Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Geotagging and location-based services, the businesses benefit

There's a great old TV announcement that says "Its 10pm and do you know where your children are?" [Wikipedia link] that was used as a Public Service Announcement in the USA from the 1950's. But these days, in the age of Foursquare and Gowalla applications, the question to companies should be "Its business hours and do you know where your customers are?"

A year on from their launch, the two location-based services are gaining significant numbers of users (me included) as people live their lives both in the physical world and the real-time web. This form of augmented reality means that people carry on their daily activities but 'check in' online to physical locations to tell their friends where the are and unlock badges or pins, or even virtual gifts in the case of Gowalla. Both also allow their users to provide hints and tips about that location (e.g. "the coffee here is really good" or "don't order a seat near the kitchen in the Summer", etc.). Foursquare (who I predict to win out in the end as the more popular service)also allows regular visitors to the same location to become 'The Mayor' of the establishment. With the majorship passing between the frequent users this creates a social-based competitive element to the application.

So that's how its used, what's the opportunity for business?

Well a major benefit of tapping into this application is the ability to get instant information on customer habits (e.g. which regulars are visiting and how often), as well as being able to get valuable feedback from the comments made.

This is also not just a thing popular with USA techies*, location-based services have now come to the UK where department store Debenhams and Dominos Pizza have recently joined up with Foursquare. Debenhams large store on London's Oxford Street now offers free coffee to anyone checking in there on a Friday and the ‘mayor' gets coffee all the time. Whilst Dominos now offers free weekly pizza to every 'major'.

*even though at the recent South-by-Southwest [SXSW] event in Austin USA, Foursquare worked with some companies to provide specialist badges & promotions for them.

In fact, Foursquare are now actively encouraging businesses to sign-up to provide a Foursquare "mayor specials" on their dedicated business page:

So although its early days, with usage still restricted to the early adopters, its likely that these services will grow in usage over the next year. Subseqent integration with Facebook, Twitter and other services (e.g. where you say where you're going to be in the future) will only add to their quick adoption.
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