Happy New Year!
This year will be dominated by one theme: Location-based social networking companies. These companies allow consumers to check into physical locations and earn points, discounts, and show where nearby contacts are. Some of these companies such as FourSquare and Gowalla started gaining traction in the last quarter of 2009 and will pick up major speed on the path to monetization this year.
Picture yourself walking into Target because you blew a fuse on your hairdryer. Upon entering, a location-based social network registers that you’re in the store and offers you a discount on your cell phone. Even further, it tells you that your best friends Ben and Jerry are down the road having coffee. What started as a mundane errand has been transformed into a more fulfilling outing.
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Retail and local companies no longer need to be threatened by the digital world. There is value by partnering with online technologies that capitalize on location. Location-based social networks have the ability to put brick and mortar stores back into the online/bricks and mortar competition.
Some Location All Stars
Foursquare | 1.35M in funding | Launched in 2009*
FourSquare allows you to check into location, earn badges and discounts, and stay in contact with your friends near you.
Gowalla | 10.3M in funding | Launched in 2009*
Much like the other location-based social networking game, FourSquare, Gowalla allows you to check into locations and earn points.
*Via TechCrunch’s CrunchBase
Reasons to Leverage Location
- Immediacy. Location inherently breeds immediacy and action. If a consumer is at a location, close to a location, or close to a contact, they’re more likely to purchase (if they’re there), travel to purchase (if they’re close), or meet up to share (close to a contact). Immediacy enables actionable behavior, and actionable behavior is valuable because it provides measureable results.
- Measurable results. Using location and proximity to measure effects is easier than measuring what happens when eyeballs read a tweet. Retailers can use the location-based technologies to further understand their consumers. When consumers check into a location, data such as when consumers visit, how often they visit, and their behavior before and after they visit becomes valuable. With added incentives from brick and mortar stores partnering with these technologies, it is valuable through the information they can receive.
- Laser pointer theory. Think of the world as your company’s target – with no map, you’ll fire all over the globe and hit a fraction of your targets. This happens in business too- intentional or unintentional displaced messaging is the result of mis-firing and ill-placement. With location, companies can laser pinpoint and succeed. Misguided marketing and advertising no longer need to be the standard. Marketing and advertising are sometimes described as an art. In 2010, they become a science.
How to Leverage Location
The convergence of location-based digital companies and brick and mortar physical stores are breeding a new type of commerce – digital mortar. Surely different business models will yield different ways to capitalize on it and you can approach it from any angle. But the main outcome should always be deeper connections with your consumers and increased value from your company.
Is your company going to hop on the location bandwagon? I sure hope so. It’s going somewhere. Cheers to a new year of new places.
Sarah Merion is a senior at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. In February she departs for Buenos Aires, Argentina where she’ll study, travel, and learn about the digital culture in South America. To read more about business innovation and digital anthropology, visit SarahMerion.com or connect with her on Twitter: @sarahmerion.