Geo-fencing or Beacons?

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The buzz around businesses using location technology to connect with their customers via their smartphones is quite phenomenal. Through GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or RFID, companies are able to track customers and send them messages depending on where they are at a certain point. The most common types of location technology are beacons and geo-fencing. Yet, the question is: which one is better?


A geo-fence is a virtual perimeter around a real-world geographic area. Geo-fences can be between 50 to 50.000 meters’ radius. The geo-fencing technology uses the GPS function of a mobile device and determines a proximity to that particular geographic area. For example, a retailer’s geo-fence could be a circle around the store defined by GPS coordinates of the store. When a customer enters that circle, the geo-fence triggers an action, such as a timely text message or a discount alert to attract the customer as they walk past.


Beacons use Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) to emit a signal that can be detected by a smartphone with a precision of 10cm to 70m. For example, if a loyal customer has the retailer’s app on their smartphone this can connect with the beacon signal as they enter a store, which tells the retailer that the customer is near that beacon, right now. The retailer can send personalised messages, offers and details about items the customer is looking at that exact moment.


Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 15.07.48 Beacons



Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 4.56.01 pm Geo-fence






Even though the core application of both geo-fencing and beacons is to identify users’ proximity to a particular location, the technologies have several differences. First, beacons can detect customers with greater accuracy whereas geo-fencing is less precise. Second, beacons are more suitable for in-store marketing compared to geo-fencing, which can be used for broader marketing purposes. Third, beacons come in range of sizes and variations, such as USB or battery-powered, with additions such as temperature sensors and accelerometers. Geo-fencing does not have those features.

Now that you know the main differences between geo-fencing and beacons, the question still remains which one is better?

The truth is that there is no right answer to that. In fact, both geo-fencing and beacons have their unique place in the market. Businesses should use a mixture of the location technologies rather than just one. The combination delivers better outcomes because it allows businesses to communicate with their customers when they are in-store and outdoors. Do you agree?