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Mobile location: a place for everything and everything in its place

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of helping to launch the Location-Based Marketing Association’s new regional hub for Asia, known as LBMA Singapore. The experience highlighted just how significant a role location is playing across the digital sector, touching every stakeholder from advertiser and solution provider through to the consumer, and fundamentally changing the way we all seek out new value and new relevance both commercially and in terms of the sheer utility it brings to our daily lives. 

As consumers invest more time and data into their digital lives, the ability to effectively communicate with them in this space becomes increasingly important for advertisers. In the not too distant future, a true ‘big data’ era promises to knit together a seamless consumer journey so advertisers might better understand and target their offerings and consumers might benefit from greater relevance and value. Location-based services and technologies used on mobile phones and tablets are now starting to cleverly bridge the gap between this digital playground and real life.

Of all industries, retail has the most instant and applicable landscape on which a digital map can be built to leverage real-world advantage. Whether consumers are checking-in for social engagement or stepping into a geo-fenced area that triggers targeted mobile ads for nearby stores, advertisers are keen to use the knowledge of a location-based reference, the ‘where’ of the consumer journey, to begin to make essential connections such as ‘who’, ‘why’ and ‘what’ to build an accurate digital representation taking into account not just a date-stamped location, but a true behavioural profile.

The advertiser of the big data era will not only know where you shop, but who with, what you buy, how often, how much price-comparison goes on in-store and when you’re likely to return. If it sounds a little creepy, there are upsides: Imagine a life without spam. Better yet, imagine that your favourite brands were creating all the products and services you love…just for you (well, not really – we all know scale is a fundamental concept of commercialism – but the currents of data that are pushing the consumer experience along in an increasingly personalised direction aim to deliver this feeling for consumers).

Imagine the scenario: One day you’re flicking through a digital magazine on your tablet (or indeed perhaps merrily clicking Facebook’s future ‘Want’ button – and just to set the scene with a little context of scale on this point, bear in mind Facebook’s recently released figure of 1.1 trillion – that’s how many times we’ve all clicked the ‘Like’ button since 2010) and the next day your phone is giving you a digital nudge as you pass a particular store reminding you to try that perfect suit/car/gadget/anything you tagged, liked or wanted – after all, it’s just gone on sale and it’s in stock in your size/preferred colour/everything that would make it ideal for you…tempted? When all the potential barriers to purchase have been removed, who wouldn’t be? Note, in this scenario the consumer is very much in control of the experience which will be important to the long-term success of LBS and brands building trust and loyalty.

When it comes to using location as a means of targeting consumers, more varied and interesting applications are coming to light beyond the concept of using a brand’s own physical store. Examples include campaigns run around competitors’ stores making exclusive discount offers, via a mobile ad for example, to digitally overpower the physical competition by swaying a potential consumer to a better online offer. Similarly, where a competitor is running a billboard campaign at every bus-stop on a popular route – each stop becomes a location opportunity to engage consumers and can be applied in the mobile space during what are valuable ‘idle’ times, crying out to be filled with a bit of well-positioned mobile engagement . Non-retail industries are increasingly using strategic locations such as universities or financial districts for recruitment campaigns in their specific sectors. Even niche industries can use mobile locations (both permanent and temporary) to their campaign’s advantage – for example, selling marine insurance? Why not target a series of geo-fences around the yacht club, marina, boat show, regatta event and powerboat showrooms.

Festivals, pop-up shops, exhibitions, trade shows, markets, transport terminals, commuter routes, motorway service stops, hotels, neighborhoods  shopping malls, tourist attractions…when it comes to mobile location, the opportunities are vast and there’s a place for every campaign, but getting location right is ultimately about putting brand messages in the right context. As a cautionary tale, we need only look to the recent storm of anger that erupted from consumers when the new Apple iOS6 maps fell short of expectations to see the demand and reliance we all place on our new-found love of digital geography. The message to the tech community was received loud and clear: mess with our location-based world at your peril! The challenge for brands and agencies will be to use location wisely in the marketing mix and put everything in its right place, for consumers.