The North Face Erects Geo-Fences

In some cities when I walk down "restaurant row" I get people trying to pull me into their restaurant to eat. "Best deal in town," seems to be a popular phrase. We've been promised the technological equivalent to that scenario, in the form of location-aware advertising via SMS, for at least six years, but it hasn't really hit the US shores yet. That is until now.

Start-up Placecast is working with The North Face, a retailer that specializes in outdoor wear. In select cities they've created "geo-fences" around The North Face stores and event locations, usually encompassing 1.0 to 1.5 miles in every direction. When a customer that has opted into the marketing program crosses the geo-fence, they receive a SMS message on their mobile phone from The North Face (TNF).

On the surface, there's nothing really new here except that TNF is taking a different approach to content. Instead of just sending coupons to entice customers to stop by, they are trying to be more contextual and personal. In a NYTimes article Aaron Carpenter, vice president of marketing for the North Face, said "we like things that people opt in to and that aren't going to be perceived as being intrusive, where we're bringing something to the table."

So THF will be sending information about weather conditions and logistics for outdoor sporting events like skiing and hiking. The combination of useful information and advertising seems to have struck a cord with their customers so far. TechCrunch reports "60% of participants found the location-triggered messages to be innovative, 79% said it increased their likelihood to visit a store, 65% made a purchase as a result of a ShopAlerts message and 73% of participants would definitely or probably use the service in the future."

All efforts for mobile and social engagement need to be two-edged. Yes retailers need to advertise, but they also need to add additional value to truly engage their customers. Seems like TNF has found a good combination for their customer base.

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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