10 Things to Know About Location Right Now

Does It Still Matter? The Answer to This and More

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What are location-based services?
They are mobile services that allow targeting based on where that device is so that the consumer can receive localized content or offers.

So that 's like Foursquare, right?
Foursquare is a location-based service, but it's only one of thousands.

Why does location matter so much?
Geotargeting is hardly a new discipline, but now that mobile marketing has emerged as one of the most important and effective ways to reach consumers, businesses can target people based on where they are to deliver personalized messaging and offers.

Doesn't Foursquare require users to manually share their locations?
Until recently, Foursquare users had to explicitly say where they were, and then Foursquare would list recommendations or offers nearby or at that location. But Foursquare will now notify users about local recommendations based on the location of the mobile device, whether or not one is actively using the application.

Location-based services allow marketers to send consumers personalized offers.
Location-based services allow marketers to send consumers personalized offers.
Is Foursquare the only one doing that ?
Hardly. Google was the first major company to experiment with this kind of automated location-based service through its Latitude offering, and startups such as Sonar and Highlight automate location-sharing to allow people to meet others near them.

Do check-ins still matter?
Check-ins have not lived up to the previous hype . In 2011, Facebook dropped its check-in feature, and other check-in applications, such as Gowalla and Whrrl, have been acquired.

Foursquare is the only location-based service with any scale that still focuses on check-ins. Yet beyond check-ins, people are frequently, and often publicly, sharing their locations through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other services.

Do people care about privacy?
Yes. Violate consumers' privacy and a backlash is likely. This is especially true for major brands. App developers and marketers must ensure that they have consumers' permission to communicate with them through location-based services. Mobile devices are extremely personal for consumers, and that must be respected.

Fortunately for marketers, more people are sharing their locations, and people will do so in greater numbers as the value proposition becomes clearer.

How do I ensure that my business can be found when people search on their mobile devices?
As far as search engines go, Google practically has a monopoly. The first step is to ensure the business ranks well in Google search, as well as in Google Maps. Yet consumers have many ways to find local businesses through mobile devices.

Mobile sites and apps used to find local businesses include review services such as Yelp, social services such as Foursquare, and vertical-specific services, including Shopkick for general retail; FoodSpotting for restaurants; and Fashism for fashion and apparel.

Should I optimize around Apple's Siri?
It's important to monitor Siri, the voice-search technology that runs on Apple's iPhone 4S and undoubtedly many more devices to come. Yet, Siri directs users to other services such as Google Maps. Marketers should run a number of searches on Siri and determine the original source of the listings, then optimize around those sources to gain prominence in Siri.

Where does measurement fit in with location-based services?
There are several ways to measure results. One is to use indicators, such as how many people access the store locator, look up hours, call a store or add items to a shopping list. Local businesses can then estimate conversion rates for store visits and order sizes based on general benchmarks. In some cases, it can be far more precise.

There are now many location-based shopping services where consumers can enter their loyalty or payment cards, and marketers can then directly measure mobile's impact on offline sales. Marketers should seek to connect location-based services with the overarching metrics that matter most.

Do mobile payments matter today?
Mobile shopping is quickly becoming a mainstream activity. EBay estimated that its mobile sales jumped to $5 billion in 2011 from $2 billion in 2010. Consumers are also starting to use their mobile devices to make payments in stores, and there are a lot of companies facilitating such transactions, including Google, Citibank, American Express, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and too many startups to name.

With so many competing technologies and vendors, mobile payments will become even more fragmented over the coming year, and it will generate interest primarily from early-adopter consumers. However, marketers may still find it beneficial to run pilots with mobile-payment providers, especially as many offerings are designed to generate customer retention.

David Berkowitz is vice president of emerging media and innovation, 360i.

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