The ins and outs of using in-store location

One of the most common things we address with clients is the value of tracking a customer’s location within a retail store. It might be hard to believe we’re now at the point where this is possible, but then again we are approaching the 20th anniversary of GPS first being integrated into a phone. Since then, the mobile space has undergone the fastest transformation of any consumer technology in our history. As exciting as this is for retailers, the new technology brings some dangers and potential pitfalls. Most crucially, it’s important to note that while retailers and marketers may love the idea, consumers are still a bit dubious. In fact a 2014 study by OpinionLab found that 63% of those surveyed said they would not opt in to be tracked, even at their favorite stores. Why? Apart from privacy concerns, there seems to be the fear of being constantly pestered with hundreds of promotions, of which only a few might be appealing.

Although figures like this may make in-store location seem like a really good way to turn customers off, getting it right can actually be astoundingly simple. The key is to use this new-found power to create value for your customers. To do this you need a couple of things:

Do useful things with the data you collect

First of all, you need to find some uses for the in-store data that serve the customer’s needs (helping them find products within the store, directing them to the shortest queue or tailoring in-app search or content to the department they’re in). Customers will quickly see the value in you using their location in-store to help them shop more effectively.

Make sure you're not annoying people with your cool new technology

Secondly, now that you have their data, don’t abuse it! While in-store location based data can be incredibly effective for targeting offers to customers at the right time, you need to make sure you:

  1. Power your app with a platform that allows you to carefully control the frequency and number of push messages you’re sending a customer. If your customers’ phones are dinging every time they enter a different area of a store, it won’t be long until they get sick of your app.
  2. Measure the effectiveness of push messages through to the final point of purchase. You must be able to understand which offers are effective and which aren’t because if you keep pushing offers to customers that they’re not interested in, that too will turn them off. Very quickly.
  3. Have an app that supports multiple ways of personalizing content. Push messages shouldn’t be your only personalized content - in-app messages that a user sees only when they are actually using the app can also be an effective channel and will help reduce potential push message overload.


It may seem like marketing basics, but we’ve seen how easy it is for retailers to get carried away with this technology. Fortunately, we also know how effective it can be when you get it right!

When it comes to in-store location, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have the right strategy and the right technology partner before you start. Getting it wrong can be damaging, but getting it right can be very rewarding!