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In Retail? Here’s How to Use Proximity Marketing to Elevate Your Brand

Today, retail brands looking to increase their reach, engage their customers, and ultimately sell have long been busy exploring digital territories way beyond their brick-and-mortar walls and websites. Turning to hyper-efficient ways of connection that delight customers, retail mobile apps are truly leading the way. In the first three quarters of 2021, installs for retail apps reached 572 million with time spent in them tipping 100 billion hours and driving $359.32 billion in revenues. That’s a lot of billions …

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Despite the roaring success of the retail app, 50% of consumers still prefer to shop in a physical store, over 70% favor a combination of in-store and online, and almost 60% combine the in-store experience with the retailer’s mobile app. Bottom line? Cultivating a winning brand/consumer relationship means creating a unified customer experience across both the digital and the physical, creating magical micro-moments that customers love. And one of the optimum ways to do this? Retail proximity marketing.

What exactly is proximity marketing?

In a nutshell, proximity marketing means using a customer’s location to market products in ways that best meet your customer’s specific needs. So, when a Nike customer walks into one of their stores and they receive a notification on their cell for a pair of shades that they were looking at on the website last week, that’s proximity marketing. Or when you pass Sephora on your way home from the office on a Friday night and receive a message telling you to start off the weekend with a ‘ buy-one-get-one-half-off’ offer on their new makeup range – that’s proximity marketing. Or maybe Nordstrom will get to me first, luring you from the doors of Sephora with an even more tempting offer, courtesy of their latest geo-specific campaign – that’s proximity marketing at its finest.  

But however it’s done, using proximity marketing as part of your strategy for success ultimately allows for finely-tuned personalized marketing campaigns, taking them from ‘meh’ to magnificent. 

There are a few types of proximity marketing, but the two biggies you’ll want to focus on if you’re dabbling for the first time are’ beacons’ and ‘geofencing’.


First introduced by – you guessed it – Apple back in 2013, today beacons are used by savvy retail brands looking to connect with customers in a specific location with a pitch-perfect offer, most typically when they’re in a certain area of your store.

70% of shoppers who receive beacon-triggered offers say it makes them more likely to make a purchase during a store visit. More than 60% say they’d do more holiday shopping at brick-and-mortar stores that send mobile offers while they shop and 61% said they’d visit a store more often if it offered beacon marketing campaigns. 

There are a ton of ways you can use beacon technology to boost your marketing efforts such as:

Shipping Irresistible Offers and Deals

Imagine this – a customer walks into your store, heads for the sneaker display, and their smartphone pings. The same sneakers they’ve been eyeing up on your website but not yet purchased have now been put on sale with a 20% off code exclusively for them.

Helping Your Customers

Once they’ve popped the sneakers in their basket, they figure those jeans they’ve been coveting will be the perfect match. They open the app, check in-store availability, and are guided to the relevant store location using real-time mapping. They try the jeans on and they’re the perfect fit – but they don’t want to wander the store with a pair of jeans hanging off their arm, so they pop them in their click-and-collect basket in the app. Beacon tech alerts your store staff and they’ll be ready for the customer to collect when they arrive at the till to pay for their swag.

Promoting In-Store Events 

While they’re browsing the app for more product recommendations (well, it is payday after all), your customer receives an in-app notification about an event happening in-store later that day; a sports personality will be on the top floor promoting their new range of sports apparel. If they decide to come along, they’ll get 20% off any purchase from the new range.

Bridging the Gap between your Digital and Physical Real Estate

Maybe your customer is at home and ready to spend big. They jump into your app and fill their virtual basket with items they’ve had their eye on for some time – but they’re not looking to buy just yet. They want to try before they buy, so they send the items to their virtual fitting room. Back in the brick-and-mortar store, your staff are notified and the customer’s basket items are collected and placed in a private fitting room where they’ll be waiting for the customer until 4 pm. When the customer is ready, they head to your store where a beacon picks up that they’ve arrived. They then get a message with directions to their private changing room, where they can try on their desirables before purchasing.

And it doesn’t stop there. Beacons give your retail brand an unmissable opportunity to gather and collect ultra-valuable customer insights; capturing rich data such as what time a customer typically shops at, how much time they spend in-store, the type of items they typically purchase together, and their average spend.  Retail brands can use this data to fine-tune their beacon campaigns to ensure that each time a customer visits one of their stores, their shopping experience delivers on delight, therefore leveraging long-term loyalty and enhancing sales. 


Today, geofencing is one of the fastest-growing methods of marketing and for good reason; campaigns that ship via geofencing can see double the click-through rate of the more ‘traditional’ approaches. 

Use cases for geofencing are similar to those of beacons. For example, when a customer passes a geofenced store, it’ll trigger a push message with a personalized, valuable offer, for example, a QR code to show upon entry for an exclusive in-store event. But that’s not where the story ends. Retail brands can, and often do, establish a geofence around a competitor’s store – ‘geo-conquesting – so that when customers get a little too close to being tempted inside, they’ll get a hyper-personalized offer direct to their smartphone, luring them back to you and out of harm’s reach. But there’s so much more to geofencing:

Take the Friction Out of Purchasing Decisions

Your customer enters your geofenced store, ready to spend their hard-earned cash. As they enter, the geofence automatically activates product search and recommendations tools in your app and they’re presented with a range of accessories – along with customer reviews – that will go perfectly with the winter coat they purchased online last week. 

Connect Directly with your Customers in Real-Time

The great thing about geofencing is its ability to interact with customers while they’re in your store. So when they enter the store, they’re alerted in-app to a limited-time offer on that new model iPhone they’ve had their eye on. They’re alerted to a message in-app that takes them directly to the chat facility that links them in real-time to a product expert who’ll meet them in the product lounge to talk through any pre-purchase questions they may have.

Crush the Competition

Imagine one of your customers is passing a rival brand’s store, perusing the window display, and giving some serious consideration to going rogue. You’ve geofenced that store, so as your customer checks their bank balance on their smartphone, they receive a push notification from you. You tell them that whatever they’re thinking of purchasing from the competition, you’re knocking 20% off anything in their wish list if they head over to your store and bag their items before the end of the day.

Make your brand memorable!

Maybe you’re an exclusive, high-end retailer with many VIP customers and you need to ensure you’re firing on all cylinders when they turn up at your store. The geofence around your store will notify your concierge when your VIP is in the area so that they can be there to greet them with a complimentary glass of champagne and personal shopper upon arrival.

A Final Word

Maximizing the retail experience across your brick-and-mortar stores and your digital real estate means continually looking at new ways to reach your audience with personalized content that they find value in. As we make strides into hyper-personalization, we’ll see more and more retail brands – big and small – fine-tune their proximity marketing strategies to deliver micro-moments that go beyond the basics. This delights customers, and by default, cultivates loyalty. To discover more, and to learn how Optimove can help, let’s get the conversation started.

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Bob Lawson

Bob Lawson is Director of Mobile Offerings at Optimove. He joined Optimove early in 2022, when it acquired Kumulos, the company he co-founded. Kumulos was a market-leading Mobile and Web Messaging Platform serving a broad range of industries. Bob has spent more than 18 years in technology, particularly Mobile MarTech. He has held commercially facing roles in start-ups, scale-ups, and large enterprise businesses, particularly in Mobile Technology. Before working in the Tech space, he spent 15 years in Financial Services, most recently as Marketing Director of one of Europe’s largest Fund Management Companies.