Monetizing Customer Location

Eric Carlson | August 12, 2011 | Mobile Strategy

Yesterday I was speaking with a mentor and friend for a few hours about business, startups, and life in general.  A lot of the topic of conversation was on the impact of the GPS on handheld devices just in the past 3 or 4 years.  The introduction of location into handheld computing is not new – we’ve been helping implement handheld single-purpose devices with built-in location mapping for over 10 years.  However the lower cost to entry in this space as well as the availability of including this technology on a smartphone has spurred some incredible innovation – spawning a wave of monetizing customer location.

On the consumer side, practically every App is trying to bring location into the functionality. Markets such as travel (Kayak, Hotels.com), search (Around Me, Google Search, Google Maps), retail (big box store locators, price matching), and rating/social/check-in (Yelp, Facebook, 4Square) arenas have all scrambled to bring location awareness to their mobile strategy. The possibilities here are incredible – especially as we look forward to more targeted location based marketing or advertising. Each of these channels is trying to identify ways to utilize customer location to increase the customer experience, increase the amount of targeted advertising and offers presented to customers, and ultimately increase sales.

All of the examples I’ve mentioned are user initiated; we’re tapping on an icon to say “I’m here, now help me.” We feel this will eventually migrate into a different methodology as this market matures. “When I’m somewhere significant, push information to me that I need.” A recent example is Apple’s new Reminder application being released in iOS5.  This App will allow the ability to pre-set a location with to-do’s associated to that physical location.  So the next time you’re in the mall, your own list of shopping items is highlighted on your phone.  Or, more emotionally, tying location into music.  I was reading a August Jackson’s blog and came across Bluebrain’s new album (video).  Here’s an iOS application that detects your location within Central Park. With over 150 locations defined, the music shifts to the sights/surrounds around you. What a fantastic way to emotionally attach a physical location with content. Can you imagine similar initiatives on the enterprise side providing a similar emotional attachment to your brand? Delivered in a way that’s natural to the experience, not forced.

As we enter this location-aware portion in the timeline of technology, we begin to bump into the concerns with end-user privacy and anonymity. How much of this information should an organization have access to?  Does a business have the right to know the location of its customers – even with their one-time prior authorization?  We know there is a fine line between the ability to push meaningful content to an end-customer, and invading that user’s privacy.

When we approach these areas with out customers, we first focus on the benefit: increasing the customer experience, increasing the ability to build stronger long-term relationships with our customers. From there, we work backwards to understand what privacies are customers are “giving up” to achieve these goals. In all of our projects, we’ve been able to find that right balance, that sweet spot that provides convenience without invasiveness.

As mentioned in our Propelics Primer, we feel that environment is a game changing benefit to the iPad and other handheld devices used in the enterprise.  Not only in the terms of increasing the contextual aspects of decision making for our customers, but as a differentiator to your business.  Have you thought about how customer location affects your approach to communication and conversion?  If so, please comment below or reach out to us on Twitter.

Eric Carlson

Eric is a seasoned leader with a keen eye for emerging technologies. He is well respected in both technical and business circles, due to his ability to match up the right amount of technology "geekiness" with business understanding to craft truly unique solutions. As a seasoned executive, with startups through successful exits to his name, Eric has the experience to advise companies on the discipline and objective approaches that are needed to turn ideas into reality. Eric can be reached at eric.carlson@propelics.com or on twitter at @ericjohncarlson.

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