Location-Based Marketing: 2011 in Retrospect

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, Location-Based Marketing Predictions for 2012.

5 Reasons Location-Based Services Benefit Customers

Two days ago, I wrote a post about “location” being the last third of the “holy trinity of data” for marketers. In the post, I explained why Facebook’s move away from check-ins wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In writing the post, however, I neglected to mention why location-based services (and perhaps Facebook with its new functionality in particular) make sense for end users like you and me. Thank goodness for friends like Jim Storer who reminded me that without customers like us buying into location-based services — and more importantly, finding value in these services — marketers won’t have anything to gain access to.

Rather than try and explain how customers derive value from location-based services in the comments of my original post, I promised Jim that I would write a follow up post here. To that end, here are five (of many) reasons location-based services provide value to customers:

  1. Deals – to date, many companies haven’t stepped up their “offers” to the degree that they’ve made it worth it for customers to check-in and give them data. However, as more companies embrace this, more people will engage. Facebook is slowly winding their way out of this game but foursquare isn’t. To date, a few deals in particular that got my attention are Starwoods offer to connect their loyalty program to your foursquare account. Once you do and check into a location that you are physically “checked into” (meaning you have a paid reservation), you get 150 Starwood points. American Express is also making it compelling to attach your foursquare account to your Amex card. If you do, you get cash back for checking into certain vendors locations. And then there is TastiDlite. They also connected their loyalty program to foursquare, Facebook and Twitter. Swipe your card when you make a purchase and not only auto-check-in but also earn valuable program points.
  2. Tips/photos – I travel a lot. When I do, I am constantly looking for Starbucks (or good coffee shops), restaurants, bars, etc. By consulting with tips and photos that others have left, I can get recommendations from friends in 140 character bites.
  3. Discovery/sharing – this may arguably be one of the biggest selling points for Facebook and their new location functionality. How many times has someone posted that they are at a Farmers Market, new restaurant, new dry cleaner and you think to yourself, “hey, I’ve been looking for a new _____.” Because you trust that person (or hopefully you do if you are connected to them on Facebook, them sharing that location with you helps you discover new places. And while it’s not essential to have the meta data attached to the check-in, it certainly helps when you can click on a link in your friends status update to see more information about a venue (including which of your other friends have checked in).
  4. Passport – Gowalla has already started to head in this direction i.e. focusing on collecting your check-ins and stitching them together to show trips versus just individual check-ins. Over time, these can benefit others like you that are thinking about a trip from Boston to Austin or Chicago to San Francisco. Collecting this type of data can also dramatically help LBS and marketers provide better services, offers and ultimately recommendations to their customers. The ability to tag photos is also powerful as over time, we may forget where we were when we took a serious of restaurant pics, or photos of the ocean. Or beautiful flowers.
  5. Fun – let’s not forget how much fun gamification can be. Earning badges, awards, points and street cred arent’ for everybody but there many people (myself included) that will go out of their way to do things to play the game (case in point, checking into Gold’s Gym every other day gets me that much closer to my Gym Rat badge). I’ve also picked a restaurant or coffee shopbased on the fact that I want to try win (or win back) a mayorship.
Do you use a location-based service? If so, why? If you don’t, what would it take you to do so?

A Newbie Takes on foursquare: A Q&A with Strout and Reid

This guest post by colleague, Brian Reid, originally appeared on our WCG work blog. Brian is a director at WCG in the product group, where he specializes in media. He is a former journalist who believes content really is king.

 

I love technology and take pride in early adoption. My first blog post went up in 2002. My first podcast hit in early 2005. But I’ve resisted location-based services until last month when I jumped in after reading my colleague Aaron Strout’s smart takes on the potential of location-based services for businesses. On the heels of Aaron’s recent vacation, where I followed his exploits through check-ins, pictures and updates, I decided to take the plunge and test out a location-based service for myself on my vacation. That 10-day trial led to some observations, which sparked the following conversion:

Strout: With so many location-based services out there, how did you end up on foursquare? I ask because this is the problem a lot of first time LBS users face: which service to go with?

Reid: I wish I could tell you that there was a lot of research. Foursquare was just top of mind; I had a sense that it had the most buzz and the biggest user base.

Did it take you much time to get the hang of foursquare?

I had decided that I was going to test-drive this on my vacation, and I literally set myself up while I was multi-tasking to rush out to the airport. It was all done via the mobile app, and I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was.

As someone that is brand new to using location-based services, how much of a role did “gamification” play in your experience?”

I didn’t go into location-based services for the game element. I could not care less about mayorships or checking into more places that my friends. Yet, as I used the service, I found that the points and the badges and the graphs showing progress had a lot more pull than I expected. On the second night of vacation, I checked into a nice restaurant. But because my GPS hadn’t update the location, I didn’t get any “points.” I was taken aback by how angry I was that the service didn’t think I deserved credit.

In your opinion, how good a job are businesses doing using location-based services to engage their customers? In general, what percentage of businesses (that you checked-in with) are actively participating?

I was disappointed in a couple of different ways. First, the number of businesses that seemed to have any sort of presence was pretty small, and this was in an upscale, tourist-driven area where every other form of marketing was on display. I’d done a good amount of Internet-based research before I left on things to do or see to eat, but staring at the landscape through my phone showed a completely different landscape, with some businesses completely invisible. Secondly, the “specials” rarely seemed significant enough to make a difference in my decision-making. And that held for both large and small businesses. I spent one night in a Starwood property, and Starwood offers twice as many points for declining housekeeping for one night than for a check in.

What more could businesses do to up their game using LBS?

Businesses that aren’t on foursquare need to get there. For people who rely on LBS, not having a presence utterly eliminates you for some percentage of the population. It’s like being erased from the Yellow Pages. And the businesses that are there could stand to be a bit more creative. I don’t have enough checkins to gather a really robust sample, but few of the specials seemed achievable or worth it.

Did you see a value in the “tips” or “photos” at the venues you checked into?

Not really. When you read a board on chowhound.com or Yelp, people can get into details, and you can get a sense of whether you can trust a given review. Because comments on foursquare are so brief, not only is the actual recommendation short, but I didn’t get enough cues to let me establish whether the reviewer’s tastes matched mine. A caveat: I’m not using the social aspect of foursquare because I don’t have local friends on the service. Perhaps tips from friends would be better, but that assumes much heavier adoption.

Now that you’ve gotten the LBS “bug,” will you continue to use foursquare? And if so, how?

The short answer is “yes, but.” I’m not sure I get a huge benefit as a consumer, but the potential here is pretty big, especially if businesses and institutions get better at taking advantage of the opportunity. Though the offering is currently pretty slick, the “how to use it” aspect seems stuck in beta. For that reason, I’m really looking forward to reading your book (Location Based Marketing for Dummies, which hits soon.)

What could location-based services like foursquare do to make their services better/more engaging?

At the risk of spouting clichés: it’s the network. I imagine the real fun comes when there are large numbers of friends, nearby and far away, all hitting the same places. And I think that businesses, too, need to keep honing their presence on foursquare. Honestly, all foursquare did was tell me the soup of the day at my favorite café, I’d be a happy user. But that’s not information that’s being offered right now, and a checkin at a place that isn’t aware that I’m using FourSquare – no matter how much gamification you layer on top – isn’t going to do a very good job of holding my attention.