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Do you travel a lot? Or even a little? In either case, you are in luck because the tools available via mobile applications are making travel easier and easier. To that end, this past weekend, I had an opportunity to stay in San Francisco with my wife for our 17th wedding anniversary.

Because we booked the trip at the last minute based on some last minute business travel, we did a minimal amount of planning ahead of time. While leaving planning to the last minute can create some drama, my wife and I found that by using some of the right mobile tools, we were able to create a number of serendipitous moments that we will remember for a lifetime.

In the spirit of sharing, I’ve spelled out the five ways mobile apps enhanced our travel below. And because this is a business blog, I have also included recommendations on how businesses can benefit from these learnings:

  • Planning/tracking – Chances are, you have looked at a travel aggregator like Kayak or Travelocity on your desktop. If you’re on the go, the mobile apps for these sites give you a slimmed down interface with the ability to find the right flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. Once you’ve booked your flights, keep all your information in one place with Tripit (just e-mail your online itineraries to plans@tripit.com and voila, your trip is aggregated and organized in the same place).
    Business Opportunity – The biggest opportunity here is to get access to the data collected by these sites. Obviously Kayak and Tripit don’t just give this information away for free. But finding a travel site/aggregator that will partner or will sell you this information can provide insights into your customers… even if you don’t work in the travel industry.
  • Airline checkin/car rental – For anyone that travels more than a couple of times a year, downloading your airlines’ free mobile application is a no-brainer. Not only are they environmentally friendly (no paper for those that allow you to generate a mobile boarding pass) but they also save you time at the airport. Most of the major airlines (American, United, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest) also allow you to track your frequent flyer points, status and on the day you are traveling, your flight and gate information. If you are a frequent renter of cars, Hertz’s Gold app allows you to rent a car or track which space your car is located in via text or application-level alert.
    Business OpportunityParter with airlines/car rentals to provide local offers, education and services. The caveat here is that nobody wants to be spammed (and the airlines know this) so focus more on the value add versus the hard sell.  
  • Taxi/car service – A couple of years ago, a new service called Uber launched to much fanfare. At first, it was thought that the service was going to change the way people used cabs and car services. Unfortunately, cab companies were slower to adopt the service so it has evolved primarily into a way to order sedan service. Over the last several months, however a number of cab companies have developed their own apps. In San Francisco, the one I’ve used a few times now is the Yellow Cab Cooperative. Once you’ve downloaded the app and filled in your profile, you can immediately summon a cab with your app (no need to know your address since it uses your phone’s location). You can also track the progress of your cab as you wait for those of you on a tight timeline. In New York City, NBC and Vodaphone have partnered with Yellow Cab to offer up a service called Way2Ride. The cool thing about this app is that not only can you summon a cab but you can also pay with your phone as well (and then e-mail yourself the receipt).
    Business opportunity For any urban-based businesses, let your customers know about these car/cab services. If you want to surprise and delight your customers, consider offering free vouchers to be used with services like Uber or Yellow Cab Cooperative. 
  • Restaurant/business discovery – Given the fact that I wrote a book on location-based marketing, you won’t be surprised that I am still a fan of one of the original LBS services, foursquare. Lately, I’ve been using foursquare less to “check in” and more to discover local businesses and restaurants. The thing that is special about foursquare is it’s ability to filter results for local restaurants, cafes, wineries and other businesses by price, distance or the fact that you or a friend has checked in before. During our stay, my wife and I found all of the restaurants we ate at using foursquare. Note, cross-checking your foursquare selections with Yelp reviews can truly give you confidence that restaurant/business you select is the right one for you. Once you’ve found your ideal location, don’t forget to look at the “tips” on foursquare as you can often find hidden gems or off menu items. You can now also use your mobile Yelp app to write reviews on the spot!
    Business opportunity I’ve been harping on this one for a while but having your business set up/claimed on services like foursquare and Yelp is more important than ever. At a minimum, it will help with your search efforts. But more importantly, for those out looking to “discover” the most relevant business, why would you not want to be more visible?
  • Exercise – MapMyRun is just one example of mobile applications that make running/walking/biking in another city that much easier. I like MapMyRun because it helps me keep pace and lets me know when I’ve hit certain distances. However, the real win is that it will chart my run and let me know things like elevation, split times, etc. And if I come back to that city, I can see how I’m doing against previous times along that route.
    Business Opportunity: There are lots of sports/athletic companies that are already taking advantage of the opportunity to partner/advertise with services like MapMyRun. One clever move that I witnessed this pas weekend is that as I posted my workout from MapMyRun to Twitter, Dick’s Sporting Goods saw my tweet and engaged me… not to sell me put to pat me on the back and to ask if I was training for something. I already like Dick’s but now I am that much more inclined to shop there due to that brand connection.

There are obviously tons of other mobile apps out there that make travel easier. What’s your favorite?

To this day, one of the most enjoyable blog posts I’ve ever written was about Starbucks and what a good job they were doing “seeing” their customers. More recently, I wrote a similar post about US Airways that patted them on the back for doing the right thing (by just saying “sorry”). Unfortunately, after a disappointing experience flying with United Airlines this past weekend, I felt compelled to write a post that takes a more “constructive feedback” approach.

This past weekend my wife, Melanie, and I flew out to a friend’s wedding in Bodega Bay, CA (just north of San Francisco). Because we had purchased our tickets using frequent flier miles, we ended up flying through Denver, CO coming and going. I mention this only because it meant that we had a total of two legs to each of our flights and thus gave us the opportunity to “enjoy” the boarding process four times over the course of four days.

While we had a lovely weekend at the wedding, on the trip back to Austin, my wife and I started talking about how annoying it was that on each of our four flights we ended up in boarding Group 7. If you are unfamiliar with flying, most planes these days board by “groups.” Some airlines like JetBlue still board by row but most use groups because it allows the airline to spread people out into different sections of the plane as they board to expedite the process. One of the downsides to group boarding is that if you are unlucky enough to be one of the last groups to board, you often end up having to gate check your carry on luggage (drop off/pick up your bags as you get on/off the plane). You also end up having to stand around in the gate area for an extra 15-20 minutes. Needless to say that because we were in Group 7 (read: last) on each of the four flights, we ended up having to gate check our bag on three of the four flights.

So here’s the point of my post. Given the fact that I used frequent flier miles to fly — 50,000 of them to be exact — why not reward me by putting my wife and me in Group 1. Or at least Group 2 or 3 since the first group is set aside for the most frequent of frequent fliers. While you’re at it, how about offering a complimentary cocktail or purchased snack as a thank you for flying so much with you. After all, I did earn those miles in 1,000 to 3,000 treks at a time and I do have a choice as to whom I fly. Doing either of these things would cost United next to nothing. Instead, United’s actions send a message that say, “you’re riding for free versus paying like the other customers on the plane and as a result, we are going to punish you by putting you at the back of the bus.” Huh? Loyalty never felt so bad.

Tying this up with a bow, the point I’m trying to get across is that brands wonder why their loyalty programs are unsuccessful (or if they are successful, they end up giving away the farm in discounts and perqs). Instead, why not get more creative? One of my favorite examples of this is Miss Shirley’s Restaurant in Baltimore (hat tip to Jason Falls for bringing this one to my attention) that allows the customer that is the mayor to cut the line on Sunday’s during their very popular brunch. This costs the restaurant zero dollars. Or the food trucks in Los Angeles and Austin that allow customers who follow them on Twitter to order off the menu items. Again, the cost is zero.

Does this mean I won’t fly United again? Probably not. I’m not that stubborn. But as someone that has made up his mind to be a little more organized in 2013 about travel with an eye toward achieving status, I will likely try and keep most of my flights to a couple of carriers. There’s a very good chance that United won’t be part of this consideration set because their actions speak louder than words. And as you can see, when I’m happy about something (ahem, Starbucks and U.S. Air), I am more than happy to sing it from the rooftops!

 

Okay, I am not calling anyone stupid. I am of course stealing a phrase from James Carville, campaign strategist of former President, Bill Clinton, whom famously stated, “the economy, stupid,” during Clinton’s run against then incumbent, George Bush. In this case, I’m merely pointing out something that should be glaringly obvious to companies that are building new social, mobile and location-based services.

Last week, I stirred the pot a bit in my monthly Marketing Land post titled, The Future of Location-Based Marketing is not Foursquare. While I expected the post to strike a nerve, I was a little surprised by the number of people that agreed with me. More importantly, many of the people that read and/or shared the post concurred with my one central premise i.e. that it’s foursquare’s lack of scale that has — and will continue to — hurt the service from growing and scaling.

Now to clarify, I do still like and support foursquare. In fact, I still hold out hope that they will be able to find the traction they need to become more ubiquitous. But to date, the fact that foursquare has only 25 million users puzzles me. I can speculate why this has happened (not enough offers, too early for the mass market, lack of smart phone penetration), the fact that foursquare hasn’t managed to scale is one of the main reasons why Fortune 1000 companies are shying away from using it.

For anyone that has been involved in social media in some sort of business capacity, the ubiquity of social media these days is a blessing and a curse. It’s nice that companies are now taking Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and blogging seriously — even investing paid media dollars against it. But it means that those networks that don’t take hold quickly risk falling to the wayside. Look at services like Bizzy, Color and Ditto. All showed signs of promising futures or significant investor dollars and all either fell off the map/pulled the plug/or ended up being acquired for pennies on the dollar within 24 months of launching.

On the other hand  services like Instagram (80 million), Pinterest (100 million), Google Plus (250 million) and recently launched, Viddy (40 million), are all gaining attention from brands because of their rapid growth. This doesn’t guarantee that these networks will be successful, but their critical mass provides enough users for companies to get excited about.

So as a marketer, what do you take away from this? For one, you should make sure you or your team are keeping your eyes and ears open for new technologies/apps/social networks. And As you are evaluating these opportunities, it’s critical to consider “do I get this?” Or if you don’t, is the service or technology intuitive to the target audience (if you have children or nephews/nieces, are they embracing it)? If the answer to that first question, the second is, is the service/technology gaining critical mass. That doesn’t mean it needs millions of followers by month one, but it should be on track to hockey stick up at some point over the next 12-18 months.

Which new technologies/apps/social networks are you paying attention to these days? Are they scaling?

 

This morning, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel titled “On the Location-Based Services Horizon” at the second annual Foodservice Social Media Universe (FSMU for short). Joining me on the panel were three of the smartest folks not only in the restaurant industry but also in the world of location-based services. This group included Rick Wion, director of social media at McDonalds, BJ Emerson, VP of Technology at Tasti D-lite and Lauren Barash, director of corporate communications at Moe’s Southwest Grill.

  • During the hour long conversation, I kicked us off with a few relevant mobile/location-based facts including:
  • Smart phone penetration has reached 50% in the U.S. (mobithinking.com)
  • As of May 2012, 74% of smart phone users claimed having used a location-based service. This includes things like Google Maps. (Pew Internet Study)
  • According that same report, 18% of smart phone users claimed to have checked into a venue like a movie theater using a service like foursquare. That number is up from 12% year over year. (Pew Internet Study)
  • The leading location-based service, foursquare, has approximately 24 million users (LBMA September, 2012)
  • Photo sharing service, Instagram (now part of Facebook), has grown to 80 million users in just 18 months (C|Net)

Following the industry stats, each panelist took some time to talk about what their companies were doing on the location-based marketing front. Here are a few of the key take aways from each:

McDonalds: 1) during key pilots, they have gotten good traction with foursquare in driving increased checkins. 1) After analyzing their mobile web traffic, they realized that a) store locations with details about drive thrus and playscapes b) nutritional information and c) job applications are the top three most visited areas of their site. Their mobile app features those three items. 3) In order to train franchise owners, they have used location-based scavenger hunts (check into a bar/get a tip/complete an action). This has worked well in helping their franchisees understand foursquare and how it works better).

Moes: 1) They have a check-in club that allows customers to connect their foursquare accounts to Moe’s loyalty program. Customers earn points through check-ins and can achieve “rock star” status on Moe’s leaderboard. 2) Changing offers requires a lot of training for staff which sometimes slows the pace of innovation at many retail locations. 3) Moe’s is also working together with their cheese vendor to sponsor a free queso day tomorrow.

Tasti Dlite: 1) BJ and this CEO just wrote/published a book called The Tasti D-lite Way that document’s the companies location-based and social media journey. 2) An early innovator in the location-based space, Tasti D has created a way to connect foursquare, Facebook and Twitter to their loyalty card. When the card is swiped, it auto posts across the customer’s social networks and gives the customer points for each purchase/check-in. 3) BJ thinks that one way retail stores/restaurants can create higher engagement/check-in activity with their customers is to put a customer-facing camera at each register that would capture any willing customers as they checked in.

There were a lot of great tweets from our session as well as from the conference. You can see them here.

  • I said that I believed that Google would ultimately win the race given the recent UI change it made by allowing users from the mobile Google.com page to “use your current location” and then suggest nearby bars, restaurants and coffee shops.
  • BJ thought that a great focus on value exchange from brands and more “celebrating” of mayorships should take place
  • Lauren disagreed with me that Google would win (while agreeing that having one’s place page(s) correct was critical. For her, it’s about more check-ins and better offers/value.
  • Rick suggested that based on activity they are seeing from Radian6 whether or not photos are the new check-ins (McDonalds sees far more customer photo uploads than checkins — to the tune of thousands/day)

Last but not least, here is a list of some resources that I’ve pulled together for the last few LBM sessions I’ve done. Included on that list are links to BJ’s book and a few of the reports referenced in the report. Enjoy!

 

This week, after a year of check-ins, badges and mayorships, I’m walking away from Foursquare. I’m not abandoning the network out of anger, and I won’t even be removing the app or closing my account. I’m just going to stop the endless checking in. I held out on foursquare for longer than I probably should have, as a communications professional, but my colleague Aaron Strout convinced me to give it a whirl.

Aaron is the guy who (literally) wrote the book on location-based marketing, and you can see the initial discussion we had after I took the plunge here.

My year of use has not been without lessons. Here are the five most important:

Via Flickr user dpstyles
  1. “Gamification” is hugely powerful, and foursquare is hugely good at it. While there have been a lot of people trying to capture foursquare’s gaming mojo, it’s hard to replicate the levels of rewards that they built it. Because Facebook wasn’t just about playing a social game against your friends. There was a society-level game you played against strangers (mayorships) and — for the quieter among us — the individual quest for badges, which didn’t require any social element at all.
  2. As a city guide, foursquare is awfully impressive. Because it’s built for mobile, and because the base of engaged users is substantial, the app is a great way to find cool eats and sights in a new place. Of course, you don’t need to be an active foursquare user to treat the app like a guidebook. In this case, it’s the active users that are doing the hard work for the rest of us.
  3. Privacy remains an issue. Griping about privacy is generally a losing proposition for a blogger. What seems to be a massive violation today is likely to be standard practice tomorrow (does anyone remember the months-long carping about how Gmail ads were  going to destroy society? I didn’t think so). But foursquare still gives more information than I’d like, even to people I trust. It’s not because the service in any way evil. It’s just that telling lots of people precisely when you get coffee is baked into the whole idea of the check-in.
  4. Businesses are crippling adoption. If your run a local consumer business, doing a foursquare promotion should be a no-brainer. There are a thousand ways to design specials to dial in a specific commitment/reward level. Yet the number of businesses who are taking advantage of that is minimal. In my year on foursquare, I used exactly one special: on my first day on the service, I received luggage tags for checking into a small, regional airport. That’s not a huge return on the data I’ve invested in the service. I would argue that foursquare’s user base would be larger and more engaged even with a modest increase in the number of promotions. Instead, Foursquare specials remain a wasteland, with notable exceptions. (It doesn’t have to be this way. Have I mentioned Aaron and Location-Based Marketing for Dummies?)
  5. The promise remains unfulfilled. I gave foursquare a ton of my data, and it gives very little back: some recommended places to explore, some badges, and that’s about it. But there is a tremendous amount that could be done. Imagine if Foursquare could take all of my checkins from a week of vacation and plot them on a map, along with the associated status updates and photos. What if I could publish that map to a blog? What if I could order that map as a poster-size souvenir? In short, I’d like to get something more out of my checkins than gamification.

All this doesn’t mean I won’t completely walk away. foursquare is a nice database of the cool places I’ve been (so I can look up that place in North Carolina with the can’t-miss hushpuppies). I’ll use it, quietly and privately, as a note-taking system. And as I mentioned in #2, seeing the comments and check-ins of others is hugely useful and requires no sharing of my own data. But I won’t be mindlessly checking in at the grocery store any more. I’ll still use my grocery rewards card, though. Because — unlike foursquare — I know what I’m getting back each time that bar code gets read.

As an enthusiast about the mobile/location-based services space, I’m always excited to hear about ground-breaking new technologies and services, particularly those that are built with businesses in mind. To that end, I couldn’t resist sitting down (virtually) with my friend and director of product and development at Digby, Doug Wick. During our conversation, Doug and I discussed Digby’s latest location-based offering called Localpoint.

<Aaron> What is Localpoint?
<Doug> Digby Localpoint is a SaaS mobile technology platform designed to help retailers deliver a best-in-class mobile app experience for their loyal customers, focused on location-based marketing, analytics, and commerce. It has four components: Venue, Outreach, Analytics, and Storefront. A mobile team simply drops our libraries into their existing app and can then deploy geofence-based notification and rich message campaigns through Localpoint Venue and Localpoint Outreach, and derive powerful insight through Localpoint Analytics. If a retailer doesn’t have a mobile team, we can help them build an app using Localpoint Storefront, which comes pre-wired with the other three components of Localpoint.

<Aaron> Tell me more about Localpoint’s four modules.
<Doug> Sure, let’s start with Venue. This is the ability to drop a geofence around a specific store or public venue like a park, airport, or sports stadium and use that geofence to identify and communicate with people who are there. Campaigns can be set up to either be triggered by an event (like a check-in, product scan, store entry, or store exit) or can be set up to launch at specific times to one or more specific locations. We call those messages “announcements.” Think “blue light special” but much more powerful.

<Aaron> Localpoint Venue is essentially the ability to create your own white label location-based app ala foursquare or Shopkick. Why should retailers do this instead of spending with one of those apps, which have pre-built audiences?
<Doug> Ideally they would do both. Network apps like foursquare and Shopkick are paid media opportunities, which allow retailers to potentially access new audiences. However, a retailer’s own app represents an opportunity to get much closer – literally in the pocket – of their best customers. Retailers who invest in this way won’t be disintermediated and won’t face repeat acquisition costs, lowered share of voice, and lack of data ownership. The best mobile strategies will access new audiences through mediums like network apps, mobile SEM, mobile ads, and other paid opportunities, and convert them to app owners.

<Aaron> What does Outreach Do?
<Doug> The idea with Outreach is large-scale or “market size” geofences that allow you to localize a push notification to drive app engagement and store traffic to a local store. This is to activate loyalists, and can be used in a very complementary fashion with Venue. This particular component is especially interesting for local high-frequency retail models like grocery, convenience, and drug stores as well as quick-serve restaurants. But really, every app should have the ability to get your attention with a message that is location-based.

<Aaron> What about something that is also near and dear to my heart, i.e. analytics?
<Doug> Most mobile analytics out there treat an app like a website and simply track user activity to the app – download, opens, clicks. The true opportunity for mobile analytics is the ability to measure app activity relative to location. Localpoint Analytics allows you to set up geofences that give you web-style analytics for the physical world. Imagine knowing the same things about your retail stores that you do about your website – how many people visited, how long they stayed, what they did on the app while they were there. These are the types of insights that simply aren’t available through any other technology, and will lead to extremely powerful, business-changing insight.

<Aaron> Doesn’t this have the potential to be a little Big Brother-esque?
<Doug> An excellent point and touches on a unique characteristic of Digby’s technology. First, Localpoint Analytics only uses venue-sized geofences for measurement, and our technology only measures the activity of an app installed by an opted-in user in and around those geofences. The rest of the time, the device knows where it is but we don’t. Localpoint simply waits for the device to tell us when it’s close to something we care about. We’ve spent a lot of time and resources investing in patent-pending location detection technology that maximizes accuracy while protecting users by keeping power-draining GPS use at a minimum and ensuring user privacy.

<Aaron> Loaded question here but why do you believe location is such an important part of consumer mobile?
<Doug> We feel that no other single thing you can learn about a mobile user unlocks the unique power of the mobile platform like location. Not only does it help you be contextually relevant, but location also tells you more about a consumer’s intent than anything else. Our goal is simply to help retailers be “where their customers are.” This statement is meant to be taken literally and figuratively.

<Aaron> Tell me more about the Storefront module.
<Doug> Storefront is our most retail-specific Localpoint module, and allows us to quickly bring to life an app that features everything a consumer expects from a retailer: Rich, full-featured product catalog, commerce, and store locator. It is a best-in-class search, browse, and buy experience. And out of the box it is wired to communicate with and leverage the other three Localpoint modules. Many retailers still don’t have apps, and we feel like they might want one when they see what the entire Localpoint platform can allow them to do.

<Aaron> Yes, many retailers still don’t have their own apps. Why should they?
<Doug> I think many business, especially retailers, approach building an app like they are building a website. That is why many retail apps that do exist, even some of the most well-designed ones, look a lot like a miniature version of the full web experience. The fact is that the most important thing that apps can do is something most of them aren’t doing: communicate with the consumer. Communication is still the primary purpose of the phone, and by downloading an app the consumer has already told you they want you to be a part of their daily life. By not taking advantage of that opportunity, businesses are missing out. Our goal is not only to put that opportunity within arms reach, but also do it the right way, with the highly relevant location context that consumers expect.

<Aaron> Doug, Localpoint sounds really interesting, I look forward to seeing a demo soon!
<Doug> My pleasure Aaron. Anyone that’s interested can see more details on our website but I’d be happy to give you a demo soon! And thanks for taking the time to learn more about Localpoint.

Last week, my co-author, Mike Schneider, and I published a blog post called, Location-Based Marketing: 2011 in Retrospect.

Courtesy: Momentfeed

It took points of view from a lot of smart people who know a ton about the location-based marketing space. As promised, we are following up this post with a look toward the future. In the look forward, we’ve added a few voices including those of brands like American Eagle, Applebee’s and RadioShack.

Jess Berlin


Jess Berlin
, social media manager, American Eagle Outfitters | AE blog
In 2012, location will get personal. Location-based services will be able to tailor the user’s experience by offering personalized recommendations and offers based on your check-in history. There will also be further integration with loyalty and payment technologies to make for a personal and cohesive check-in experience. You can literally claim a recommended deal, receive loyalty credit and pay for something all within a check-in.

Jason Falls


Jason Falls
, author, speaker and CEO of Social Media Explorer
I think 2012 is going to further divide LBS and Social Media. The gradual adoption of location-based services by the mainstream and the marriage of location-based services and business models that demand revenue (Groupon buying Whrrl, Facebook buying Gowalla, etc.) will mean that LBS becomes less social and more advertising driven. While there will probably be pushback and whining from the social media crowd, the mainstream will eat it up and LBS will become the Sunday coupon section of our generation.

Eric Katerman


Eric Katerman
, co-founder, Forecast
2012 will be the year where foursquare becomes a legitimate platform, although they’ll have trouble spreading the message that they’re not just a check-in app. Theirs will become the defacto venue database for all manner of applications and we will start to see massive growth in the number of third-party apps. We’ll also see more focus on future-tense social networking, Facebook is up to something…

Jason Keath


Jason Keath
, founder & CEO, Socialfresh
Who to watch in 2012? Keep an eye on the growth of eBay owned barcode, QR code reader Red Laser as well as Amazon’s similar price check app. These tools have such a massive value to the mass market that their growth potential is huge. Geeks love both of these apps, but both will continue to creep into mainstream use.

Just as with the rest of social media, location apps will continue to fragment into innovative and niche use cases. Shopkick, LevelUp, TopGuest and many others have a clear runway for finding their audiences in 2012.

Asif Khan


Asif Khan
– president, Location Based Marketing Association
2012 is going to be a banner year for location-based marketing. I expect to see further integration between mobile and other proximity-based media like Billboard and DOOH. Watch for platforms to emerge that give consumers’ more control over their location data, and for lots of experiments with NFC, but not for payments. Tapping phones on smart posters to download coupons or bus schedules, and exchanging business cards and video clips with such enhanced NFC P2P features as Android Beam will grow in 2012.

Nataly Kogan


Nataly Kogan
, VP customer experience, WHERE
2012 prediction – relevancy and ubiquity, baby! More relevant offers and experiences and ubiquity of being able to use them and pay for them easily. I think 2012 will be good for users as different apps/companies offer a combo of services. Find places to go, go there, find what you want to buy and get a great deal, and pay – all in one.

Brad Mays


Brad Mays
, group director, WCG |
blog
In 2012 the mobile category will continue to evolve from noun to verb, and location will begin to cement its position as a useful feature that anchors the ubiquity of mobile life. We’ll see location tags worked into more of the platforms we use everyday, mobile or otherwise, contributing to the explosion of big data and providing more of a physical retail trail. But, 2012 will continue to be a proving year for location, where most brands and individuals take a wait-and-see attitude until the case is conclusive. The good news is that we’ll get to have a lot more fun with location in 2012 because more brands will want to experiment, more of our friends will be willing to let us know where they are, and both will better understand why we check-in everywhere we go.

Jill McFarland


Jill McFarland
, digital and social media, Applebee’s | blog
My 2012 prediction is that location becomes more of a part of everything mobile and people don’t even realize they’re doing it. I tell people all the time that you don’t have to check-in. You’re geotagging yourself all the time from your phone allowing data to be collected, ads to be rendered, searches to better, based on your location.

Eric Miltsch


Eric Miltsch
, Digital guy @AuctionDirect. Co-Founder @CarZar_app. & LBS pro | blog
For our business, Auction Direct USA will continue to use location based marketing services to create more unique ways of connecting with customers, encourage loyalty and try to track foot traffic. I predict more activity from our internal sales people and even more from the customers as they take advantage of specials and recommendations. I also expect to see even more photo sharing activity from customers.

Adrian Parker


Adrian Parker
director of digital/social media, RadioShack | blog
Location applications bring the rhythm of local interaction to life on your mobile device. Applications like foursquare give real-time snapshots of who is doing what, where and with whom – and layers on reviews, tips, points and interactions that allow physical experiences to be shared across the globe. As a business owner, it’s a creative, low-cost, high impact channel for maintaining a mobile presence in an emerging platform. Going forward, location capabilities will be injected into the DNA of digital advertising, marketing campaigns and social networks. I don’t see location platforms as a marketing medium, rather they are a business practice that will mature as mobile adoption escalates.

In just 2 years, smartphone adoption in the U.S. has skyrocketed from 18% to 44%. This represents a significant opportunity for location tools to engage consumers at their point of decision, on their terms. Phones will no longer be the 3rd screen of interaction, they will be the 1st screen, surpassing Televisions and PCs. The real impact is that consumers are beginning to take advantage of GPS, Siri, cameras, apps, Wi-Fi and other wireless capabilities, including mobile commerce. In the past 10 years, RadioShack has sold more than 72 million cellphones. As smartphones and tablets are becoming the preferred device shoppers use to research and locate products, we will leverage the products we sell as a medium to connect with consumers, locally.

Chad Reed


Chad Reed,
CMO, Bluebox (and co-owner, Roll On Sushi)
The future of LBS resides with monetizing the app and making it more desirable for users and brands. I think geofencing will play a role with this. getting offers and recommendations pushed to you based off your interests when you are around specific locations is big. i also think the future is tying in with loyalty programs. Not sure exactly how that will work but someone will figure it out 🙂

Bluebox is now working directly with brands by turning their loyalty program in to a fun casual gaming network using social media and real rewards from brands.

Rob Reed


Rob Reed,
founder and CEO, Momentfeed,
Three technologies to look at for 2012 from Rob’s recent SoLoMo Manifesto (download here):
1. Mobile commerce – includes a number of solutions ranging from in-app purchases, executed online or at the point of sale, to the venerable mobile wallet, which stores all of your credit and debit cards, gift cards, and loyalty cards. Google and PayPal, together with Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, are all angling to merge our wallets with our smartphones. Meanwhile, brands like Starbucks offer branded payment apps and startups like ChowNow and Splickit offer multi-merchant solutions.
2. Near Field Communication (NFC) is an emerging technology that facilitates payments and engagements with a simple tap of one’s phone. The NFC chip in the phone can communicate at close range with other NFC devices, such as point-of-sale systems, as well as with static NFC tags, which can take the form of a decal. For marketers, NFC represents an opportunity to position one’s brand at the front end of location-based engagements.
3. Indoor Location – The final frontier for location will be universal indoor navigation. Which is to say, the ability to navigate indoor spaces with the same level of coverage we enjoy outdoors via GPS but with pinpoint accuracy

Simon Salt


Simon Salt,
CEO, author, Social Location Marketing and CEO, IncSlingers
Predictions for 2012… foursquare continues its growth, but as it does becomes less visible – e.g. it will continue to acquire new users but it is becoming like Twitter in that we don’t really talk about it anymore – its part of the social media fabric of life. Check-in will become irrelevant as an action on its own (if it isn’t already) – campaigns will have to become more relevant and less about just checking in. Marketers will start to leverage QR codes/NFC as part of their location campaigns – they provide proof of physical presence, and it can be done at the point of sale which provides better tracking.

Mike Schneider


Mike Schneider
, co-author Location-Based Marketing for Dummies, SVP digital incubator, Allen & Gerritsen
| blog
In 2012, I look for four things to happen:
1. Look for intent-based stuff to get serious. It’s time for companies to start making predictions based on our behaviors or intercepting us on the way to do something. Some big brand will capitalize. I’ll race ya!
2. Social loyalty everywhere. Connecting location to payments and providing value is huge. <– period
3. Micro-locations become more prevalent starting with your TV. An increased effort will be made to try to figure out what you’re watching and giving consumers ways to not only promote, but also to purchase.
4. More gaming! We have only seen the beginning of mobile / location based gaming. Look for companies to find ways to improve on the clunky experiences of Dokobots, Geomon and Hitcher to provide better interaction with the environment.

Aaron Strout


Aaron Strout
, co-author Location-Based Marketing for Dummies, head of location-based marketing, WCG
| blog
My predictions?
1. Check-ins become more passive (active checking in like we do today on foursquare doesn’t go away but become less of a focus).
2. Foursquare really goes mainstream and grows to 50 million users (yes, I know this is bold).
3. Location becomes a component of every mobile application (and some non-mobile applications).
4. Like Twitter and Facebook in 2010-11, a number of Fortune500 brands begin thinking about a “location” as part of their 2012 marketing strategy.
Bonus: Brand adoption of Instagram goes through the roof.

So what about you? Got a location-based marketing prediction? Leave it in the comments below. I’ll keep my eye on them and may pull a few up into the post!

For anyone that follows the location-based services space, there is no doubt that it has been a big year. With several key acquisitions (Whrrl, WHERE and Gowalla), transitions (Facebook), going-out-of-businesses (Bizzy) and key partnerships (foursquare and American Express), there has been a lot to keep track of. To that end, my friend and co-author of Location-Based Marketing for Dummies, Mike Schneider, and I thought it might be useful to do a wrap up post on the best of LBS in 2011.

While Mike and I both have perspective to share (and we both include these thoughts at the end of this post) we also wanted to ask some of the other bright minds (established AND up-and-coming) for their take. So without further ado, here are some thoughts on “the best of 2011” for location-based marketing:

Andy Ellwood


Andy Ellwood
, director of business development, Gowalla | blog
Location based anythings are quickly emerging to anythings and the ‘location based’ title is now becoming ubiquitous. As almost every device we use now includes a way to document location data, the questions of “should it include location” have been replaced with “how will it include location.” Brands that we worked with at Gowalla have spent the past two years exploring the nascent idea that their brand stories could be tied to locations and have learned how and where they want to be discovered and engaged with consumers on the go.

Jason Falls


Jason Falls
, author, speaker and CEO of Social Media Explorer
The biggest news of 2011 has got to be the Whrrl acquisition by Groupon. The possibilities of the two of these companies coming up with some sort of location/daily deal hybrid is really intriguing. Of course, I would have thought we’d see something that was the result of that marriage by now, but still … I’m excited to see what they do and thought the acquisition was really interesting. The Facebook-Gowalla thing is too, but I figure that to be more of a talent acquisition than a functionality one. But I’ve been wrong before.

Eric Friedman


Eric Friedman
, director of business development, foursquare |
blog
I am most excited about the launch of foursquare Radar – for us its the intersection of the right information to the right person at the right time and place. We created a wealth of tips and information from friends and brands, and Radar allows a way to deliver this info to someone when they are near a location they are interested in.

Eric Katerman


Eric Katerman
, co-founder, Forecast
Lots of consolidation in the checkin space last year: ebay buys WHERE, Whrrl goes to Groupon, Gowalla to Facebook. Foursquare won the check-in battle, but is checking in enough to keep users engaged? All are based on logging the past, keeping track of what has happened.

 

Jason Keath


Jason Keath
, founder & CEO, Socialfresh
Foursquare stands atop a pile of their broken, sold, and dying competition when it comes to check-in apps. They won the sector a year ago and have now cemented their Jean Claude Van Damme dominance. Gowalla, WHERE and Whrrl where acquired and Facebook took a big step back. Revenue channels up, partners up, business support up, user growth steady.

Instagram has the steady growl of a 56 Chevy poised to take off of the start line. They are just getting started as the photo app to beat (15 million users in 1 year) and they are only on one of the top mobile platforms. They are the future of location, while the focus of the app is image sharing, location has been built in from day one, integrates with foursquare and Facebook, and picks up photo locations better than any app.

Asif Khan


Asif Khan
– president, Location Based Marketing Association
2011 has been an amazing year for location-based marketing. Perhaps amongst the biggest moves is the failure of Gowalla, the emergence of indoor location platforms like Shopkick, PointInside and BeeMedia and the consumers’ zeal for deals from LivingSocial and Groupon. Perhaps my favorite app for 2011 is Sonar. I attend a ton of conferences and Sonar correlates check-in data from Foursquare with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook data about everyone else in the room, helping you network better.

Nataly Kogan


Nataly Kogan
, VP customer experience, WHERE
I think a few developments for 2011:

Consolidation of meaningful players in the check-in space. Gowalla goes bye bye because Fourquare is the de-facto check-in app. (Although I bet Instgram is gaining on foursquare in terms of being the primary client through which people check in.) Whrrl goes to Groupon earlier in the year.

WHERE gets acquired by PayPal/eBay, as PayPal announces its strategy to offer users a way to pay anytime, anywhere, including now at retail. Validation for LBS in a big way – need to offer consumers ubiquitous access to great deals when and where relevant and allow them to pay however they want.

Paul Mabray


Paul Mabray
, chief strategy officer, Vintank
For me the biggest two factors was the understanding that location layers in data was important and seeing key platforms (e.g. Instagram) including them as “texture” to every post. Despite the naysayers, location as a layer is one of the most important elements that all apps/platforms should be integrating. Another key factor is the notion that we have limited time to use LOTS of platforms (even niche ones) and tools like Sonar demonstrated that asynchronous tools could be key factors to add value without forcing the user to leverage another platform. As an example imagine a platform like Foodspotting grabbing all your food data from Facebook, Twitter, etc and using that to build asynchronous suggestions for restaurants/dishes for you. This could be applied to books, movies, music, wine and more.

My favorite apps from 2011:

  • Path
  • Instagram
  • Sonar
  • Oink
  • Up (love the concept of integrating physical objects to social and timeline)
Jill McFarland


Jill McFarland
, digital marketing strategist, restaurant & hospitality industry | blog
One of my favorite things to see this year was first Cinnabon in November and now Arby’s donating a $1 for every Foursquare check-in to a cause.

Biggest moves to me were Groupon aquiring Whrrl and Facebook aquiring Gowalla but not because of dollars or size, what made them interesting is that they were both talent and UX acquisitions.

Liz Philips


Liz Philips
, social media for TaylorMade, Adidas Golf & Ashworth | blog
As someone that’s a bit of an outsider to the LBS space, here are a few thoughts:

The integration of deals (Living Social, Buy with Me, etc.) into foursquare this past year is very interesting. Finally, a way to both aggregate deals (thank goodness, my inbox sees about twenty Groupon-like deals every morning, I simply can’t sift through them) and serve them upbased on relevancy. If the deal is relevant, obviously there is a higher conversion rate. Foursquare’s platform serves as the “pipes” for these vendors to geo-target based on previous traffic patterns. This makes a lot of sense for both sides as well as for the consumer – a win/win/win all the way around.

As for new apps/platforms… haven’t been impressed with anything enough to call out – so I look forward to reading your post! LocalMind is a great idea but without users, no traction. Same thing with Wenzani (good idea but bad execution; needs hooks to other social platforms for both content as well as syndication for sharing. Haven’t tried LOQUL. I also started using Waze for scoping out traffic on my long commute – the idea is nice (social mobile app with real-time traffic updates from other users for an optimal commute) but after a few weeks of using it, I figured out that Google Maps with traffic worked just as well.

My pick for the best location app is… Glympse – though it came out a few years ago, the app is now available on more platforms. Glympse is a location tracking app where (as they say in their tagline) you can “share your where.” Basically the app turns your smartphone into a tracking beacon and you can selectively share your moving or static location with whoever needs to know (the person who’s waiting for you at a lunch date, your parents to prove you’re REALLY at the movies and not some party, etc). Getting into the habit of simply “sharing your where” would cut down on phone calls and texts etc in the time that typically precedes an IRL meet-up.

Simon Salt


Simon Salt,
CEO, author, Social Location Marketing and CEO, IncSlingers
Whrrl to Groupon – a very bad move. Gowalla to Facebook – remains to be seen but overall the loss of Gowalla is a bad thing for the user base. The closing of Bizzy was a shame but shows that the space is probably crowded.

My favorite apps in the space continue to be GoldRun and CarZar.

Mike Schneider


Mike Schneider
, co-author Location-Based Marketing for Dummies, SVP digital incubator, Allen & Gerritsen
| blog
The coolest LBS apps of 2011:

1. LevelUp: Free cash for consumers (inverted deals) not enough? Acqusition, retention, insight and reduced interchange fees for the merchants, plus a view of behavior across locations. It’s epic.
2. Uber: Need a ride? Uber has one and you will ride in style. I call this the Trader Joe’s of transportation. You basically get your own limo driver for one ride. It finds you, it puts you in touch with a driver, you see that driver on the map, they come and get you, they take you where you need to go and the transaction happens cleanly in the background.
3. Path: OK, it’s not from 2011 technically, but Path 2.0 is like UX porn. It’s supposed to be an intimate network for just your closest friends but it turns out that it’s a pretty cool way to show people where you are and see what is happening in places. See, people only
4. Trover: No one is going to use it, but they should. On the surface it’s too close to instagram, but it’s supposed to only be the most awesome discoveries in the area. As you browse the photo stream, the icon turns from a guy walking to longboarding to biking to car to plane.
5. Forecast: These guys have future foursquare. The question is whether or not they are afraid to start monetizing. The benefits are obvious. They need a big brand to sign on.
6. Alfred: Cleversense showed us all how to do recommendation engines. It’s what Bizzy would have been if they had not spent time on the web experience.  Google agrees. They gobbled them up.
7. foursquare: Yeah #fatdenny and the gang are still cool. The radar feature is pretty fun and their integration with American Express has raised a few eyebrows. They still need a few things (like impression metrics) to be taken seriously as part of the digital (mobile) media budget, but they did win the check-in wars and they do have one of the best platforms to build on top of (just ask Forecast).
8. Timehop: Your daily dose of what you did a year ago! It’s a smile-a-day.

Aaron Strout


Aaron Strout
, co-author Location-Based Marketing for Dummies, head of location-based marketing, WCG
| blog
For me? The two biggest things I saw in location-based marketing are the hockey stick growth of smart phone ownership in the U.S. (up to nearly 50% from 30%) and Facebook’s decision to transition location from a service to a feature. What I’m starting to see is that while many run of the mill Facebook users aren’t inclined to open the app to “check in,” they are more inclined to add their location to a status or image upload.

 

Next up, 2012 Location-Based Marketing Predictions.

location based mar·ket·ing
/lōˈkāSHən ˈbās-əd ˈmärkitiNG/

Noun: the art of engaging your customers and prospects using services like foursquare, Facebook Places, Yelp and Gowalla to drive loyalty, word of mouth marketing and referrals

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