From slogans like “Eat like a king, not a like a clown,” to the “McWhopper,” Burger King has a long and storied history of using advertising to troll McDonald’s. In December of 2018, to promote its new mobile app, Burger King unveiled the Whopper Detour. This promotion ran between December 4th through 12th and offered customers a Whopper for a single cent through the Burger King mobile app, with a catch. To activate the discount, customers would have to be within 600 feet of one of roughly 14,000 McDonald’s locations in the United States then pick their order up at a nearby participating Burger King, hence the “Detour.”

To put it simply, it worked.

Scoring more than 1 million downloads in the first two days of the campaign, Burger King’s mobile app jumped to #1 on iOS and Android shortly thereafter. It was talked about on CNN, Business Insider and countless other media outlets, generating more than 3 billion impressions. Whether you’re tracking mobile downloads, total impressions or store traffic, there’s no question that the Whopper Detour was smashing success. And it was all made possible by geofencing.

Geofencing leverages location-based technology to allow advertisers to engage with consumers hyper-locally—within 600 feet of a Mcdonald’s, for example. In this article, we’ll discuss what geofencing is, how it works, and how you can use it in your business.

Geo-what now?
Before we address geofencing, we need to address some common confusion. Advertising and marketing utilizes two other location-based strategies that are similarly-named but different from geofencing in practice. They are:

Geotargeting is when advertisers use location along with other factors, like age or gender, when building their audience. This tactic diverges from geofencing in its use of other targeting factors, while geofencing exclusively targets location. Additionally, geotargeting usually uses a broader location like a city, state or even country.

Geo-framing refers to the practice of capturing device IDs in a certain location (usually with a geofence) and using them for targeting or retargeting purposes later. In practice, geo-framing is used to target consumers who were somewhere, while geofencing targets consumers who are somewhere.

Now that we cleared that up, let’s get back to the subject at hand.

What is geofencing?
Geofencing creates a virtual barrier—a fence, if you will—set up around a physical location. It uses GPS, RFID, or other forms of location data to trigger an event whenever a consumer passes through it. What the event is, is up to the advertiser. It can collect data, serve an ad, trigger a push notification or simply track movement, just to name a few.

Because geofencing primarily relies on opt-in location data, it’s commonly leveraged by  mobile apps, but an app is not required. All a geofence needs to trigger is for a piece of location-based technology, like an RFID tag, to pass through it. All sorts of devices beyond mobile phones can trigger a geofence, including vehicles, aircraft, and many more.

How is geofencing used?
While Burger King used geofencing to sell burgers, it’s capabilities go far beyond that. Once the virtual boundaries are set, the possibilities are virtually limitless. Like Burger King did with McDonald’s, it’s fairly common for brands to geofence competitors in order to capture more market share. This practice is commonly referred to as geo-conquesting.  Alternatively, many companies geofence their own locations or events to help learn about their customers and promote loyalty. What’s better than getting a discount at one of your favorite stores just for walking by?

But retail only scratches the surface. Shipping companies use geofencing to track the movements of trucks and cargo and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses it to keep drones out of restricted areas. It’s not just for large entities, either. If you’ve ever asked your phone to send you a reminder when you get home or to your car, you set up a geofence of your own.

What’s next for geofencing?
While it is still a relatively new technology, there’s no doubt that geofencing will play a key role in the future of advertising.
MarketsandMarkets projects that the geofencing industry will grow to more than $1.8 billion by 2022. Geofencing is a powerful, versatile tool to help you engage with your audience in a more personal, local way. With applications for the largest stadiums and the smallest storefronts, any business can benefit, including yours.

If you have any more questions about geofencing, digital advertising or how MediaJel can help you with either, get in touch. We’d be happy to discuss it further.