If a business wants to know exactly where a user is visiting their website or app from, it uses geolocation.
Why is this useful? Because businesses can use geolocation technology in a way that’s going to result in more sales.
If you’ve ever asked yourself how does geolocation work, here’s everything you need to know about what is geolocation and how it works.
What is Geolocation?
Geolocation is the geographical (longitude and latitude) location of a device that’s connected to the Internet.
Remember that time you accidentally misplaced your phone, Apple Watch, AirPods or Mac, and you used the “Find My iPhone?” feature?
Well, Apple uses geolocation technology to pinpoint the approximate location of your iOS device.
Business owners can take this one step further with geolocation marketing. If you’ve ever used the app Foursquare, you’ll know that as soon as you touch down in a new city, you’ll get a push notification about all the top restaurants near you that match your preferences.
Another excellent example of geolocation marketing is rewarding customers with a small gift for “checking in” via Facebook. You can give away a free coffee, your WiFi password or a 20% off voucher.
It’s an easy way to reach a larger audience and grow your business with hardly any effort.
What is Not Geolocation
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of geolocation, it’s important to establish what geolocation cannot do. Geolocation cannot track a person, only whatever electronic device is connected to the Internet.
So, if you’re on vacation in Paris, and you leave your iPhone in your hotel room, Google won’t be able to track your movements and create a timeline of your day. It also won’t be able to automatically record the places you go to and save them for you in your location history.
How accurate is IP geolocation?
Like anything in life, there’s always room for error.
Geolocation collects its data from the GPS on your device and cellular networks. The more people there are to receive transmissions from; the more accurate geolocation becomes and it dramatically reduces the probability of your phone telling you to turn left into a wall.
If you’re out in the sticks, you’ll find the accuracy of geolocation starts to get a bit wonky. There are usually delays in data transmissions, and Suri might really want you to drive straight through that cornfield.
For businesses wanting to use geolocation technology, the accuracy of IP geolocation information can vary wildly across service providers. So you’ll need to take care when picking a data source.
Otherwise, inaccurate IP geolocation data can create problems for your customers like poor user experience.
How Does Geolocation Work On A Browser?
Whenever you connect to the Internet with your phone, computer or tablet, your device creates a unique identifier for you called an IP address.
So how does geolocation work on a browser?
You can use IP-based geolocation to find out the country or city the people accessing your site are from if you know their IP address.
However, it’s important to remember that IP geolocation accuracy is not 100%. It should be used as a guideline, not as a definitive.
In the United States, IP geolocation accuracy is 90-something percent (that number varies, depending on the source database) at the country level. (gravitatedesign.com)
What are the strengths of geolocation?
Creates tailored shopping experiences
Are you running an e-commerce site in multiple countries around the world? When a user lands on your website, you can use their IP geolocation to take them to the site you’ve built specifically for that region.
Your customers can see what stock is available in their country as well as the prices of your goods in their preferred country. It creates a seamless and tailored shopping experience that will keep eyeballs on your site.
Improves your marketing efforts
Geolocation is also a powerful way to improve your marketing. By using the geolocation in Google Analytics in the Audience section, you can click on the “Geo” drop-down list and view an interactive map that shows you where most of your users come from.
From there, you can use location-based filters to drill down into cities and view the statistics for acquisition, behaviour and conversions for each destination.
With this information, you can start to analyze your base and begin to make better business decisions.
For example: If you notice you’re getting a decent amount of from New York, but the users aren’t converting, you can set up a geolocation coupon code to trigger and encourage people to complete the check-out process.
What are the weaknesses?
While IP-based geolocation is a treasure trove of information for businesses, users might feel less inclined to share their data with you.
As a result, there is a rise in VPNs, Proxys and other IP obfuscation tools.
Another way that your geolocation data can become corrupted is with data injection. This is when the user sends fake locations or when no data is collected because it requires the user to consent.
So if you need the exact address of your customer, down to their house number, the best way to collect this data is the old fashion way: simply asking for it.
Geolocation is an excellent way to grow your business and offer your customers a tailored experience. As the technology improves over the next couple of years, it’s probably going to become more accurate and an indispensable business tool.