Build the experiences customers expect with foreground location signals

It's common these days that when you download and install an app on your smartphone or visit a mobile website, you get prompted to allow the app some level of access to your location. Whether or not location is core to the app's purpose, most have realized location context plays a significant role in receiving a personalized, rewarding, and convenient app experience.

It’s easy to get excited and ask for the highest level of location permissions with background for always-on access. For some apps, receiving location even when the app is closed is critical for autonomous experiences that rely on persistent location signals and context. However, for the vast majority of apps, foreground location is more than sufficient for creating location-based experiences.

Building experiences that rely exclusively on foreground location signals is ideal for several reasons:

  • During onboarding, you’re likely already asking for a lot from a user. Getting them activated quickly should be your key focus.
  • On average, a much higher percentage of new users opt into foreground over background location permissions. They likely do not fully understand the value proposition or need time to build trust that you’ll be using their location to deliver a better experience.
  • On iOS, you only get one opportunity to natively prompt for background location, so giving the user more time to engage with your app increases your chances that they'll provide more access to enhance their experience further.

In this post we will explore how foreground location can be used to power common location use cases, including on-premise experiences, order ahead and pickup, and region-based experiences. It’s also possible to use just foreground location data to better segment and analyze your audience, so we will cover that use case as well.

How can foreground location be maximized?

So what can you do with foreground location? It depends. If you are using native location APIs and client-side geofences, you are limited in the context potential of knowing a user’s location. This includes accuracy limitations (only can monitor circles with over 100m radius) and scaling challenges (need to build out API services and logic to detect which boundaries the location update falls in). Alternatively, your opportunities are boundless with Radar’s unlimited geofences, places, and regions. You can create isochrone (ETA-based geometry) and complex polygon geofences with Radar. If you prefer not to manage your own geofences, Radar lets you tap into their places and regions, which can be activated easily via the dashboard.

Let’s consider some themes and use cases that utilize location enriched with context to deliver impactful experiences with location and geofencing when users open the app.

Using foreground location for in-store app experiences

Mobile app experiences are increasingly important shopping companions, even in-store. For instance, 82% of smartphone users consult their smartphone when shopping in-store, and 61% of users say they are more likely to buy from companies whose mobile sites or apps customize information to their location. Customers leaned heavily on curbside and delivery, contactless payments, and other digital-first experiences during the pandemic and – according to a Salesforce study – plan to maintain or increase engagement with these features moving forward. 73% of customers expect companies to personalize their experiences to their individual needs. There’s no better way to satisfy their demands than with location-aware app experiences.

There are many ways to personalize app experiences within physical locations. Simple changes in your app when someone is inside the store can help drive relevant behavior.

When we drop into our favorite coffee shops before heading into the office or to step away from our virtual offices, we’ve all walked in at times when there’s a long line. If it's an option, you may use the coffee shop mobile app to place an order as a way to skip the line. The coffee shop could, by using foreground location and in-store context, even further refine the experience by putting on-premise users automatically into the store’s mobile ordering page to save users a couple of taps. Alternatively, businesses can personalize the app experience by welcoming into your store and displaying store-specific promotions and upcoming events.

Quickchek, a gas and convenience store, has a loyalty app that drops you into an in-store screen that lets you order with a single click, scan your loyalty barcode, and quickly access rewards you’ve already earned.

Retail apps are adding capabilities like scan and pay, where you can scan your items in your app and self-checkout without waiting for an available register. As this type of feature is relevant only inside specific retail locations, location context can be a great way to activate and showcase in-store app features when they apply and make other features more prominent when customers are in a different location.

For example, Home Depot unlocks an in-store mode that gives customers a barcode scanner to tap into more details on an item, a store map, and access to store promotions.

Loyalty apps provide another use case for location-based experiences. In this instance, stores can display features, such as a loyalty barcode or points, when a user is in-store to remind customers to take advantage of the perks they’ve earned and to keep accumulating points or rewards.

How digital-first apps can use foreground location

Apps often rely on other points of interest if they don’t have a physical presence. They connect users digitally to the physical world with app experiences.

Consider the popular cash back, buy now, pay later, or discount apps. In addition to engaging with users directly, these apps also partner with brands with physical retail locations. To help users find affiliate locations, product teams use location infrastructure to display in-app nearby retailers where customers can take advantage of their app benefits. Brands that use Radar, can build this experience whether these physical storefronts are geofenced or activated as Radar places.

Travel accommodation apps can recommend nearby restaurants or suggest nearby activities to enhance the digital experience during travel. Traveloka, a flight, hotel, and activities booking app, uses Radar to connect travelers to local activities, attractions, and restaurants while traveling. Zillow, a real estate app, helps buyers find their new dream home by connecting them to nearby properties and letting users self-tour with just a click using location and Radar geofencing, blurring the digital and physical world.

Reducing wait times for order pickup

Retailers and restaurants that offer order ahead and pickup can create a more seamless experience for customers with shorter wait times by using location to know exactly when a customer will be arriving for pickup. Customers can notify a business within the app when they’re on their way for pickup, beginning a trip in the foreground. These foreground trips allow for more accurate customer ETAs and arrival detection, enabling staff to prioritize and prepare orders based on customer arrival time, ensuring shorter wait times.

Using location, American Eagle provides live customer ETAs and arrival alerts to in-store staff during order pickup. Fiesta Restaurant Group uses location to notify kitchen staff of customer arrival and to send pickup instructions to customers, reducing friction at curbside.

Developing regional experiences with foreground location

Gaming apps that allow you to enter a lottery, bet on your favorite sports teams, or play a virtual slot machine on your phone rely heavily on regional location context. For instance, varying laws and regulations mean that app creators must ensure betting occurs only in countries or states with proper licensing. Radar’s out-of-the-box Regions functionality can provide country and state verification so app creators can unlock functionality only where available.

Jackpocket, a popular mobile lottery application, lets you purchase draw lottery tickets without making a trip to your local convenience store. The app uses foreground location to identify if a user is in a region that allows online lottery and specific features that may be prohibited due to other local restrictions.

If you’ve ever traveled and tried to watch Hulu live tv out of state or stream a movie on Netflix in another country, content is often limited or restricted in certain regions. Digital streaming apps also have regional restrictions. They can filter content with foreground location and regional context for a better viewing experience.

Understanding the country, state, DMA, or postal code a user is in can be used to enhance digital experiences further. A retail app may want to showcase different clothing in California versus the midwest or northeast states. Apps often rely on IP geolocation services to get a general coarse understanding of a user’s location. Using an IP is only 50-80% accurate in pinpointing a city or state of a mobile device. Radar uses HTML5 geolocation for the web, which takes advantage of GPS and WiFi triangulation to get more accurate regional context.

Audacy, a streaming radio and podcast app, uses Radar to recommend local music, sports, and news radio stations to follow by leveraging Radar and their regional market geofences.

Segmentation, messaging, and attribution

As users use your app, location context from geofencing, places, and regions can help you segment your audiences for more personalized messaging. You can send customized messages to specific markets or promotions to motivate customers to visit stores they used to frequent. Some marketing automation platforms can also update content cards and messaging within an app with relevant location-aware content.

Foreground location is a great way to learn where users are when they install your app and even leverage your physical footprint to drive omnichannel adoption. Some brands leverage signage with QR codes in physical footprints to drive app installs. Walmart ran a successful store promotion that gave customers $5 off their first purchase when downloading and installing the app. Belk, a department store, ran a campaign that had their stores compete to see who could drive the most downloads. The campaign resulted in 1.5 million new app downloads. With location and geofencing, it's easy to attribute where the user was on the first app launch. Radar paired with solutions like Branch, a mobile attribution and linking platform, and Amplitude, a behavioral analytics platform, allows you to flexibly and scalably drive these experiences and assess performance of these experiences.

As you can imagine, these foreground use cases are just the tip of the iceberg. The possibilities are endless with the proper location context. If you’d like to learn more about Radar and creating location-aware experiences to boost app engagement, get in touch with a member of our team.