Experience Management Blog

Who's on first? Key problems today with location-based services

Abbott: “Who’s on first.

It’s a classic comedy routine by Abbott & Costello. And it’s the first thing that came to my mind while watching the launch of Gap’s free jeans promotion on Facebook Deals. Location-based services are hot right now – wildly promising but wholly experimental. With only 4% of online Americans using LBS, brands are paying an oversized amount of attention to opportunities in the space.

I see three key challenges today’s brands face before LBS can work:

  • Users aren’t always as savvy as we assume they are. No marketer wants to make the mistake of assuming that all customers are the same or that the marketing department reflects the customer base. So while your team fights for mayorship of the office, recognize that your customers aren’t yet doing the same with your stores. Here’s an example of users “checking in” during the giveaway:
  • check insPrivacy is a sleeping dragon. Most users don’t know about advanced privacy controls, but it’s dangerous to assume they don’t care. There was no mass exodus after the WSJ reported on Facebook privacy leaks. When I look at my Twitter stream, most users have location turned off – it’s disabled by default now, but don’t be surprised if that changes to support growth in the ad business. If that happens, then we’ll hear about how much users really do care. Because they do. Deeply.
  • You can’t handle the traffic. Early brand interaction surprised and delighted customers. As more consumers became active, we saw front line breakdowns with social media middlemen. This has since been solved with promos utilizing existing POS systems. But that’s just couponing, which has existed for 124 years – not 21st century location-based services. Today’s organizations aren’t ready to respond en masse at scale in real time.

LBS have lots of promise and some real challenges to solve. Today we only have a hint at what’s on second and I don’t know on third.

  • http://www.michellesblog.com Michelle Greer

    It seems like education with LBS is lacking, hence people’s apprehension.

    People absolutely should be weary of setting up a public profile on FourSquare. You have little legal recourse should someone stalk you at your local haunts rather than your home. If location based services educated people on the risks while weighing in the benefits of using LBS, they would probably be okay.

    It seems like the pressure for LBS is to get the biggest user base and actually discussing privacy concerns won’t get them there. It strikes me as a bit short-sided, but hey, I don’t have to worry about appeasing my VC.

  • http://futurechat.in Syamant

    All relevant points.

    While examples of location based services are mostly urban, there is a need perhaps to look at LBS in the context of the non urban sectors in each country. For example, in India, in remote areas helping crafts people with the information that is relevant. Sometime back, a colleague wrote a series of posts on Mobiles and the crafts person. Some questions she had in mind were…

    What if we were to get these organizations a support network in REAL TIME – Many organisations have helped the artisan externally but how can they help themsleves.

    Can they be empowered with information in their language and make decisions of thier own. Maybe
    Can they be empowered with information about different SHG’s (self help groups ) Maybe
    Can they be empowered with information about grameen banks and schemes. Maybe
    Can they be empowered with information about their craft and the related materials. Maybe
    Can they they be empowered with information about other artisans in their vicinity. Maybe
    Can they they be empowered – YES – what they do with the information and how they use it in the subsequent years is for all of us to see – but why should we be afraid to empower them

    The key element of location is also Context. Understanding the context will ensure relevant services.