Reimagining the app experience with location-based mobile marketing

Jo Eckersley, CEO of location-based mobile marketing specialist Bubbl, explains how apps powered by geo-fencing technology will be a gamechanger for CX, turning consumer armageddon into consumer heaven.

According to a study carried out by Top Design Firms, 48 per cent of all small businesses have developed a mobile app to reach consumers. And according to, last year, 143.6bn apps were downloaded onto mobile devices.

But despite apps being such such a popular medium, most brands are struggling just to retain customers in that channel. Because where many have fallen short is a lack of focus on the overall CX. Acquisition may be important, but it’s the steps taken after a customer downloads an app that matter most.

Online app tactics vs. mobile
According to data from Quettra, brands los
e 90 per cent of their active mobile app users by day 30. This is largely due to the fact that they continue to approach mobile apps the same way they approach online – for instance, with pop-up ads, unexpected payments and subscriptions.

Users are in a very different mindset when they download a mobile app – it’s right there on their home screen and it’s far more personal. The key here is that they didn’t download the app to be bombarded with messages, but in the belief they would get some value out of it.

That’s why it’s such a privilege when a customer does download a brand’s app; it represents loyalty and trust. But by approaching mobile apps merely as an advertising medium, brands will erode that trust just as quickly as it was built, increasing churn rates and the likelihood of a poor ROI.

Rewiring the mobile app experience
Brands can switch up their strategy and make the most of their acquisition budgets by deploying location-based mobile marketing tools. This emerging breed of technology acts as an ‘out-of-app’ plug-in that works with mobile to create positive app experiences. It enables brands to serve content without the user opening an app – with contextual triggers that deliver notifications and ads that are relevant, personalised and timely.

The benefits of out-of-app technology

1. Location-based geofencing
The whole purpose of location-based geofencing is to send location- or situation-specific trigger notifications to customers when they’re in a particular area. If, for example, a customer walks within a one-mile radius of KFC and they’ve downloaded the app, they can potentially be sent personalised location-based content, ads or promotions that entice them to make a purchase then and there.

Burger King is a great example of a brand that has used location-based geofencing to the full, hardcoding an app with 20,000 McDonald’s location parameters to promote its own products to customers via the app. By sending app users a Burger King promotion (£0.01 Whopper) as soon as they stepped inside a 600-foot McDonalds geofence, Burger King was able to lure customers in, at just the right time and place.

Since they were already looking for food, all they needed was a good enough reason to turn around and make the one-minute trip to Burger King on the opposite side of the street.

As well as propelling the Burger King app from 686th to first place on the iTunes App Store (Food and Drink category), the campaign also drove the highest footfall in four-and-a-half years and led to a 20x higher uptake than any previous app offer.

2. Time-based geofencing
Using this method, brands can set up a virtual parameter that tracks what customers are doing at certain times – i.e., entering or exiting a store – and send them out-of-app content that is contextually relevant. As soon as they’re within the geofence, they can be served a time-based notification including current offers or engaging content. Once that customer exits the store, they could be sent another notification, such as a survey about their experience or exclusive content to share on social media.

3. Preference matching
Some location-based mobile marketing tools have preference-matching technology built in. This means users are able to set in-app preferences and control the content they recieve. For instance, within a radio station app, users could select just ‘news’ and ‘weather’ and the tool will filter out everything else, such as traffic reports or competitions. Not only does this increase engagement, but it also increases the likelihood of users keeping their location and permissions on.

4. 30-minute plug-in
Brands looking to use push notifications often partner with omnichannel providers such as Swrve or Airship. The trouble is, these notification SDKs and tools can take weeks to set up and often require several different SDKs, putting off small and mid-market brands. Meanwhile, enterprise-level companies rarely have the time or in-house development resources to invest in setting up tools that require developer input. Instead, brands should be on the look-out for new low-code plug-ins that can get them set up and live within a matter of minutes.

It’s also critical – once the technology is plugged in to manage engagement through location and other triggers – that you don’t limit your creativity to notifications alone. There is such potential in using innovative emerging content formats, as opposed to ads, to truly unlock customer experience via mobile. Its time to stop limiting creative engagement and look for the new mobile marketing tools that will genuinely connect with app audiences and retain their attention without destroying their mobile app experience.

In a world saturated with apps and endless advertising, brands need to move away from focusing on in-app monetisation and start carving out experiences that prioritise the customer. As a new breed of location-based mobile marketing tools emerges, brands will start to realise the potential of out-of-app to make a real difference to in-app experiences.