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Just about three years ago, I sat down with my good friend and fellow location-based services nut, Mike Schneider, to write a book titled, Location-Based Marketing for Dummies. The book was decidedly before its time and was hard to write because the space was still evolving rapidly (in fact, it’s still evolving rapidly). But for that very reason, it was a fun, rewarding and challenging exercise — not necessarily in that order.

Fast forward three years and Mike and I are both still passionate about mobile and location-based marketing. I work for an agency and mainly focus on digital and social strategy but stay current by writing a monthly mobile column on MarketingLand. Mike took a different path and ultimately became the head of marketing for a company called Skyhook Wireless that focuses solely on mobile and location-based solutions. To that end, I thought it was about time the two of us sat down and compared notes (with me as writer and Mike as marketer).

Aaron: You recently took over marketing at Skyhook Wireless. What does your company do and how long has it been around?

Mike: Skyhook is location. We have been around since 2003. We are constantly reinventing how location is obtained in apps, devices and online and then we go to great lengths to add context to make it useful. We care about providing the means to capture and then use massive amounts of location data to give developers, devices, advertisers and more the ability to create and optimize awesome user experiences.

Aaron: A lot of marketers are trying to figure out what the future of ad-tech looks like. Obviously your view will have something to do with mobile/location. Can you give us some of your thinking on how those two connected forces will change marketing?

Mobile is advertising’s best friend because nobody knows a consumer better than their phone. The future of advertising delivered by ad-tech is “relevant content delivered everywhere”. When consumers makes their location known, publishers, brands and ad networks need to be ready to provide them with the best possible experience. The difference between now and then is scale. Getting precise location and tying behavior context to venues is easier than it was when we thought it all up because of the amount and quality of data we have. Concepts that everyone loves to talk about, but have been traditionally more challenging to implement, like geofencing and geo-conquesting can now be done through mouse clicks instead of lines and lines of code.

Aaron: It’s been said that the future of computing is wearables/the Internet of things. Can you tell us more about what this means and why they are so important?

Mike: Let me address them as two separate entities.

  • Wearables
    The wearable market is the collision of technology and fashion. Consumers are going beyond our phones to make “the quantified self” easier by wearing things that capture information about us that we can analyze. You’re a runner, Aaron, and you and I both use MapMyRun and RunKeeper and Nike+ to track our progress and tell our friends how amazing we (or you, I don’t do much more than 3 miles to your 10-15!) are. We then use this to analyze our progress, set goals and push ourselves to be who we want to be. A person’s activity level is a really interesting piece of context. Add this to moods, interests, foods and location and we have some really rich context around a person at a given time. The promise of wearables is that we get all of this information from a low powered, good looking, less noticeable device that means we can leave our phones at home and still capture and use the data we care about. Right now we track steps and calories in most devices, but the future is the addition of exertion and location.
  • Internet of Things
    Human behavior plus connected devices means a greener planet, better customer service and more reliable products. Warehouses are using indoor location to track human behavior and optimize lighting and heating. Thanks to location tech, products that could communicate with beacons and sensors so we know when they are entering a cart and leaving the aisle or the store. They also could know what’s in the cart with them. The communication with other things that are nearby allows us to build profiles of product behavior, attach that to venues for content creation purposes, optimization of energy consumption, finding lost items, inventory optimization and a lot more.

Aaron: Will marketers ever be able to detect users location when they are offline? If so, how do they use it?

Mike: We can do this today. A phone doesn’t need to be online (all of the time) to capture location. We can capture location and then based on where the device moves, capture further data points and trigger geofences or decode them and use them later. Devices like the Eye-Fi card can capture access points when a photo is taken and then attach location to photos in cameras that are not connected. Add this ability to armbands or clothing and we can capture your running route when the device doesn’t have GPS and isn’t connected to a wireless or cell network.

Aaron: Robert Scoble and Shel Israel just wrote a book called The Age of Context. Tell us more about the importance of “context.”

Mike: It’s all about context and context comes from people, places and things that share their data. The collision of people and things data makes place data incredibly rich which allows us to create better experiences for people without knowing exactly who they are. Time makes things extremely interesting. Who we are and what we need on a weekday morning where we might be a “coffee drinking, business traveler obsessed with Spotify” is different than a weekend afternoon where we’re a “coffee drinking, dad of three coaching soccer and looking for baked goods”. Aaron, we are always drinking coffee.

There you have it. Some wise words from a wise man. It’s been a while since Mike and I caught up but it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. By the way, you can see what Mike and some of my other mobile/location-based savvy industry friends predicted for 2014 here.

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

Continue reading “Location-Based Marketing for Dummies”

Location on Facebook is Dead. Long Live Location on Facebook!

Facebook’s recent announcement that it is “killing off” Places — the location-based service that was supposed to put LBS darling, foursquare, out of business — has many agencies and marketers asking, “what does this mean for the future of location-based servies?” For me, the biggest takeaway is that Facebook (like Twitter) realized that for most of its members, location is more of a feature than a service. And by encouraging more people to geo-tag updates, pictures and videos, they will actually start to accelerate the collection of data around the 3rd pillar of the “Holy Trinity” of data for marketers i.e. location.

As someone that spent the last 9 plus months writing a book on location-based marketing, I see this as a smart move by Facebook. Unlike LBS players foursquare, Gowalla and SCVNGR, Facebook made zero attempt to make Places fun. Facebook also mailed in its “Deals” service by doing a poor job mimicking group couponing sites like Groupon and Living Social. So rather than continuing to support a service that less than 3% of their member base used in spite of its prominent placement on the mobile site and application, they decided to “transmogrify” location into a feature.

As my co-author, Mike Schneider, noted in a recent post, ” Places, the Facebook feature may be dead, but LOCATION IS VERY MUCH ALIVE AT FACEBOOK.” This refocus should get the 750 million members of Facebook to more actively add location to their updates — with their photos in particular. Adding this additional layer of data explicitly (Facebook already collects a lot of geo-data implicitly based on IP addresses and GPS info but keeps this private) now allows Facebook to offer this richer stream to marketers as they target their marketing and Facebook ads to potential customers.

Where Does Location Fit in the Holy Trinity of Data?

 

For a long time now, marketers have had access to a plethora of demographic data (age, sex, race) about their current and prospective customers. Over the last 50 years, day-part data (knowing what day/time someone is viewing something) has made targeting even more efficient. This has been particularly effective in the online world because it allows marketers to swap in messages when they know their customers are most likely to act on them (e.g. ads for new movies on Friday afternoons). Now comes location data that now allows marketers to know who, when and where with an ability to act on all three via mobile devices.

This last third of the “Holy Trinity of Data” is important for a few different reasons:

  1. It helps businesses target only those customers that they want with the right offer at the right time in the right place.
  2. Companies can steal business away from competitors “in the moment” as they are deciding where to go for coffee, dinner, a new pair of shoes, etc.
  3. By mining data, marketers can look at “valleys” in traffic and create campaigns and offers that help drive the right foot traffic during less busy times of the day.

For Facebook, this is critical because unlike the 11 million foursquare users that are dedicated and hyper active, Facebook has hundreds of millions of members, many of which are starting to look like the general non-early-adopter population, will have larger bases of customers from which to collect data. While quantity isn’t always better than quality, in this case, it gives Facebook a definitive advantage because most marketers are interested in scale.

How Will This Impact Dedicated Location-Based Services?

While I don’t think that Facebook’s decision to refocus its location activities will have a dramatic impact on services like foursquare and Gowalla, it will start to simplify which services customers choose for certain activities. Those that are interested in the gamification and richer experiences that foursquare and Gowalla offer will now have one less competing service to check into. And like Facebook’s creation of the de facto social graph for the Web, foursquare has done a great job at developing a robust geo-database that it offers (free) via its open API.

However, because Facebook will now be collecting more location data than ever before, they will continue to undermine foursquare’s leadership position as a geo-data provider. It’s also worth keeping an eye on Google now that they are gaining some traction with Google +. This new direction will make foursquare’s tips, pictures and now “lists” a major differentiator. Foursquare also has a leg up in the fact that they are solely focused on location versus Facebook which has its hands in a few different pies at the moment.

In the end, its the user that wins here because having the ability to geo-tag photos or indicate geo-intent with status updates is a much more natural activity than having to take out one’s phone, open yet another application, find a venue and ultimately check into that location. That doesn’t mean the active check-in isn’t valuable or worthwhile, but rather that companies will need to think longer and harder about what offers, tips or recognition they provide to customers for actively acknowledging their presence in a store (or intent to go to a store).

What do you think? Will you use Facebook’s location feature more now that it’s no longer a service?

 

UPDATED 9/4: Here is a post on five reasons customers can benefit from location-based services in response to my friend, Jim Storer’s, excellent question about “what’s in it for us?”

 

 

 

Tomorrow, May 25, I have the pleasure of keynoting at BlogWorld Expo alongside my friend and co-author of Location Based Marketing for Dummies, Mike Schneider. We are talking about location-based marketing and will be joined by three of the largest brands in the world — Disney, Pepsi and American Express. What’s most exciting is the fact that all three have launched meaningful campaigns that have garnered significant media coverage.

The three esteemed panelists that will be joining us are:

While Mike and I will discuss the merits of location-based marketing with three very smart brand ambassadors, we’ll also drill down into the nuts and bolts of their programs, how they are working, what results they’ve seen to date and more importantly, will they lead to bigger and better things. We will also focus on the value of LBS for building loyalty, increasing engagement and ultimately create referrals and real business.

If you’re here at BlogWorld Expo, hopefully you’ll join us. If not, you can either follow along on the Twitter stream under the hashtag #bweny. They will also be live-streaming the panel so be sure to check out the hashtag for deals.

There’s still time to ask us questions too. Just leave them in the comments below.

During SXSW, I had an opportunity to do a few interviews on the state of the state of location based services. I really liked this interview with Abby Johnson of WebProNews, not only because of the insightful questions but because of the nice job her team did editing it. The visuals help tell a much better story then I ever could.

Shout outs to foursquare, Gowalla, SCVNGR, Whrrl, Bizzy, Where and of course my co-author, Mike Schneider during the interview.