Whole Foods & Thinknear: The Incredible Location-Based Mobile Campaign

The use of Internet through mobile devices has skyrocketed in the past 10 years. Less than two decades ago, a bulky computer setup that warranted its own office in many cases was necessary to access the information available on the web. Today, however, consumers demand quick and easy access to whatever information and services they need, thus initiating growth in the mobile market. Advertisers need to take advantage of the mobile platform to reach customers on a device that most people bring with them almost everywhere they go. While mobile devices now have capabilities that eclipses and even surpasses those on traditional Internet connected devices. Brands must take advantage of this new channel of communications with the market and its unique ways of connecting with consumers.

The Campaign

The growing health-oriented supermarket chain, Whole Foods, has gotten a lot of attention lately as the chain was bought by the online retailer giant, Amazon. While the Amazon brand is likely to bring innovation to the national chain, Whole Foods has actually been using mobile ad technology for the past few years to drive traffic to their locations. Whole Foods uses the service Thinknear, which describes itself as “a location technology company and full-service mobile advertising platform focused on delivering amazing advertising campaigns for agencies, brands and consumers,” (Thinknear Case Study). Essentially the service uses location data to target consumers with mobile ads and track the success of the campaign. In their 2016 campaign, Thinknear implemented the use both geo-fencing and geo-conquesting strategies to reach consumers and drive traffic, specifically on the weekends, to Whole Foods stores (Girish). Geo-fencing and geo-conquesting are both location-based marketing strategies made possible through the GPS capabilities of mobile devices.

Geo-fencing is when a marketer creates a virtual “fence” around a particular geographic location that triggers an ad software response when a user enters or leaves the area (Chamberlain). Thinknear “built” geo-fences around Whole Foods locations so that it could find consumers that frequently passed by the stores. Then, using this data they were able to serve these users ads for Whole Foods. On the other hand, geo-conquesting is when data extracted from geo-fencing competitor locations is used to target consumers that visit the competitors and serve them mobile ads in an effort to take their business (Chamberlain). Thinknear used strategy by building geo-fences around competing grocery stores, specifically targeting other health-oriented markets, to serve them targeted Whole Foods ads. Using these targeting techniques Whole Foods was able to not only capitalize on building their relationship with existing customers, but was also able to engage with the competition’s customers at the right time and place for ad serving.  


Strategic Success Metrics

The two main objectives of this campaign were:

  1. To drive visits to new Whole Foods Market locations while building brand awareness for Whole Foods in each relevant local market.
  2. To drive mobile traffic to the local Whole Foods Facebook pages.

The main metric relevant to this campaign was click through rates and resulting store visits. According the case study produced by Thinknear, “Whole Foods Market campaign realized a 4.69% post-click conversion rate which is more than 3x the industry average,”. This shows incredible success in using mobile ad tactics to drive traffic to the physical store locations. The use of location addresses, maps, turn-by-turn directions, call-to links, and the grand opening date for each store greatly increased the affinity for a customer to visit a Whole Foods store when combined with the geographical location marketing.

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Personally, I was incredibly impressed with the strategy used in this campaign. With over a 4.5% post click conversion rate, I think that other brands should considering this use of geographic targeting. I also think that using this mobile marketing tool is especially relevant to Whole Foods’ target consumers. These consumers generally have a more disposable income and are concerned about the quality of their food, which leads me to believe that they are upper class, informed, and generally up-to-date technology-wise. These customers were obviously influenced by this use of location-based mobile marketing because they were more likely to see the ads when it was most relevant.

Effect on Customer Experience

The use of these strategies enhances the customer’s experience by connecting with them where and where it matters most. By using mobile geographical information, Thinknear was able to target Whole Foods consumers either when they were in the same area as a Whole Foods store, or when they were visiting a competitor grocery store. This means that consumers were served the ad when buying groceries was fresh in their minds. Instead of serving an ad at any given time when the call to action could be forgotten, Whole Foods communicated their message when it was most relevant to the customer and therefore resulted in greater conversion rates. In terms of timing, customers were served most ads on the weekends. Most consumers buy their food for the upcoming week between Friday and Sunday, which served as the rationale for the timing that the ads were served (Kaplan). Again, by serving the mobile ads when it was most relevant to the customer, the post click-through conversion rates were increased.


Works Cited

Chamberlain, Lauryn. “GeoMarketing 101: What Is Geoconquesting?” GeoMarketing, Yext, 12 Jan. 2017, http://www.geomarketing.com/geomarketing-101-what-is-geoconquesting.

Girish, Devika. “4 Brands That Are Winning at Location-Based Marketing and How.” Beaconstac RSS, MobStack, Inc. , 19 Apr. 2016, blog.beaconstac.com/2016/04/4-brands-that-are-winning-at-location-based-marketing-and-how/.

Kaplan, David. “10 Top Location-Based Marketing Campaigns of 2015.” Street Fight, Hyperlocal Industries, 22 Dec. 2015, streetfightmag.com/2015/12/22/10-top-location-based-marketing-campaigns-of-2015/.

Thinknear Case Study: Whole Foods Market Partners with Thinknear to Drive Store Visits. Telenav, Thinknear Case Study: Whole Foods Market Partners with Thinknear to Drive Store Visits, http://www.thinknear.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Case-Study-Whole-Foods-Thinknear.pdf.

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