This post is by SmartBrief on Social Media contributing editor Ben Whitford.

The exciting thing about location marketing is that right now, nobody knows exactly where it’s headed — not even the executives and marketers who are spearheading the industry’s geo-location push.

Speaking at TWTRCON this week, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley, Gowalla CEO Josh Williams, Starbucks social strategist Brad Nelson and SimpleGEO chief Matt Galligan admitted that the industry was going through a “Wild West” period, and that it would be some time before the sector’s conceptual foundations and technical know-how shake down into an equilibrium. Here are five take-home points from the location bigwigs’ on-stage debate:

  1. Location marketing will suit some brands more than others. Starbucks loves social media, but it’s especially interested in location services, said Nelson. While retailers such as Dell or Gap can push mail-order sales directly using tools such as Twitter and Facebook, Starbucks needs people’s physical presence in stores to convert buzz into sales.
    So far, Starbucks has stuck with Foursquare for its location-based promotions, but Nelson said the company hopes to integrate rival services such as Gowalla into its location strategy. “We can’t make a cup of coffee over the Internet, so being able to connect with people while they’re in stores is huge — it’s a real game-changer for us,” he explained.
  2. Technological hurdles will slow location’s spread. Many retailers would love more accurate location-based tools — for instance, systems that let them serve up different promotions depending on whether a customer was standing in line at the checkout or browsing the clothing aisles — but for the time being that will remain a pipe dream. Location services need better hardware support and more standardization across phone platforms before pinpoint accuracy will become viable; in the meantime, the services are likely to remain fuzzy, limiting their ability to serve up precisely targeted promotions. “The ideas we’re pushing are more advanced than the technologies that are driving them,” said Foursquare’s Crowley.
  3. Location will mean different things to different people. The rush of geeky early adopters onto location services has created a false impression of uniformity, but that won’t last, said Crowley. “Everyone in this space thinks it’s all about the check-ins, but it’s important to look at the way Twitter has evolved over time,” he said. Twitter has bifurcated into sub-classes of passive consumers and active contributors, and so location users will find new patterns of creating and finding value on their own terms, he said.
  4. Location will be everywhere. Check-in services such as Foursquare and Gowalla won’t maintain their location-marketing monopoly, says SimpleGEO’s Galligan. While location’s current rulers will remain influential, marketers will grow more adept at developing custom location-aware applications that let them tailor promotions and collect data to suit their brands’ specific needs. “We’re on the brink of a new wave of apps where everything uses location,” Galligan said. “You’re going to have location with everything, and everything’s going to have some use of it.”
  5. Complexity will be the new simplicity. Location-based services have been growing more minimalistic in a bid to create a seamless, near-passive user experience — but it’s high time for a backlash, said Gowalla’s Josh Williams. “Check-in became this frictionless way to update someone on your status by pushing one button — but in time it becomes this primitive thing,” Williams said. “We’re looking right now at what you add to that … besides the act of just saying ‘I’m here.’”
    That could entail more active user experiences like location-aware photo- and video-sharing services, more complex privacy features to let people share their location with select circles of friends, or an increase in location-based games and marketing promotions that let users redeem online points or badges for real-world rewards.

Where do you see location marketing heading? Is the industry ready for prime time, or will we be stuck in a chaotic Wild West environment for the foreseeable future? And as location marketing matures, how useful do you think it will prove for your brand or sector?

For more news, case studies and best practices relating to location networks, check out SmartBrief on Social Media‘s new special report, “Social, Meet Local.”

Image credit, LdF, via iStockphoto

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12 Responses to “Where next for location marketing?”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bader Rutter, Rick Stoner. Rick Stoner said: RT @Bader_Rutter: Where next for location marketing? http://bit.ly/ap8YzD (via @SBoSM) [...]

  2. [...] marketing platform for brands now and even more so in the near future. Location based services are in the news every day now and there is case study after case study of how brands are effectively using the [...]

  3. [...] here to see the original: Where next for location marketing? | SmartBlog On Social Media Comments [...]

  4. Good post. In all these discussions the thing that seems missing is the realisation that simplicity can go further still. Why 'click' to annouce you've arrived when bluetooth/GPS/other can do it automatically.

    Sure, this may be too much for some users, but others will relish the automation.

    Think about it, the behavioural understanding that can then be derived from knowing/tracking actual data rather than when/if someone chooses to announce their presence.

    However, as with all these comments, Point 1 can be extended from '…will suit some brands more than others' to '…will suit some brands and users more than others.'

  5. @manumarchal says:

    Nice post Jesse.

    Cliff, agree with your point about the potential for behavioural understanding. However this doesn't require real time tracking. Checkins are already enough to start giving users very valuable feedback about places they might like based on where they and like minded people have been.

    There is a frequent complain about checkins services, that, aside from knowing where your friends might be, they deliver little value, but this should change soon.

    Having the ability to predict places one might like is also a marketer's dream. Everybody talks about the potential monetization of these services but knowing that one user is near a shop isn't good enough and prohibits any sort of push marketing, as users would be swamped with irrelevant offers.

    Knowing that someone who might like your business is nearby is game-changing, because your chances of conversion are of a different order all together. One might say that if done really well (predicting the right places), you might even start considering push mktg (as signal/noise ratio will be good enough).

    Cloud based recommendation engine for locations is what we do at http://www.LikeCube.com. Any web/mobile app capturing user location and who want to experience these benefits might want to contact us.

  6. [...] This article is published by SmartBlog on Social Media, please read the original article here. [...]

  7. I've been reading quite a bit about the tremendous value of location-based *marketing* for businesses, but that there is little value in location-based *services* for consumers. I think that these existing services like Foursquare and Gowalla will begin to evolve to make the experience of checking in somewhere even more interactive and allow businesses to engage customers further. There are already services emerging that offer such a thing, like Double Dutch and Scvngr, where the act of checking in somewhere becomes so much more than just that.

  8. [...] What’s Next for Location Marketing? And how will these apps deliver value beyond the “I’m here” announcement? [...]

  9. [...] Stanchak in his SmartBrief article “Where next for location marketing”, lays out five key points discussed in a recent debate by location-service big wigs on what the [...]

  10. [...] a game changer for brands like Starbucks who enjoy social media but “can’t make a cup of coffee over the internet.” Not only does it get customers in the stores, but it’s an easy way to provide loyalty [...]

  11. [...] 5 trends that will shape location marketing Location marketing’s bigwigs gathered in New York City this week to discuss their sector’s future — and acknowledged that it’s likely to be some time before location services achieve full potential. Location services will continue to spread, and brands will embrace the field’s promotional and data-gathering capabilities, but technological hurdles are likely to hamper the services’ uptake, they said. “The ideas we’re pushing are more advanced than the technologies that are driving them,” said Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley.  SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Social Media [...]

  12. [...] Ben Whitford writes in his latest blog post, Where Next For Location Marketing? [...]