Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Introductory Guide to Location-Based Marketing

So you've read about location. You've sat through many presentations with the cliché "Location, Location, Location" somewhere in the title, and you're still clueless about how to get started in tying location-based services (LBS) back to your marketing efforts. Here's a quick introductory guide to get you on the right path:

Register Your Stores

The obvious but important first step to location-based services is the simplest: make sure your retail locations are accurately listed with the services you want to work with. If the location data isn't accurate, users won't be able to find your stores or products. Discovery is a key feature of location-based services, so you want to make sure your locations are as easy as possible for search engines and consumers to find.

Know the Landscape

When it comes to awareness and reach, name recognition counts:

  • Google Places and Facebook Places will be the first place for most brands to look. Google Places doesn't prominently feature many social features such as check-ins, but Google has been updating its offering to include more of these tools. It currently functions as an easy way for users to find businesses and rate them via Google Hotpot in order to receive personalized recommendations of restaurants and other local spots.
  • Facebook Places is linked closely to its Facebook Deals platform, which gives consumers discounts on products and services when they check in to a business or venue. Places is available on every major smartphone platform through the respective Facebook app as well as through Facebook's touch-based site
  • Foursquare has the largest profile among services that are completely dedicated to location with around 6 million registered users. Brands can partner with Foursquare to give users badges in exchange for checking in, award deals and discounts in a way similar to Facebook Deals, and also create tips and things to do at specific locations. Plus, Foursquare continues to launch features to make the check-in more worthwhile – a great example is the Tips feature allowing users to share info on their experiences such as what to eat/not eat.
  • Daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial will continue to increase in adoption. Currently over half of female consumers say they are "very likely" to visit a restaurant or store that provides a coupon via a location-based app.

Know What You're Trying to Accomplish

LBS can focus on a variety of engagement and marketing aspects including awareness, deal distribution, traffic increases, new performance measurements, and good old fun. It's important to define your objectives as you migrate into LBS:

  • Facebook Places will mainly look toward incentivizing check-ins with a deal and measure redemption to see if it drives traffic or repeat customers.
  • If your brand wants to look for opportunities beyond deals, there are different tactics that can be used on other services:
  • Google Places: For businesses looking to dip their toes into location, Google Places makes it simple to get relevant information to consumers searching for your business. Google Places listings show up in Google searches, and they can be augmented with "tags" that make it possible to attach photos, videos, coupons, menus, and other content to one's listing. This added information makes it easier for consumers to engage with the brand online and can translate into increased foot traffic for local stores.
  • Foursquare: Establish your brand as a local expert by creating a Foursquare account for it. MTV and Gossip Girl have not only used Foursquare to reward users with branded badges, they also provide relevant local tips on cool places and events going on around town (New York City, in both cases).
  • Gowalla: Gowalla is a smaller location-based service, with only around 1 million users, but it won a key partnership with Disney theme parks due to its focus on travel. Sometimes turning to these smaller services can be a way to differentiate and provide a fun experience that simply isn't possible on a service like Facebook Deals or Foursquare.
  • Scvngr: Scvngr focuses on making the real world more like a video game by providing challenges for players to accomplish wherever they show up. They can range from the simple: check in, take a photo, add a comment, to the more complex: scan a QR code, pose next to a mannequin, etc. Scvngr adds a scavenger hunt feel to location-based services, potentially making it more engaging and a good source for gathering user-generated content such as photos and videos tied to the location.

We're now in the middle of the "initial" wave of major LBS platforms in the market, so it's a great time to update your marketing strategies to include location services. By going ahead and taking the leap, you'll be better positioned to quickly capitalize on the pending second wave of LBS. Rapid increase of mobile access to social networks will pave the way for a variety of new services and startups that will transition LBS into much broader location engagement, utility features, and other user centric behaviors.

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