The possibility of so-called "location based services" has had marketers salivating, ever since the smallest iota of computing or digital media became mobile. For the past decade, virtually the same example has been used by technologists and marketers alike to describe a mobile, location-targeted campaign. It sounds something like this: "You are walking by The Gap, and your phone begins to shake with an offer of 10% off a pair of jeans. You walk in the store, present your phone, and buy your jeans along with four other items." Somewhere between the introduction of the Palm VII with its pop up antennae and the newest iPhone apps, The Gap remained the go-to retailer to explain how marketers could use the power of location.
Notwithstanding, location may be the single most relevant targeting attribute. The ability to actively attract a consumer in the flow of his daily life, at a moment where your message actually matters is game-changing. Who wouldn't salivate over that? However, challenges to this approach existed on a technological and consumer-usage level. Within the past three years, both of those have been at least partially solved, making "hyperlocal targeting" a reality.
The technology fix was ultimately pushed forward by the U.S. Government (you read that correctly). Mandates to wireless carriers to be able to accurately locate mobile phones which dialed 911 created the basis for the technological step forward. A combination between wireless tower triangulation—as vividly portrayed in virtually every crime procedural TV show—and GPS chips in most handsets solved this problem.
The next challenge was how determining a person's location could benefit a consumer. Disney took an early stab at this, with a child-locator service in their now departed eponymous mobile service. So it was the introduction and adoption of mobile apps which created the basis of consumers proactively using location for their own benefit. There are the obvious services, such as maps and driving directions, as well as news services supplying stories in the local area. However, the real opportunity to put location back in consumers' lives is based on social media interactions.
Services such as Loopt, Google Lattitude, and foursquare make location the primary component in interacting with your network, your community. Now, instead of merely seeing a list of friends, imagine being able to see where those friends are. You can now see on an active map (or described in the list format, if you prefer) precisely where your network is, in the real world, and not just online. Think of this as social mapping, just as literally millions of consumers are finding. This is a bridge from digital to real, and an ideal place for the right advertiser to insert themselves.
This type of service should be the best friend of retailers of all different shapes and sizes. For example, a New York City restaurant chain wants to increase foot traffic to its locations. By developing an appropriate campaign, the restaurant can become a highly relevant part of a social consumer's—or perhaps more accurately, a consumer's social—life. So while in a cab downtown, a user can see on the map on his phone that not only are five of his friends in the area, but so is a great seafood restaurant. Two clicks later, he is speaking with a hostess to make a reservation for six (as this device is still a phone first), and his dessert will be comped for using this service. Business goal for the restaurant chain achieved, and actual relevant service supplied to the consumer.
This type of marketing is not appropriate for all, as the message needs to be pertinent based on location. Promoting a TV show probably does not gain a significant lift here. However, a movie release could, by providing the location of where it can be seen. There are tons of iterations and creative ideas that can be employed for many types of retailers. The key is to not overwhelm consumers, but rather supply real value into their lives based on where they are. This is advertising from a different angle. Or maybe a more appropriate description would be, from a different location.
Jordan Greene is the head of the mobile practice at Mella Media, www.mellamedia.com