Location based services – are you checking in?

The evolution of location services has offered the marketer a new tool to play with in reaching consumers when it comes to mobile advertising. Steve McGrath, managing director of Big Dot Media discusses the possibilities the technology now offers.

Location based services are being touted as the pinnacle of mobile marketing, with the growing popularity of services such as Foursquare and Gowalla, and Apples recent announcement of geo-targeted notification in iOS5, it does seem that geo-specific services in general are on the rise.

Fuelling the clamour for these services is the phenomenal growth in the number of smart phones being purchased across the globe. It has been reported that the total number of smart phones sold is expected to top 1.1 billion in 2013 which is a lot of devices with the potential to utilize location based technology.

For my own part, I am becoming addicted to ‘checking in’ on Foursquare and it is interesting to see the growth in brands adding offers at certain locations. When I am in London for meetings, I tend to spend a large amount of time having these said meetings in coffee house, for which there is a predominant number of location based offers for visitors and special offers for the ‘mayors’ of these locations. Unfortunately I am only the ‘mayor’ of my own office, and have yet to come up with a suitable offer for that!

In all seriousness, with the rate of growth of smart phones and other mobile devices, and the increase in people using these devices for not only ‘checking in’ but general browsing and checking mail, gives marketers a huge potential pool of users to target offers to depending on their location.

In addition, the e-wallet, or ‘paying for stuff with your mobile’ as I prefer to call it, means that mobile devices will form a integral part of our lives for many years to come.

Just recently, Apple announced the introduction of location-based notifications in the impending update of their latest mobile OS, iOS5. Users will be able to set custom notifications on their iPhones, iPads and other location aware Apple devices that are triggered based on leaving or entering certain areas. This geo-fencing of locations adds another weapon to the growing list of applications for location-based services. No longer will I forget to buy milk on the way home from the office now, as my iPhone will know when I leave the office geo-fence and duly remind me of my obligations.

Funnily enough, there have been a few blue-tooth location based services on offer for a while, services like notification of store offers when you walk into a shopping centre, but I think where these fall down is that many people turn blue-tooth off on their phones to conserve battery power, or are unsure as to accept blue-tooth connections from devices that they do not know. Using deals and offers on services that users have already subscribed to like Facebook and Foursquare make them a lot easier to be seen by the masses.

The biggest opportunity of location based services lies in the advertising model with personally targeted and location relevant advertising being seen as the big winner and contributing the bulk of an estimated $10 billion industry by 2016, however for those of you that think its all about how advertisers can get to you, think again. There is also a growing need for ‘people-finding’ services such as when you have lost a child at a theme park or for letting your breakdown service know exactly where on that dark lane your stranded car is.

No matter what the use, as long as location based service providers are clear and transparent with their users about what data is stored and shared, then it won’t only be the property industry where it’s all about location, location, location.

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