2012 was an interesting year for location-based services (LBS) and the marketing capabilities that come hand in hand with these services.
In some ways, it feels like LBS grew up this year.
Over this past year, these services became more like electricity versus shiny new objects.
In fact, Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS6, features location aware functionality as a baseline to many of its standard features.
For me, seeing “location” get baked into the major players like Facebook, Google and Apple was encouraging.
At the same time, I also feel like there was a lot less innovation in 2012 than in years prior. To get a broader perspective on the industry, I asked 10 location pros in the space to give us their thoughts on where things stand after 2012.
(I did this in 2011 too, check out those insight here)
In 2012, a few brands have really started to understand how to leverage and differentiate location-based marketing for their specific industry.
There is a long way to go for every industry to be truly integrated, however, companies like American Express and Starwood have taken strides in using data to understand their audience and really foster customer loyalty. By incorporating reward programs with check-ins, brands are attempting to close the loop between a consumer’s digital behavior and their offline spending.
As far as where I think the industry is as a whole, I think that it is safe to say that LBS in the 2010 sense of the word is dead. That was when location was new and interesting and not ubiquitous in every single application. (Why does World Series of Poker need to know my location while I play?) The 2010 LBS world paved the way for people to get used to the idea of their location being an important part of the experiences they have with their smart phones and the platforms they use there.
Now, the world of location is much less about the ego driven check-in and much more about the utility that sharing your data can create. I used Path obsessively for 9 months this year as my coping mechanism for not having Gowalla to check-in on. But, after I realized that all those check-ins were good for was a data point in a walled garden, I went back to Foursquare for their tips and their algorithm of things that might interest me in the area.
Going forward, I think that that is going to increasingly be the way that location as an industry is considered: a mandatory feature that has the possibility to bring value to my user experience. Not for deals and discounts and the 2nd coming of ValPak, but for making each experience richer and fuller than it would have been otherwise. People do what they are incentivized to do, but a “like” or badge of gamification is no longer the incentive that the location savvy audience is searching for.
From a usage growth perspective, all indications are that location-based platforms (Foursquare, etc.) are flat, if not dead. But declaring the death of location-based marketing would be a mistake since it’s not the possibility that’s dying, it’s just consumer connection to separate apps that focus on where you are.
Location data is now appended to (or optionally removed from) every social gesture you make, from videos to shopping to Tweets. What 2013 holds for marketers is figuring out how to make sense of it and leverage that information to A) Know more about your customers and B) Reach them in more compelling ways.
It’s not hard to see that 2012 was a banner year in location-based marketing. Some of the highlights for me were the acquisition of Geoloqi, GeoIQ and MapTel by ESRI, UrbanAirship’s get of SimpleGeo and Tello, and of course Facebook’s grab of Glancee and Instagram.
In 2012 we have begun the evolution of location-based services from fun, gaming and social discovery tools, to a true understanding of the real value being realized from location-based data, media interaction and image based recognition.
Favorite app for 2012: Shazam – I simply love the new business model of extending the value by shazaming TV commercials, music and more, all with a location-relevant context.
The power of LBS still is a concept that eludes most businesses. While consumer usage continues to grow and more platforms embed this technology into other features (micro-blogs, photos, etc) businesses still lack the tools to make this relevant and actionable data.
Each platform races to create a compelling value proposition that brings their app into the daily workflow of consumers to compete with Twitter, Facebook and others they still lack the key critical mass and business tools to make them a “must-have” for business adoption.
That being said I see a few things taking shape from 2012 and into 2013: As the clear winner as an exclusively LBS platform, foursquare is back on the innovation front and I expect to see great things from them in 2013.
Asynchronous stream analysis will become more prevalent in 2013 to deliver relevant and local context. Everything from who’s tried the wine on the list at your location to here’s the pictures your friends took in the past at this location. The paradigm of “nearby” will solidify as the key metaphor for location. 2013 will be the year we begin to see tools aggregate all the LBS platforms and make them relevant and useful for businesses.
Location based services will not only hit a new level of awareness and understanding, but they will also achieve a new height of effectiveness with the introduction of better algorithms which learn and predict our habits, usage and interests – based on our permissions.
Hype free, no spam and exactly what we want to see. Location based filters for content within apps such as Spun will make content consumption both fun and functional. Central hubs of our activity will exist, making it easier for us to stay connected to the key information elements of our life – Grokr is a wonderful example of this new effective hub.
We’ll also see more contextual actions which integrate functionality from other social networks that help us complete actions based on our activity and those of our friends. Not only will we be alerted of a friend’s upcoming birthday or newborn child, we’ll also be able to find either products or retailers nearby. We’ll also find relevant feedback and have the ability to purchase and ship within a few simple gestures as this all happens within our various mobile devices.
7. Liz Phillips, Social media manager at TaylorMade-adidas Golf (but in this case, she is providing her own view as a LBS user)
As a user I’m still using foursquare but I’m using services like Path and Instagram to syndicate checkins because I enjoy the communities there more. I’ll go to foursquare to read tips but also go to Yelp too (never use their check ins). I rarely take advantage of deals offered by foursquare and Yelp though its always a nice surprise when it happens.
Foursquare does a nice job of suggesting new restaurants and stuff in the area for me to try and gives me the relevancy of which friends have been there before. Not sure where this space is going, but I’ll be interested to hear the group’s thoughts.
These point to one thing: Optimizing and managing a local presence on these platforms is a strategic imperative for brick-and-mortar brands. You need to optimize for “search, engagement, and discovery” at the local level. And by encouraging customers to engage with your locations through check-ins, recommendations, likes, etc. you maximize the opportunities for discovery. Customer engagement increases your profile and will ultimately drive more people to your business.
Instagram is also the big story of 2012. It’s second only to Facebook in time spent on social apps… ahead of both Twitter and Foursquare. And it uses Foursquare’s venue data for place tagging. We saw place-tagged Instagram photos go up by 50% with the release of Instagram 3.0, which puts location at the center of the experience.
Consumers allocate more than a quarter of their mobile time to social networking apps, and each has some local element. Mobile and location are inextricably linked. I haven’t heard the term “LBS” in so long because location is ubiquitous. What mobile has enabled is efficient management of the local opportunity. We were talking about the potential of local in the dotcom era. The opportunity always existed… just not efficiently or at scale. Mobile has changed that and will continue to in 2013.
In terms of apps I’m watching the one I highlighted the other day, Sitegeist, is probably my favorite right now because of the blend of big data and location. The most obvious misstep this year has been Apple and iOS maps, which remains to be corrected.
My general thought is that LBS is moving to a much more local focus, from the national focus that it started with. Foursquare’s increasing investment in Nearby, along with Facebook mimicking that shows that it has already become important to the major players in the space. Highlight finally arriving on Android was a welcome move, though there are still so few people using it outside of the tech spaces that it hasn’t really become relevant to anyone but those who are geeky enough to care.
My gut tells me we are still a few years away from realizing the true potential that location aware devices have to offer and meeting privacy concerns of users. I still don’t see marketers doing anything really creative with location yet, the innovation is coming from the developers rather than the marketers and that needs to change. I’d like to see some smart brands partnering with some smart tech people and building out tools/apps that benefit both the customer and the brand.
The entire landscape of location-based applications has changed in the course of a year. In fact, there aren’t many of of the original pure-play location-based applications left. Location has truly become the contextual piece of data it was always meant to be powering the social, interest, mood / wellbeing, aspiration and commerce graphs. It staples pictures to places in Instagram, it shows us housing by neighborhood in (epic app) Trulia, it pairs drivers with riders in Uber. And we are still only scratching the surface of what location can do as a data point.
Before we look at the “coolest apps of 2012” Let’s look first at their grandaddy:
- Foursquare: It’s most recent version (is it a pivot?) takes the focus off of the check-in and puts it into the local search space. The fact is that foursquare is trying to do too many things and values itself too high to be a going concern. Is it a local-search tool? Is it a location-based social network? It is for deals? Is it a platform to use to build apps? It slices! It dices! You can even cut a tin can with it! Look for them to sell in 2013 to Google or Yahoo. I do not see Apple taking on foursquare and then de-integrating Yelp. Yelp is far superior in its content and Apple should stick there.
- Circhighbanjonar: Geeks knew it would happen. Geeks begged for it to happen. Geeks made it happen. I wrote an article earlier this year for Jason Fall’s social media explorer on Location-based Services taking a turn for the horrible. This article was about proximity based apps like Circle, Highlight, Banjo and Sonar that tell you who is nearby when you walk by them. It’s a pretty creepy experience overall because it does not take into account how important a relationship is before it tells you. If these apps mined our social networks and told me that trusted friends like Aaron Strout, Zach Cole or Vik Duggal are nearby and ZAP me with a notification, that would make me happy, but just because I follow someone on the twitter does not mean I want to know where they are nor should I.
- Life is Magic: Last year in Aaron’s post on 2012 location predictions I said that gaming would be big. It has taken a serious step up from 2011 games like Hitchers and Dokobots. Life is Magic skins the world and lets you and friends become Machinsts, Mages or Monks to explore dungeons, conquer the land and gain items, power, spells and gold!
- LevelUp: Yes it was on my list last year, but it continues to get better and better. The analytics have improved, there are more merchants participating and there are ways to get more credit by getting your friends to join. It’s a no-brainer! Tie payments to location to loyalty. There are even ways to attribute ads to acquisition and loyalty. It’s crazy awesome.
- Weathermob: “Everyone has something to say about the weather” is the premise for this app. It attaches the location and the user a feeling to each “report”. The interface is beautiful and the team is working through first revision bugs to make it more useful, but it is interesting to see how people see the weather in a given location in real-time. I love to look at sunsets in Spain, surfing weather in Costa Rica and rain in the UK.
- Nike+ Running App: I know we are all tired of the social posts of people who are running more than we are, but this app is really cool. It keeps track of your mileage, gives you pep talks and lets you publish the maps of your runs. I would say sneaker brands need to get involved, but one already did.
- Strava: This is the ULTIMATE app for cyclists. The analytics are AMAZING. You can use it with Garmin, iPhone or Android devices. You can view your activity history, compare rides, compare yourself to others in your community. Set and beat goals, challenge yourself to continuously beat your previous times. It’s extremely comprehensive and awesome. It is a gold standard for community.
- Waze: Other turn-by-turn directions do not even COMPARE. Waze finds short and secret routes and uses social media to update you on traffic conditions, cops and nasty traffic-light cameras.It KILLS Apple maps and Google Maps turn-by-turn.
So what about you?
What is your favorite location-based application, service or tool that facilitate marketing?
If we missed it, feel free to toss it in the comments.