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How location intelligence can focus your marketing during COVID-19

Canadian businesses are having to adapt to COVID-19 across their operations—including the way they market their products and services. In this blog post, Allen Williams discusses how businesses can get better insights and bigger results during this crisis by using location intelligence to transform their marketing strategies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we interact with each other, creating new social norms and requiring businesses to dramatically change how they operate. This is our new reality and it likely isn’t going to change soon.

Today customers are travelling less and ordering online more, which in turn has drastically increased home deliveries since customers prefer and, in many cases, now require items to be delivered. Retail stores and restaurants need to provide cashless payment options and curbside pickup is fast becoming the common practice. Proximity matters too, and we have seen a significant increase in buying local as people strive to support their local communities or decide not to go very far from home.

Businesses are being forced to adopt measures to meet these new customer expectations of experience and safety. Businesses that are quick to understand how COVID-19 has changed local spending habits and behaviors can provide more relevant offerings to customers.

Organizations that are good at deriving insights from spatial data can use that to guide their marketing efforts, creating a powerful competitive advantage.

Here are a few examples of location-based marketing in action from small businesses to global organizations.

Understanding new customer buying trends through spatial analysis

Businesses can use spatial analysis to identify the locations of their best customers for specific products and services. Marketers have traditionally used GIS for location-based analysis to obtain insights on new customer needs. In this quickly-changing environment, organizations need to be able to analyze customer demand to remain viable. Understanding which products and services continue to be relevant in times of change provides solid insight and validates the impetus to adjust aspects of business operations in response to new and rapidly changing customer needs.

One example is the shortage of hand sanitizer and disinfectant that quickly became a significant challenge in the early fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. With conventional suppliers unable to keep up with the high demand for disinfectant and hand soaps, some breweries and distilleries adapted. They quickly switched over to producing alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which is available for pickup in store and comes combined with regular purchases. Some of these businesses are even donating their proceeds to charity.

Geotargeted campaigns build trust in local and global brands

While some businesses have paused marketing efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, others have focused on the opportunity to build trust in their brands. Geotargeted campaigns have served as a platform for businesses to share how they’ve been helping people in their communities cope. 

FedEx is using its global fleet and transportation infrastructure to move urgently-needed supplies quickly and efficiently to and from relief organizations. Similarly, Delta Airlines is delivering medical supplies, providing flights for people to get home and offering free travel to qualified medical volunteers. Both companies have posted information about how they are helping with the pandemic on their websites and have shared perspectives on social media.

Publishing localized interactive content

Online search is up more than ever. Localized interactive content is a compelling way for businesses to share news, facts and information. Combining authoritative maps with narrative, images and multimedia content gives communications material a stronger sense of place, illustrating spatial relationships and establishing credibility with local customers who are most likely to buy in their own community.

A recent report showed that location remains a powerful and important data source within marketing strategy. It is estimated that upwards of 84% of marketers currently use location data in their marketing and campaigns. To see how businesses are doing this, one only need look at the numerous businesses and organizations that have published both creative and informative story maps during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leverage proximity marketing to offer incentives and promotions

Businesses with physical locations are in the best position to leverage proximity marketing by using geofencing or location beacons. Customer location data can be used to trigger messages, offers and promotions on mobile devices. This real-time communication allows businesses to enrich the customer experience with relevant incentives and gain valuable insight into who their customers are and what their purchasing patterns look like. Advertising through social apps using push notifications and mobile also helps to personalize the in-store experience.

Supermarket chain Whole Foods uses location-based marketing. They have geofenced their stores and target special promotions to their customers who pass by their grocery locations.

In summary

Location intelligence helps businesses focus their marketing messaging, allowing them to specifically target not only the places where customers spend time, but also the most likely customers in those places. This improves the relevancy of marketing messages and builds trust. With so much uncertainty and the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic yet unknown, businesses that leverage spatial data for insight are in a better position to maintain customer loyalty and sales through focused location-based marketing strategies.   

Learn how to unlock your geospatial potential. Discover our Location Intelligence 360 assessment.

About the Author

Allen Williams leads the Management Consulting Practice at Esri Canada. He focuses on helping organizations build transformative geospatial strategies and roadmaps, giving them practical steps to maximize the value of location intelligence. Allen has worked with organizations at all levels of government and a broad range of industry sectors. He helps customers develop long-term geospatial strategies and governance programs resulting in modernization and innovation.

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