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Geolocation: The Emerging eMarketing Tool for 2011

One digital marketing tool that has seemingly taken longer to grow than other marketing technologies is geolocation or location-based services. While the technology and general concept were available as early as 2008, the popularity of “checking in” has not yet caught fire with the everyday consumer.

Location-based services (LBS) allow a consumer to check in at a business. Ideally, the ability to broadcast your location – or demonstrate your retailer choice – serves as a new “word of mouth” form of advertising. Consumers can share with their friends and family where they like to eat dinner, purchase electronics, even what gym they frequent.

Several LBS applications exist; however, the function of each application varies. For example, Yelp Mobile collects customer reviews and directions to locations. The site Gowalla allows consumers to play games. Neer allows you to see where your family and closest friends are located. And Foursquare allows consumers to earn badges or even become mayor of a location based on the frequency of their visits. Several LBS applications have come and gone in a short period of time. To date, a stand-out application has not dominated the industry.

Businesses can use consumer location information to provide up-to-the-minute information on store locations or deals in the area. They can also use past check-in information to recommend other businesses, again, based on the consumer’s location.

However, an insightful consumer should be cautious of the use of geolocation. Privacy concerns became an important matter of personal safety. It may not be the wisest decision to publicly broadcast your location, leaving your home as a target for burglary or making it possible for others to track your every movement or stalk you. Allowing a provider or retailer to track a consumer’s location becomes a matter of trust in how that information is being used or disseminated.

While the technology can create customer loyalty through rewards and customer engagement through specific location information, few consumers are ready to check in with geolocation. Therefore, the challenge for businesses is to provide a trusted way for consumers to utilize location-based services.