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Gap Ad Campaign Tracks Shopper Locations Using Mobile Geofencing Technology

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A Gap ad in a public transport tunnel in San Francisco
A Gap ad in a public transport tunnel in San Francisco

Gap Inc. knows where you live -- or at least where your smartphone lives.

In a recent ad campaign in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, the retailer placed ads in bus stations and other public transportation sites, using local apps on smart phones to determine when shoppers were nearby, reports TechCrunch. The location-finding technology, called geofencing, allows Gap to send virtual ads and coupons directly to the phones of those in proximity who have allowed apps like Words with Friends and the Huffington Post to access their locations. Gap is hoping that shoppers who see its ads will be more likely to actually notice -- and purchase -- the clothes featured in them.

Gap is not the only brand trying to lure in new shoppers through innovative mobile ads in transport hubs. Virtual storefronts have become all the rage of late, starting with Tesco, the supermarket chain which launched a "virtual grocery store" in the subways of Seoul, Korea in late 2010.

At Tesco's "virtual store," shoppers scan quick response (or QR) codes printed on walls to have groceries automatically delivered to their homes. During this past holiday season, Sears and Kmart also launched "mobile toy walls" in airports and at bus shelters, hoping that busy parents would get their shopping done with their smart phones.

So far, much of this mobile marketing has worked well: Tesco saw its online sales jump 130 percent after launching the virtual grocery store. Gap also saw a much higher percent of users actually click on its smart phone ads than it normally does, the company told TechCrunch.

Whether these tactics will work in less tech-savvy locals remains to be seen. Some have speculated that most consumers still don't know how to use QR codes, despite the marketing bombardment. According to a comScore study, only 6.2 percent of the total mobile audience, or fourteen million Americans, had scanned a QR code in June 2011.

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