world is changing right now.
From how much we drive our cars to how often we see our friends and family, nothing is the same as it was even a few months ago.
The economy has suffered as people have made the choice or have been forced to stay at home to avoid getting infected or to avoid infecting others. Covid-19 is on everyone’s lips, and on everyone’s minds at all times.
What does this mean for LBM?
Well for one, because many people are spending so much time at home, they are spending more time online.
In fact, some mobile providers have suspended data caps for the time being in recognition of the fact that so many people are using their phones more often during shutdowns and lock-ins.
There is also a movement among communities to support local businesses as much as possible. Small businesses are the ones that will be hardest hit by the economic shut down.
Many are having to lay off workers or close down entirely as the reality of a market that is staying home comes to bear.
However, with consumers losing the appetite to travel too far for goods and services, it could be an opportunity for a small business to attract these new consumers with LBM.
During normal times, large corporations and big-box stores rule. They attract the most customers, and have the biggest economic footprint.
However, during this time, the playing field is as close to even as ever before, and with effective LBM, you can take advantage and gain your own foothold in the market.
Trends and Innovations in LBM
The fact is, since we are in unprecedented times, the old rules and standards of marketing don’t always apply. Consumer behavior at the moment is drastically different today than it was at the beginning of the year, and your marketing efforts need to reflect that. Large companies will also start to make changes and adapt, and you need to move with them. You need to make sure that you are on top of all of the latest trends and innovations to keep yourself afloat.
It’s one thing to be targeted with content when you are in the neighborhood of an establishment.
It’s quite another to be targeted when you walk past or even into that store.
Beacon marketing makes use of “beacons” to determine where someone is in the context of a building, which will determine what content that gets on their phone. When pandemic restrictions are lifted, this technology will be more important than ever as people look to spend as little time in stores as possible.
When walking through a store, or a mall, users can get notifications of things that are on sale, what the inventory is, and anything else the establishment might want to convey. This means that it will truly be taking advantage of impulse buying, but also providing necessary information to get the shopper moving quickly. With maps and other information, shoppers can easily navigate a mall, even if they’ve never been there before.
One tried and true method of LBM is to set up what is known as a geo-fence around a business.
When someone passes through that geo-fence and is recognized as a past or potential customer, they will get an alert that might include sales, new items, or other enticing content.
Some businesses have gone as far as to set up geo-fences around competitor businesses. Why would they do that? By placing a fence around a competitor, they can alert any prospects that walk into it. That way, while the shopper may be thinking about the building that is nearby, the alert can change that thinking and hopefully change their behavior and decide to head to the business that sent the marketing content.
Localization of Mobile Apps
More mobile phone users are accessing content through apps.
Yes, it’s still extremely important to have a good SEO strategy backed by a solid SEO platform, but you should also consider making use of apps to help with your marketing.
That said, marketers are moving away from a single app that serves all people, no matter where they are. Now, mobile apps are being localized so that they appeal to customers in certain markets or territories.
Users are looking for content that is relative to them, so it is crucial to create customized app content for every market that you serve. Localization provides incredible return on investment, and app stores will rank local apps higher because of their ability to serve a local customer base.
Will Location-Based Marketing Ever Be the Same?
If you deliver quality to your new customers, you can also potentially keep them when things start to get back to normal.
Consumers are bombarded with advertising and marketing from the big companies, but you can remind them that much of what they need can be found right in their neighborhoods. They no longer have to travel two towns over to get excellent Mexican food, for example, and they may not want to once things start to loosen up again if you’ve provided a closer option.
There is a good chance that you will see larger competitors invest in LBM as well. Along with billboards, television ads, and banners on widely read webpages, they will start to try and appeal to consumers in local areas.
This means they will have their own locally-flavored content sent out to your prospects to try to take advantage of the new proclivity to shop local. Or, they may try to extoll the benefits of shopping with their big company, such as lower prices and longer opening hours. This just means that it’s more important that you get a head start now, while you have a more captive potential consumer-base, so that you have a foothold when we are past the pandemic and living in the new consumer and marketing landscape to follow.
Where Are We Going?
The fact is, we don’t yet know what the world is going to look like when the illness and fear from Covid-19 have passed.
In fact, we don’t even know when that will be.
The biggest questions for marketers will be whether this era changes consumer and human behavior and whether businesses will be changed as well. While there is no way of knowing for sure, you can be certain that the steps you take now can only help you in the market to come. Things are difficult right now for many businesses, big or small.
Retailers and restaurants are feeling a massive pinch as consumers are fearful to leave their homes, and when they do, they try to return as quickly as possible. However, human beings are social animals, and when the time is right, they will return to gathering in groups for events and for shopping. However, even a small change can be huge for some businesses. If you are effective with your LBM during the crisis, then you can gain customers who will keep coming back long after any restrictions are lifted. You might not retain all of them, but even a fraction can be the difference between your business thriving and dying in the post-COVID world.
Kim is the CEO of Sure Oak, one of the fastest-growing SEO agencies in New York. She’s a passionate entrepreneur and former business owner and has served as VP of Marketing and National Marketing Director for companies in the Fintech and leisure industries. She’s also a wife and mother and enjoys gardening and volunteering in her free time. Her motto is – “there’s nothing you can’t achieve if you give it your all” and she lives by that every day.