Location-Based Marketing to the Test

Posted by Paladin on June 29, 2010

Recent marketing industry events have highlighted the coming wave of mobile marketing. Location-based marketing has had a particular hype. I wanted to learn more about it first hand, so I took to the road to test it out myself while on a short vacation this past weekend.

In advance, I researched some of the latest location-based marketing techniques and platforms.

  • Twitter has integrated geotagging into tweets accessible by computer or on your mobile device. Marketers can target and communicate virtually, which makes it easier for marketers to find customers and quickly get in touch in real-time.
  • Foursquare was the instigator of geotagging presented as the highly popular location based game/application, rewarding customers with ‘check-ins.’ In most recent news, they are close to 1.8 billion users and just raised $20m in a Series B investment.
  • Yelp newly introduced a similar concept to Foursquare by adding badge features and ‘Dukedoms’ to their mobile application. Ideally, Yelp would like to provide readers with quality reviews since they will have the ability to track the number of times the reviewer is actually visiting the venues.
  • Gowalla, also similar to Foursquare, has just rolled out five new local language settings for global users to actively participate.

An article last week from Noah Elikin on Media Post Marketing Implications of a Truly Mobile Internet, discussed the idea that frequent travelers were a prime target for location based marketing. I put the theories to test on my adventures to the Northwest and Canada. From Thursday to Monday, I utilized my social networks by checking into Foursquare and sending updates to Twitter. Being an avid user of social media and having a fairly sizable network of 1150 followers, I was curious to see if brands would indeed market to me as I was on the go.

On Foursquare, I made sure to check-in everywhere I stopped, including: airports, train/bus stations, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, well-known tourist attractions, and tours. I logged over 20 check-ins and 15 tweets throughout the trip. Surprisingly, the results were underwhelming. Out of all venues I visited and tweeted about, I only received one automated response from the tour company, @SavorSeattle, thanking me for the follow and participating on the tour.

The only ‘specials nearby’ notification I received was from @Starbucks on Foursquare. For the sake of my research (and being a frequent coffee drinker) I couldn’t travel all the way to Seattle without visiting the original Starbucks store. The company has quickly adopted location-based marketing on Foursquare. When users check-in to the store, a notification pops up offering incentives to “Mayors” (most frequent customers) discounts and free drinks. It is a program that drives increased customer visits and alerts to Starbucks near their immediate location.

Findings: Despite the location-based marketing hype, the practice has not become an integral part of the marketing mix. It will be interesting to watch brands roll out the efforts in the months and years. However, for the moment, there is not very much activity visible at the traveling consumer level.

Although I was not geotargeted by marketing brands, I did learn more about an interesting tool for travelers worth noting: @Boarding

The recently new idea was founded by Damien Guinet in France and seems to be leading in the developing an ideal platform for travel-based marketing. The concept is to find ‘stranded travelers’ through online social media tools. Simply tweet #boarding followed by the airport code and moments later you will receive a message with a link to a map plus list of Twitter handles also in the airport. What I found most interesting about the concept is the ultimate end goal of the idea: Proposing specific airport service/product coupons plus tips to help occupy the time while waiting to board.

Traveling back to Chicago from Seattle, I put my research to the test myself. After reviewing the list of Twitter profiles in who were also at SeaTac International Airport, I came across @AirlineReporter, who I have recently started following. So I did what any other tweep would do – sent a direct message to see what terminal he was in! We ended up meeting at his gate and chatting about how we had just put social networking into practice. He had valuable insight for location based marketing. Airlines are finding creative ways to integrate social media into brand strategy. For instance, there is future talk of allowing customers to check into their flights via Foursquare, providing a quick, efficient way of flying. Incentives are also being created, such as becoming the Mayor of the airline terminal and given the chance to bump up to business class or win 5,000 frequent flyer miles. The tools seem to be a great starting point for airlines and companies to build up to specifically target the traveling customers.

My end result showed that many companies are buzzing around location-based marketing and hoping to roll out their innovative and creative concepts, although the ideas have not yet been fully implemented. After putting myself out there, one thing is for sure – thanks to social media and mobile apps, you can connect virtually with anyone, anywhere. How will companies catch up with real-time connection on the go? What examples have you come across in your daily activities recently that integrate location-based marketing?

Paladin would like to find out where location-based marketing is headed in your companies. Take our quick, one-questioned polls and results will be given next week on our social networks.

1. http://polls.linkedin.com/p/93828/jqvtu

2. http://polls.linkedin.com/p/93830/cmzdo

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