One of my first blog posts was about location based marketing. The concept was fairly new to me and I saw a huge amount of potential because of the explosive growth of smart phones and the state of the world economy meaning that people were on the search for deals all the time. I decided to test two of the most famous applications and began avidly checking in on both Foursquare and Gowalla. But what were my expectations and what was I hoping to get out of this commitment to Geo-locating myself? A few months on I think its time to review my experience.
2011 has been a big you for LBM which is summerised nicely in this infograph
I think the two things that are illustrated by this timeline is the consolidation of location based services as well as the impressive growth of Foursquare. From my own experiences based here in Ireland it became quickly apparent that Foursquare was the only show in town. The check in options available to me on Gowalla were few and far between and I ended up using places that were miles away from me just to try get more out of the service. It didnt take long for me to kick Gowalla to the curb and focus my intentions on Foursquare.
What makes a difference with Foursquare is that when you decide to check in some place, it is usually there. This is the minimum that users will expect if there service is to gain any sort of traction. So I went at it hammer and tong for a few months. Oh I was the mayor of plenty of places, I had badges and accolades stacked as high as the eye could see. I gained the satisfaction of ousting plenty of people and I even went to a few places solely so I could check in there. But after I while I began to think…why? Why bother going to all this effort? Not once in all this time did I benefit from discounted food or drinks or..anything. My mayorship never brought me any preferential treatment and to be honest ousting people never brought that much satisfaction. I will put this last element though down to the fact that in reality I don’t know the majority of my friends on Foursquare. I didnt much fancy using my own name when I initially began this LBS adventure because quiet frankly I didnt want everyone I knew knowing where I was all the time. My previous experience with check ins was through Facebook and whenever I saw someone trumpeting where they were to the masses I just thought it was sad! I needn’t have worried that much though because I quickly discovered that even if I had wanted to involve myself in a geo-tagging love affair with any of my friends…barely any of them used these kind of services because…why should they?!
Some maybe I missed the point of the whole process. Maybe I shouldnt have been so focused on gaining discounts and using my early adopter status to gain preferential treatment. I have found Foursquare useful when on occasion I have checked into a restaurant and found a friendly recommendation waiting for me suggesting something to try. Is this the really purpose of Foursqaure. Goodwill and advice? Admittedly I would value advice from people I knew more and it would be useful to know what my friends had thought of places when I am at them. But really is that enough to convince people to take out their phone from their pockets and go through the check in process? If me as an early (ish) adopter has already got sick of it, what chance was there really to convince higher numbers of the value of Foursquare?
There needs to be a carrot for people to consistently use the service and right now there ain’t no carrot for users in Ireland. There is only one venue within 5kms of where I am now who offer any kind of discount for checking in on Foursquare. It is a pub names O’ Dwyers in Kilmacud. I contacted them to see what kind of response they had to their campaign and the answer was short and to the point. NONE.
So if businesses aren’t seeing any return on offering discounts is there any hope for for increased business participation? I think companies like Foursquare and Geo-deals need to up their efforts in targeting business owners to explain the benefits and offer them advice. No doubt the service will prove more popular in a busy area where consumer decisions might be tipped in favour of a location based on the LBM that they offer.It is also vital for businesses to let people know about checking in. Foursquare signs and details on menus would certainly make a difference.
Like a lot of things here in Ireland I think we are going to have to wait some time for both businesses and consumers to buy into the whole location based marketing concept. 2012 promises to be another big year for the industry so what can America expect to see? Here are some of the big predictions being talked about right now by industry experts
- Foursquare hits the 30-million mark. Foursquare is growing at approximately 30,000 users a day, and we expect this to gradually increase during the upcoming year. After announcing its 15 millionth user last December, look for Foursquare to tally 30 million users by the end of 2012.
- Facebook will enable location-specific mobile advertising. As Facebook continues to grow revenue ahead of its 2012 IPO, look for the social network to finally turn on location-based advertising within its mobile application. This will enable marketers to deliver ads based on both current location and past check-ins.
- New competitors emerge that automate the check-in process. Consumer growth has proven that users enjoy sharing their location, connecting with nearby friends and earning rewards. The largest headache with services such as Foursquare and Facebook is that users must still manually check in to each location. This creates opportunities in 2012 for innovative start-ups that automatically check users into venues when provided permission.
- Groupon Acquires Foursquare. With Groupon still flush with cash, and Foursquare continuing to drive more-and-more merchant transactions, we predict Groupon makes Foursquare an offer it can’t refuse. This would expand Groupon’s merchant toolset and give it access to millions of new consumers through Foursquare’s mobile app.
- Marketers embrace “big data” and integrate location-based marketing. As more marketers include location-based marketing in their 2012 campaigns, reporting will become a hot topic. Check-ins provide incredibly valuable data to marketers about what their customers do and when they do it. This will lead savvy marketers to begin integrating their location-based data into their existing marketing platforms, enabling them to learn even more about their customers and incorporate these learnings across all marketing channels.
- 58% Of Smartphone Users Use A Location-Based Info Service (rafidea.wordpress.com)
- My Location Based Marketing Experiment (mrbtg.wordpress.com)
- Foursquare – Miles Better (mrbtg.wordpress.com)