Ever walked into a store and had an app notify you of a special offer or had an app suggested to you based on your current location? That was more than likely a result of geofencing. It’s pretty cool tech, and its uses reach far beyond marketing.
So we did some research to find out how people feel about being tracked by apps on their smartphones. TSheets conducted a survey of 400 U.S. employees to find out how familiar they are with geofencing and how they feel about it.*
Geofences are invisible boundaries that apps use to send you notifications or alerts to your smartphone when you enter or exit a predetermined GPS location. Geofencing apps can be used as in wide range of contexts. Some home alarm systems use geofences to alert you when your kids are within a set range (or out of it). Meanwhile, some companies use geofencing apps to let employees know when they’re in range of a job site.
As the popularity of geofencing rises so does the acceptance of it. We found that people aren’t bothered to find that apps track their location, as long as there’s a good reason for it. Our data revealed, in general, people don’t mind being tracked by apps. Of our respondents, 77 percent said they allow apps to track location when they’re not using them.
When it comes to location services, people place a lot of their decision-making on the app itself, assuming some apps are more reputable and trustworthy than others. Over half (about 59 percent) of our survey respondents said their decision to enable an app to track their location was determined by which app was tracking their location. More on this below.
The amount of trust they have in the app is another consideration. Of the respondents, 28 percent said “trust in the app” was the biggest factor in whether to enable location tracking settings.
Disruptive marketing is making a comeback. In general, people don’t mind getting a push notification or two from an app. We found that 78 percent of respondents were happy to receive an alert from an app, even when its purpose was to sell them something.
In fact, about 84 percent of our respondents who receive special offers from apps use them. And 48 percent of people said they like to receive notifications — when they are useful to them. Only one in 10 said they always ignore notifications.
Employers are starting to see the benefits of geofencing but how many of them are using it, and what do their employees think about it? When combined with mobile time tracking, geofencing can be used to remind workers to clock in or out. It can also be used to create safer jobsites. But only 12 percent of the respondents said they’ve actually used the technology at work. Of those employees, 53 percent had a positive experience, and 36 percent were “neutral.”
The finding that employers will be particularly interested to read here is that paying an employee's phone bill can significantly affect how they feel about the technology. More than three-quarters (78 percent to be precise) of workers whose phones are provided by their employer said they like geofencing, compared to 56 percent of those who use their own phone at work.
Although only 12 percent of our survey respondents said their employers use geofencing, that sample did have a pretty clear idea of why it was being used. In fact, the top three applications for geofencing at work were for employee location accountability, preventing time theft, and clocking in and out.
The survey respondents expressed some concerns about geofencing. Employees who have not used the technology before were notably less supportive of it, with just 13 percent saying they would like it if their employer introduced it. The reason? The biggest concern by far was how long their cellphone battery would last while using the technology.
If you have an Android phone, chances are significantly higher that you’ve used geofencing at work. Of the respondents who said they’ve used geofencing at work, 83 percent of them are Android users.
Although age isn’t a huge factor in whether people disable location tracking on their apps, it may influence their decision to disable alerts and notifications.
The survey revealed that one age group in particular was more likely than any other to ignore offers and discounts from apps: 18–to 24–year–olds. But dig deeper into the data and you discover that they are also the most likely to receive them. So maybe this isn't about age at all — just notification overload.
The lesson for businesses owners considering geofencing is that most people are happy to disclose their location to an app if it helps them. But don't overdo it. Send too many alerts and your customers will quickly tune them out.
*Methodology: In May 2017, TSheets commissioned Pollfish to survey 400 U.S. employees about geofencing to find out whether they have been exposed to the technology before and what they think about it. The respondents were all over the age of 18 and "employed for wages."