As Epirot Ludvik Nekaj, Founder & CEO of Ludvik + Partners, explained in his introduction, the excitement of location-based services is based in part by its novelty and rapid evolution. In fact, he and John Andrews, Founder & CEO of Collective Bias, noted that one of the original panelists couldn’t take part in today’s event because his company, Where, had recently been bought. While some have said that location-based services are dying, the hosts believe that it has barely begun.
Running commentary for this event can be found at the hashtag #LBSBoost. Jason Keath of Social Fresh served as moderator of the panel of marketers and technologists made up of:
Ryan Kuder, Bizzy
Rob Reed, MomentFeed
Phil Thomas Di Giulio, Pegshot
Gil Harel, Bite Hunter
Keath started with some stats from a recent Edison Research study:
- 30% Americans are now familiar with location-based services (+450% from last year)
- 10 million Americans have posted their locations through an app at least once
- 20% of those (2 million) use location-based services every time they go out
The numbers, especially the awareness numbers, are encouraging. Keath asked the panel whether these numbers have reached a point where marketers have to pay attention to the space, or whether it’s still in its infancy. Kuder believes that it’s critical that location is currently the most important for brands whose customers must make quick decisions (e.g., restaurants), while it is less critiical for brands for whose products consumers take longer to make purchase decisions. Reed forecasts that adoption will grow next year in the way that Twitter has grown in the last year.
Di Giulio notes that search behaviors on mobile are different than desktop-based searches: consumers want to find more immediately local data when on their mobile devices. There are multiple stakeholders in the local space, both local businesses and brands. He gave the example of Timberland partnering with geo-caching organizations. Keath notes that retail opportunities for brands who do not own their own brick-and-mortar stores (e.g., Pepsi) have an opportunity to leverage location-based specials.
Loyalty programs are an opportunity for loyalty programs; however, small businesses are slow to adopt location-based services. Di Guilio understands that many small business owners are still trying to learn Facebook and Twitter, and they don’t have the time to commit to becoming involved with local. Reed believes that small business owners can be won over with analytics. Once they understand that they can find out who their repeat customers are and when they have the most visitors, for example, they become an easier sell.
While passive check-ins (or check-outs in the case of Bizzy) are often a point of contention in regard to privacy, the ability to remind users to interact with the location-based services (e.g., push notifications) are an opportunity to foster engagement. Di Guilio and Reed recognize the importance of purchases and transaction play in the check-in ecosystem. Another growing context for location is the crowd in proximity to the user (e.g., Color). In the apps built around proximity, location is a layer, but it’s not staring in the face of the customer.
In regard to partnerships, a good partnership has to be discoverable, and there has to be the right audience in place. Kuder gave the example of Foodspotting partnering with celebrity chefs to share food. In their case, they are catering to a niche audience who is very interested in the promotion. There is a confluence of the online and offlne experience, in the words of Di Guilio, as mobile users can essential drop off tips and data points into the non-digital ecosystem.
In regard to driving mainstream adoption, Kuder foresees a seminal moment in location-based adoption when a major brand makes use of such a service to connect with their audience (comparing it to Twitter’s “Oprah moment”, when Oprah started to push the service to their audience.) Keath notes that encouraging check-ins gives retailers and brands another opportunity to learn about and engage with their most active customers.
Reed sees concerns about location privacy lagging online privacy concerns by about three years. As long as people know what they are getting themselves into, then they will grow to accept the practice. Kuder understands that you have to give something to get something, so people need to be offered sufficient utility so that they are willing to share locations (e.g., free products, opportunity to hang out with friends, etc.) Keath explains that most people are willing to save a credit card on Amazon today, while ten years ago, that was unheard of.
Badges provide a superficial replacement for human interaction. In other words, according to Kuder, explains that badges are the apps way of telling someone that it is excited that you checked in, even if no humans will tell you that. People often only think of badges and leaderboards when discussing game mechanisms in location-based services, but Kuder notes that feedback mechanisms like those that people see when using Instagram.
Reed notes the entrepreneurs build their businesses by identifying pain points and creating opportunities. As location-based services evolve to play a role in difference parts of the customer experience, adoption will grow.