While the concept of proximity marketing is far from new, it is usually focused around technology and digital techniques. This is particularly true as reduced costs have minimised barriers to entry, with the use of beacons and branded apps enabling local businesses to target relevant demographics through a real-time, Bluetooth connection and trigger offers that are timely and relevant to local commuters.


Beacons are certainly not the only way through which brands can leverage proximity marketing, as traditional methods such as billboards can also be genuinely effective.

In this post, we will talk about the power of proximity marketing and ask how small businesses can capitalise this through the medium of traditional billboards.


The Power of Proximity Marketing: Why is it Important for Local Businesses?

While a great deal of emphasis has been placed on emerging technologies such as near-field communication (NFC), beacons and location-based targeting, there is no doubt that regional businesses are increasingly keen to explore the concept of proximity marketing in a bid to optimise their marketing spend and target real-time consumer behaviour.

Still, a study commissioned by Airspace back in 2015 confirmed that this underlying focus on technology was proving to be an obstacle for small and independent businesses that lacked financial resources.

While 77% of larger brands (with 3,000 employees or more) were keen on investing heavily in proximity marketing, just 41% of companies that employed between 500 and 1000 staff members shared a similar objective. In short, the response rate and willingness to embrace proximity marketing correlated directly to the size of the business, deterring genuinely small start-ups from embracing the true power of the concept.

Despite this, the real power of proximity marketing lies in the proliferation of mobile technology and consumerism, which has significantly changed the behaviour of customers in the digital age. As recently as 2014, it was reported that UK customers had purchased £8.41 billion-worth of goods through their mobile devices, with this number rising by a staggering 77.8% to £14.95 billion the following year. This rate of growth has compelled businesses to target mobile customers through proximity marketing, with aforementioned technologies like NFC merely emerging as the obvious channels to drive campaigns.

By switching the focus to m-commerce, we begin to see why the concept of proximity marketing (rather than the technologies that are perceived to underpin this) offers such value to local businesses of all sizes. Not only are customers spending incrementally larger amounts through their smartphones and tablets, but a growing majority use these devices to actively research and inform their purchasing decisions. In fact, 77% of shoppers use their mobile device for this purpose while in-store, rather than speaking directly to a sales assistant or asking a fellow consumer. 


How Billboards Can Help You to Leverage Proximity Marketing

Make no mistake; it is this change in behaviour and the proliferation of mobile technology that has popularised proximity marketing in the digital age. It is important that smaller independent firms adopt this perspective, as this helps them to understand the importance of the concept while also opening their minds to alternative and more cost-effective channels through which they can engage local customers.

Traditional billboards certainly offer a relevant case in point, as this cost-effective advertising medium can deliver optimal exposure in a number of strategic locations.

And whilst major brands such as Mcdonalds make the most of strategic local advertising (see below), the same principles can be applied to local businesses to drive footfall, such as retail stores, for example.

mc donalds

So why is local, proximity advertising relevant and useful to SMEs?

To begin with, paper billboards can be secured on an exclusive basis by brands (as opposed to digital alternatives that force advertisers to share space with other businesses while typically displaying your message for just 10 seconds per minute). This ensures that your small business can optimise its market reach within the local area, without having its message compromised or absorbed by alternative brands.

Billboards are also ideally placed to capitalise on strategically selected locations, with prominent roadside adverts offering a prime example. These can be placed at busy junctions (where the traffic flow is relatively restricted) that sit en-route to your physical location, effectively targeting local or passing customers and creating a viable sales funnel.

Studies have shown that around 68% of UK consumers frequently make shopping decisions while they are in the car, so targeting them during this time could encourage them make a purchase or interact further with the brand through their mobile.

This type of proximity marketing also lends itself to impulse purchases, with a further 24% of customers claiming they were motivated to visit a particular store (or website) on the same day that they saw an affiliated outdoor advert.

Another 24% of customers have even visited a store or checkout page immediately after viewing a branded, OOH message, so there is no doubt that billboards are capable of effectively engaging individuals and compelling them to take action in real-time.

At this stage, it should be clear that while it may be an advertising channel that is synonymous with proximity marketing, it is ideally suited to capitalising on both geographical location and customer behaviour in real-time. It is also fair to surmise that billboard campaigns can be successfully tailored to target alternative customer segments like young professionals and students, by leveraging prominent locations such as train stations and universities.

This allows for subtle variations in calls-to-action and messaging, as you look to optimise engagement while capitalising on a large, local footfall.


Why Billboards and Proximity Marketing is a Marriage Made in Heaven

Proximity marketing extends far beyond beacon and NFC technologies, as it is primarily driven by consumer behaviour and the sophistication of the mobile platform. In this respect, billboards are genuinely effective at targeting customers on the move and driving interaction through mobile devices, while they also represent an especially cost-effective marketing channel.

With this in mind, billboards enable small and local firms to leverage proximity marketing and capitalise on consumer behaviour in the digital age, without forcing them to spend outside of their financial means.