Friday 3 September 2010

Location, location, location (on mobile)

Last week I attended and IAB seminar about using location on mobile.  Now whilst there was nothing particularly new discussed, it was good to hear how the opportunities that mobile location provides is being presented to brands by the likes of Navteq, Geocast, Mobile Commerce and Incentivated (I shan't mention which two did not have a specific mobile optimised site when I browsed to them on my HTC Desire...).

The talk included the usual sales pitches from brands with offerings that utilise location in some way, but also a piece from Alex Kozloff (Mobile Manager at the IAB) that addressed consumer perceptions of location services.

And of course there was more than a few minutes addressing Facebook Places and the relevance to Foursquare and the like (my opinion on this is pretty clear - especially now that Facebook has launched its offering).

Now, the whole world of location, and particularly on mobile, is probably too big to address in a single blog post - simply because there are so many dimensions to it (and maybe also because it's Friday afternoon).  But I think that the one think most people are agreed upon, is that it's a pretty big deal.

Put as succinctly as possible, location adds an additional, and significant, layer of relevance to any comms or activity.

However, let's kick a couple of incorrect assumptions into the long grass right off the bat:

1. Location based services (LBS) are not a new thing.
LBS have been possible either via carrier lookup or user entry for a number of years (I deployed a mobile site with MultiMap integration based on user input for a popular car brand, specialising in black, back in 2006).  Unfortunately the downside of these approaches were/are cost and user experience.  Pulling in your location automatically, without the need for user input and with the only cost being battery life is pretty powerful.  However, that is not to say that they are not still relevant.

2. LBS are not restricted to smartphones
The two methods mentioned above both operate without the need for GPS, meaning that you can make use of location whilst the consumer is using only their browser or even SMS (Mobile Commerce operate some nice services that perform a mobile number lookup with the carrier to establish your location based on the mobile phone masts that you are connected to).

Indeed, using the GPS location may very well make your activity LESS relevant - if I want to find a restaurant I'll more likely want one close to where I live, not whatever station my train is sat at on the way home.  So as with any mobile technology, location needs to be used appropriately.  But that said, the research presented by Alex was clear:

"If you using location makes it more relevant for me, then you go ahead and use it!"

Of course there are some privacy concerns but on the whole, the use of location is being welcomed by consumers (in a way that behavioural targeting wishes it was...).  For example, 85% of users with a GPS enabled device use location when performing a search via their mobile.  That's quite compelling.

The challenge for mobile is ensuring that location is used in a relevant way.  That may be to help you check in quicker, find a pub that serves Babycham* near you, or just point you in the right direction.

* Apologies for the quality of that video but it brings back memories!

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