How Brands Are Changing the Context of Location Marketing

And Becoming Relevant at Each Stage of the Customer Journey
Customer Experience

In recent years, brands have used technology to make location-based marketing increasingly immersive and experiential. Brick-and-mortar retailers and the brands they carry are reaching consumers before, during and after purchase by applying emerging technology such as smarter online targeting tools and physical objects (like Amazon’s Dash). The most successful experiences, however, are the ones that redefine location marketing by considering additional context.

These context-aware experiences are happening in three crucial locations: in homes, on the go and at or near a store. On any given day, the context of a consumer’s journey changes several times, depending on factors beyond these locations, such as the customer’s immediate surroundings (at a desk, in a car, etc.), the device being used and ambient circumstances (such as weather conditions outdoors or noise levels indoors). Because all of these influence purchasing decisions, marketers must create experiences that resonate with consumers in the context of these ever-shifting circumstances.

Businesses that understand context become relevant at each stage of the customer journey.

Creating a context-aware roadmap

Location-based contextual moments represent opportunities for businesses to create context-aware content so long as the brand’s message is relevant and not spammy. But how does a brand figure out which moments to create and where to create them? We suggest that businesses identify their own moments by applying these filters:

  1. Your Customer. Who are your customers? What are their wants and needs, and how do those wants and needs change throughout the day? How do your customers use technology to get what they want? What do they expect from your brand: utility, engagement or both? What opportunities exist for you to deliver context-aware experiences throughout your customers’ journeys?
  2. Your business strategy. What is the vision for achieving your brand and experience goals? What are your near-term objectives from a location-marketing standpoint? For instance, are you trying to increase foot traffic to stores? Increase same-store sales? Both?
  3. Your capabilities. What capabilities (e.g., inventory management, merchandising and branding) exist in order for you to create context-aware experiences for your customers? What gaps exist with your capabilities, and do you have the budget and resources to fill those gaps?
  4. Your technology. Ranging from analytics to platforms and mobile wallet offers, what supporting technologies (if appropriate to your customers’ wants and needs) do you need in order to create context-aware experiences?

The next step when constructing context-aware journeys requires that data be applied properly — beginning with basic customer information, then adding historical and behavioral data and ultimately physical location. This information allows businesses to gain a better understanding not only of their users’ current context, but also of how to improve the future-state experience by addressing customer wants and needs — through utility, engagement or both. These insights must then be mapped against a company’s unique business strategy, capabilities and technology in order to determine which moments to create and where to create them.

Data can be applied to multiple context layers

Constructing context-aware journeys relies on enriching the core, basic context of the traveler with historical behavioral and, ultimately, physical location informa tion to help anticipate customers' needs.



A marketing mindshift

Capitalizing on the new context of location asks senior marketers to think differently about how they interact with their customers and agencies. Wondering where to begin?

  • Re-examine your multichannel marketing strategies in the context of your business goals. Are you trying to win more mobile traffic for your online storefront? Improve foot traffic at your brick-and-mortar locations? Both?
  • Design a more robust view of your customer’s journey from the home to the store. Doing so requires applying tools such as journey maps, which illustrate multiple decision-making points along the path to purchase. Journey maps also identify opportunities for your brand to participate in the decision-making. These maps need to be dynamic to succeed — for example, they should accommodate emerging platforms such as Snapchat.
  • Once you have a clearer view of the customer’s journey, start thinking of the contextual circumstances that inform decisions along each touchpoint. In what kind of home does your target audience live? Are they likely to be using smart appliances themselves? If so, how? How are they consuming content at home, on the go and at/near the store? 
  • Surround yourself with the right blend of talent and technology to design experiences that will support your business needs. If you are a retailer, for example, you’ll likely need a multidisciplinary team that combines expertise in merchandising, customer experience design and mobile.
  • Identify your best opportunity to reach your customer with a contextual marketing experience at home, on the go or at/near the store. Pilot a contextual marketing experience that occurs in one or all of these circumstances, with branded content appropriate for the circumstance.

Ultimately, context will allow marketers to redefine location marketing and create more valuable, relevant experiences. It always begins where purchase decisions are being made, and with the role your brand can play.

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