10 tips: Using location to know and serve your mobile customer better

One of the mobile’s greatest attributes is its potential to use knowledge about the customer location and what they are doing to make marketing and services more useful and applicable.
mobiThinking asked four experts for their top tips for using location-based services.

Top location tips from the experts

1) Play by the rules
Location is an excellent way to make your marketing relevant, but sending unsolicited marketing to all mobile phones in the area is a cardinal sin.
Jeff Porter, vice president, MobilePeople:
Location is the killer feature on mobile. Smartphone technology allows for more accurate positioning of a user and mobile users are inherently location sensitive. So, it’s no surprise that the most useful mobile applications have a location-based component.
But don’t abuse location information. Beware of hype around this idea that you could send an alert to the mobile of a consumer walking past your store, inviting them to partake in a special promotion or sale. Aside from the technical challenges, there are lots of privacy and usability issues.
Let the user initiate the interaction. Either through a location-based search i.e. “tell me what is around me that meets my need” or “tell me about specific deals near me”; or by subscribing to your service, i.e. “notify me about specific deals in an area at specified times that are relevant to me”.

2) The key to location is context and relevance
Used intelligently, location can turn a marketing communication into a valuable service.
Rahul Sonnad, chief executive offer, Geodelic Systems:
Enhancing the user experience is a combination of what’s relevant to the mobile consumer and knowing the context of user, i.e. where they are and what they are interested in here and now.
All local media should be tailored to the unique attributes and limitations of location-smart mobile devices: i.e. it’s not a computer; it’s not a map… It’s the convergence of both.
Sanjeev Agrawal, chief executive offer, Aloqa
A relevant and unobtrusive mobile offer at the right time and place will enhance the user’s experience and often helps to “close the loop”. Targeted advertising, promotions and transaction-related offers (events, coupons and tickets) received while at a related location, such as a point of interest, will add value by alerting the consumer to a relevant opportunity they might otherwise miss out on.

3) Beware of excluding customers
Weigh up the merits of targeting your campaign solely at niche devices, versus a campaign that is accessible to all your customers whatever their handset, such as by using SMS.
Alistair Goodman, chief executive officer, Placecast
The popularity of the iPhone has generated a lot of excitement around mobile applications. Now every handset or carrier is opening their own application store.
But remember that while smartphone penetration is increasing, the overwhelming number of your customers will have normal handsets that are unable to download smartphone applications. To ensure the widest possible number of potential customers, run campaigns that are easily accessible by participants whatever their handset, such as SMS-based campaigns.

4) Mobile and online customers are different
What works for the online Web doesn’t necessarily translate to mobile. Don’t just replicate your Internet strategy to mobile and expect similar or predictable results.
Mobile users have different preferences and needs, and behave differently to online users. Mobile users are usually “out and about”. This means they are much more sensitive to location – i.e. distance from where they are now matters – and to be time sensitive – i.e. they tend to be looking for products and services to consume in the immediate or near future.

5) Mobile devices are not PCs
Companies that ignore this obvious fact not only make things difficult for mobile customers, they also fail to take advantage of mobile’s unique qualities (such as location).
Mobile devices are different to PCs. Rather than becoming more similar, the mobile browsers and desktop browsers of the future will be completely different animals. On the downside, cell phone screen sizes are smaller, processing capability is more limited and mobile network capabilities vary.
But on the plus side, mobile devices offer specific features that should be exploited on mobile. Remote information capture (e.g. user-generated content), camera input (photos) and location information are just a few examples.

6) Don’t put your eggs in one basket
Future-proof your business by concentrating on the service/product rather than the delivery method. But design in the flexibility to ensure it works on all mobile devices present and future.
Remember, sound businesses are channel/platform agnostic.
Consider newspapers: digital media is quickly replacing traditional print, but the important thing is the content, i.e. news, not the how it is delivered, either in print, online or mobile. Making mobile news location-aware is a natural extension of a long-established business.
Similarly, location-based media should be designed as service that can run on any device. It should be easily adaptable to the different capabilities and limitations of each device (e.g. screen size). It must be nimble, responsive and flexible enough to adapt to the capabilities of each new generation of mobile device, whether handhelds, netbooks or car information systems.

7) Make sure your location data is accurate and up-to-date
There has been a bit of a boom in mobile-based ‘find-a-local…’ services. Make sure that any you sign up to have you business details correctly.
In almost one in five local searches, the location data is incorrect. The problem is that details for local businesses change frequently – new ones open, others close, they move, phone numbers change etc. Before signing up with any local directory/search service, businesses should check how, and how frequently, location information is updated and whether the local business can update and manage this data themselves. After all, if you are paying to drive traffic to your store, you want to make sure consumers are being sent to the right place.

8) It’s what it does not how it looks that’s important
To be successful in the long term, the goal is being useful, rather than pretty. The only way to learn what is useful to consumers is to get them using the product as soon as possible and let it evolve to their requirements. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Mobile is a new and rapidly growing marketplace. What was “hot” today could be commonplace or “not so hot” tomorrow. The best way to learn from the market is to get your solution into users hands and be nimble enough to quickly adapt to their feedback and needs.
Lock down the purpose of your service/application and focus on its usability.
Packing it with loads of features and being the “next greatest piece of eye candy” might get you a mention on a few blogs, but its future longevity depends on being useful to consumers.
If your solution is a utility (e.g. a local search application), make sure it returns accurate and relevant information to a user’s query. If your solution is information-based (e.g. local news) focus on content, relevance, timeliness and accuracy.

9) Don’t become a dinosaur
Digital has revolutionized businesses such as music and it will do the same to local advertising. So as record stores and companies faced the stark choice to evolve or lose business, so local media companies such as billboard companies must do the same.
We have already seen how virtual music stores (e.g. iTunes) and virtual products (e.g. music downloads) are replacing brick and mortar stores and physical products (e.g. CDs). All traditional local media, whether sandwich boards, bus ads or billboards have a digital local mobile competitor… or partner. Outdoor advertising companies, such as Clear Channel, see partnering with mobile information/marketing companies as the natural evolution of their business.

10) Clear and realistic objectives
Be clear about your goals and how you measure success before you launch your program.
Whether the goal is brand or product awareness, increased purchases, visitors to the store or coupon redemption – be clear and realistic about what you hope to achieve. This helps your mobile marketing partner deliver your campaign. And will also affect result – for example if you are providing a directory service, the clarity of mission will help local businesses to understand what mobile can bring to their overall marketing program.

Find out more about what the experts do:



Geodelic Systems:


Do you see the benefit of adding location to your mobile marketing mix? Comment below or email editor (at) mobiThinking.com.

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