When location leaves you nowhere: the value of context in mobile marketing

I attended a few trade shows recently, including Money 20/20 and the Gartner Application Architecture Development & Integration Summit in Las Vegas, and the Dallas Digital Summit. I saw a lot of presentations about location-based marketing and mobile apps, and talked to lots of mobile app developers and mobile marketers. There’s a lot of experimentation and innovation in mobile apps, as enterprise app-dev and marketing teams try to figure out how to stay engaged with their customers.

For all of the billions spent on location-based marketing, there’s a realization that relying on location is usually not enough. When is location by itself fully sufficient context for the delivery of a useful service? Weather is an obvious one. Almost everyone with a mobile device has one or more weather apps. If there are 1000 people in the same place – maybe a shopping mall or an airport – the weather is what it is, depending only on that location. It doesn’t matter who you are, what language setting you have on your phone, where you’ve been or what you’ve done; location is totally sufficient to deliver a useful service.

Maybe you ask Siri ‘where’s the nearest gas station?’. Your location alone is enough to provide the answer. But even here, you can see the value of a little more context. If your phone knows that you get a discount on gas as a Costco member, it’s useful to know that ‘The nearest gas station is 0.3 miles this way, but there’s a Costco 0.4 miles the other way, and you’ll save money there.’ A little extra context can go a long way to a more delightful experience.

Generally, mobile marketers are seeing that location is usually necessary but rarely sufficient. You really need to understand a lot more of the consumer’s context if you want to deliver an experience that delights. The growing use of beacons, which give precise location information, combined with couponing is a case in point. It’s cool to be able to send a notification with an electronic coupon to someone’s mobile phone when they come into proximity with a beacon (or enter some other geo-fence that you’ve defined). But if that’s all you have to go on, your wonderful offer of a discount or some other special promotion might come across as noise to many consumers. Notifications are often just an intrusive way to delivering irrelevant content to consumers. Notifications are often blunt instruments instead of precision tools for consumer engagement because you’re not targeting people precisely enough. Notification fatigue then leads to app fatigue and deletion of the app – one reason why, as I heard at one conference, about 90% of all apps are deleted within a month of installation.

It’s as simple as this: if there are 1000 people in the same place, it’s just not plausible that they should all get the same experience on their mobile devices, just because of where they are. If you care about your brand, you want to deliver as much of a personalized experience as you can. Doing that requires understanding and using as much of the available context as you can. Flybits was founded to make this really easy and effective.

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