Staff Writer

Location-based marketing was once a promising if underutilized form of marketing made possible by the mobile devices we carry with us everywhere. As Apple doubles down on privacy with the introduction of iOS 15, and Google continues to move toward a cookie-less future, the technology that once allowed us to provide targeted ads, sometimes based on geotargeting, is in peril. 

With the September release of iOS 15, Apple will enable users to “easily share their current location with an app just once, without giving the developer further access after that session. Developers can customize the share current location button, and integrate it directly into their apps.” But the added privacy control for consumers may not be a boon for mobile marketers looking to take advantage of location data. 

Is this the end for location-based mobile marketing? Not likely, according to our experts.

“Location-based advertising can still succeed in this rapidly changing data privacy landscape, but marketers will need to change their approach when it comes to this form of targeting advertising,” says Eric McGee, senior network engineer at TRGDatacenters and an app developer. “To be effective in this era, location-based adverts will need to focus more on contextual targeting, rather than relying on unique, personal identifier elements. As more devices increase their privacy measures, and more data privacy regulations are enforced, marketers will need to shift from targeting individuals to a group/segment targeting approach. Approximation, rather than personalization, will eventually take precedence in location-based advertising.”

What is location-based marketing?

Location-based marketing enables businesses to target potential customers at a personal level with messaging based on their physical location. Advertisers are able to reach consumers based on data like proximity to a store, events, and more.

Geo-fencing may be the future of location-based ads

“Geo-location based advertising through SDK partnerships will likely be the future of targeted mobile ads because they do not rely on third-party cookie data, but instead rely on central data providers having repositories of mobile and device data, as well as SDK partnerships with mobile app publishers and an ad exchange,” says Adam Casole-Buchanan, director of partnerships at briefbid.  

He continues, “These data providers have spent years building out ‘Mobile Intelligence’ platforms, and have refined the way they can create a digital-geo-fence, or digital polygon (area cones), in which users would be served ads based on the apps they have on their phone.” 

What will the future of location-based marketing look like in reality? Probably a lot like this, according to Casole-Buchanan: “Consider a popular use case for this: ConsumerX is going through the drive-through of YFastFoodJoint. AdvertiserZ is running a digitally polygonned ad-area in that drive-through to serve ads to ConsumerN who enter the geo-fence and have: A) The YFastFoodJoint App .) Apps like the YFastFoodJoint App and C) have apps in a cohort of apps that AdvertiserZ deems within their audience profile for ConsumerN. The ad (could be a coupon or food promotion) then gets served in-app of the YFastFoodJoint app or in a browser if ConsumerX is both within the geo-fence, and looking at any number of digital properties that AdvertiserZ is buying ads from through a mobile ad exchange. All done without third-party cookies, conducted entirely through SDKs, Postbacks, and ad exchanges that partner with a data provider.”

Of course, SKadNetwork has slowed down the attribution process and made the advertisers’ ability to react quickly far more difficult. “But, the future of location-based ads will continue to be defined by Buyers to targeted GEOs, and then rectified by some Geodata is the postback,” says Casole-Buchanan.

Making location-based ads work for your mobile marketing strategy

With challenges ahead, marketers interested in using location-based marketing should start preparing now. “One thing to think about as you experiment with location-based services (LBS) is how you can use your LBS or recommendation engines like WHERE (or even Twitter) to start serving your customers more spatially relevant ads,” says Edward Mellett, co-founder of

Mellett continues, “What makes geo-targeted advertising so fascinating is that it enables day-parting — showing time-sensitive ads, such as lunch ads around noon — and demographic targeting. Most importantly, prospective buyers will have a method to interact with these targeted advertisements via an LBS.” 

The real key to making location-based ads — or any other personalized marketing — work, is making your messaging worth the customers’ data. “Today's tech-savvy, always-on-the-internet, and smartphone users want only helpful and relevant messages that speak directly to their needs,” says Rameez Usmani, tech and security expert with Code Signing Store. “Marketers must enhance location within the context of user data to generate smart notifications for a deeper experience, rather than simply using ‘pin location to send out notifications.”

For example, Usmani says a gaming app may send out updates when new features are available. “Consider what would happen if this app could detect that its user enjoys playing mobile games throughout their everyday commute. Instead of arbitrarily presenting a daily alert about a new coin purchase at 2 p.m., this gaming app would detect when the user is commuting and offer to resume their most recent game where they left off, and then share the offer.”

Using your data wisely to inspire users isn’t just for location-based strategies — it’s how you compel users to share their data and opt-in to your messaging across all your channels. So proceed not only with caution but with great care and forethought.