Archive | December, 2011

Keeping Tabs: New LBS Apps Help Track Family, Friends

20 Dec



Location-based services have provided users with a wide range of capabilities, from exclusive access to special coupons and deals to discovering new stores via friends’ check-ins. But recently we’ve seen a new wave of LBS focused on allowing users to track one another. These services are commonly used for one of two purposes — to track phones, or to track family members.



Tracking Lost Phones
The abundance of tracking apps available to smartphone users provide them with reassurance that if they ever happen to accidentally misplace their phone, they can quickly locate it. Once users have installed a tracking app on their phone, the location of the phone is pinpointed through the use of GPS, Wi-Fi, and cellular triangulation techniques. As GPS services come pre-installed in essentially any smartphone on the market these days, device-tracking apps are becoming increasingly popular.

If you’re an Apple fan, new location features in iOS mean that apps like Foursquare and Apple’s own Reminders can notify you when you enter or leave a geographic region. For instance, Foursquare’s new Radar feature will pop up a notification when you’re near a location — or people — that Foursquare thinks might be of interest to you. Region Monitoring isn’t new to iOS. In fact, it was part of iOS 4. But the latest incarnation has received a few new APIs and been tweaked out so that developers, including Apple, are actually using it.

Navizon is a free application which allows users to locate the live-time location of their device online, as well as track friends who have installed the app and join groups comprised of individuals based on similar interests. Free applications often provide users with basic tracking, whereas paid applications offer a much more extensive range of services. The European-based application iLocalis provides iPhone users with two forms of membership depending on the features the user wants to enable. Once a free trial has expired, users have the opportunity to pay 5 Euros to extend their basic membership for a year, or 15 Euros for the premium membership. A similar application iHound, costing $10.99 a year, offers comparable tracking services but also enables users to sound an alarm on their device if they have misplaced it, saving them from pointlessly digging under couches in a frantic search for their cherished device. These types of applications are on the lower end in terms of cost, as subscription costs can run as high as $149.99 a year for applications that provide users much more than simple GPS tracking.

Easing Parental Concerns
Worried parents can also rest assured that their children are safe by using location-based tracking devices to determine the exact location of their child. Applications such as MobiStealth, available at a range of $89.99 for the lite version to the hefty $149.99 a year subscription price mentioned above for the pro version, allow parents to channel their inner detective by going above and beyond simple tracking. Aside from being able to determine their child’s exact location as well as their location history, the app also offers voice and data components as well. MobiStealth allows parents to record phone calls made from the phone they are tracking, which are automatically uploaded to their online account and available for listen at any time, as well as view the call history including both incoming and outgoing calls. In terms of data, MobiStealth enables parents to view all emails, web history, pictures, and SMS messages on the phone. Once the tracker creates their Stealth Club account online and connects it to the devices they are tracking, the location of the devices is shown through Google Maps, providing the exact address as well as a timestamp of when the device was tracked at this location.

Add it to my bill, please
U.S. wireless carriers like Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile all offer services based on Location Labs platform. These systems use a geo-fencing concept of virtual boundries and enable you to check locations, monitor boundries and create alerts to ensure your loved ones are where they need to be when they need to be.  Best of all you can simply add them to your existing carrier billing account.

As more and more location based services and applications are introduced to the market, consumers are being offered more choice and customization to ensure that their tracking app is suited perfectly to their wants and needs. With this degree of personalization, it is safe to say that the popularity of these apps isn’t declining anytime soon.


The Great Indoors: The Future of Indoor Location & Advertising

13 Dec

The “shopping experience” is something retailers have been perfecting for decades. Product placement and drive-aisle concepts are designed to entice consumers and draw them to the best deals that will keep them coming back. But, what if we could take these concepts a step further with location-based marketing? Many retailers have already started to use indoor location-based services which make it easy to reach consumers in the great indoors.


How it works
The best way to grab a consumer’s attention and keep them coming back is with offers and rewards. The physical “shopping experience” is already designed to bring the consumer’s attention to good deals by using product placement techniques, and now indoor location-based services are taking it a step further. By utilizing the right application, good deals can come to you instantly just by walking into a store.

Take Shopkick for example — the mobile app that allows users to collect rewards points or “kicks” by detecting when they enter a participating retailer. Upon entering, the app also allows its users to view the current in-store sales, and see whatothers are saying about products and services offered by the retailer.

There’s also BeeMedia which offers a similar service, introducing itself as a “personal shopping assistant,” helping users find the best deals based on where they are. The benefits of this technology are shared by both consumer and retailer, adding a completely new level of engagement to the shopping experience. Instead of having sales people bombard you with information when you walk in the door, all the information you need to get the most out of your shopping experience is at your fingertips.  Expect these tools to evolve to integrate or build functionality around bar code scanning, real-time inventory and more.

Creepy vs. Consumer Engagement
Any mobile app that has to know where you are in order to work has a tendency to give people the “creeps.” But there are certainly tactics to stay away from the creepy and instead generate feelings of consumer engagement and even excitement. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to offer rewards for use, much like the apps that have already been mentioned. The rewards and savings that come just by walking into a store are a pretty appealing feature of indoor location based services that can easily motivate shoppers to take advantage.

Another good tactic is to simply offer users useful location based information. EveryScape is an interesting example; it’s a location-based service which can actually be used without having to go anywhere at all. EveryScape allows users to view three dimensional virtual tours of certain locations online before they actually go there. This allows users to “step inside” various locations, gathering and sharing information about it before they even leave home. This service can benefit both consumers and especially participating businesses by allowing them to create an engaging and immersive relationship with consumers online. Most location based services also create a connection with consumers by providing easy access to social networks. This lets users not only connect with the businesses themselves but also with other consumers who can share different perspectives and information, expanding the level of engagement and possibly improving the shopping experience further. Are you still feeling creeped out?

An Integrated Media View
Beyond the pure mobile engagement, we should watch for solutions that tie location-based mobile services to other media like DOOH, audio or in-store WiFi.  A great example of this is the new partnership between the Gap and Roqbot.  Roqbot is a mobile app similar to Foursquare for check-ins and deals, but is focused on letting the consumer take control of stores’ “elevator music” – effectively re-inventing the Jukebox. Users are further acknowledged via avatars through integration with digital screens.

With the holiday and shopping season in full swing, now is the time to do everything possible to find the best deals and make the experience a little easier on yourself. Why not take advantage of one of the many location based services out there to give you a hand?

A Hyper-Local Black Friday Wrap

8 Dec
Checking-in to Super Savings
One of the most hectic shopping days of the year has passed, and this year’s Black Friday marked an interesting development in the marketing efforts of major retailers. Although the typical Black Friday shopper battled the crowds with a purpose and a pre-determined route, location based mobile apps enabled retailers to access the discount-driven shoppers who just can’t resist a good deal. An increasing number of companies have turned to these services to offer customers exclusive deals via their mobile devices. Accessing customers through their mobile devices has become an attractive feature for retailers as it allows them to target the sales-crazy, on-the-go shoppers who just might trample down anyone who gets in their way of a sale.

Foursquare , which recently announced they had hit 14 million users has become an important app that many retailers have paired up with to offer discounts, which customers receive once they have ‘checked in’, or shared their location. Various stores are enticing customers into their retail store mayhem by offering special discounts only available through this app. These examples pictured from Foursquare’s blog are only a few examples of the retailers targeting the media-savvy shopper, with stores ranging from AT&T to UPS also offering check-in discounts. Foursquare is not alone in its location based advertising, as companies like SCVNGR, Facebook Places, and Yelp are also offering these types of deals to sales-hungry customers for checking in.

QR Codes – The Modern Catalogue

Aside from encouraging retail madness through discounts for mobile check-ins, retailers are also using QR codes to provide customers with an easier and faster shopping experience. With Black Friday being one of the biggest sales days of the year, QR codes are becoming increasingly prevalent in retail stores. While QR codes are not a new phenomenon to the advertising world, the upcoming holiday season has retailers embedding them into a variety of marketing displays to attract mobile users. Companies such as JC Penney and Macy’s are among the many retailers that have introduced QR codes into their stores this holiday season. Sears and Kmart have created ‘gift walls’ in their stores, placed in viewing sight of those waiting in the cash line, which are essentially walls filled with QR codes linking the customer to popular items for sale. With the increase in technological innovations, mobile phones are quickly becoming the best aid a shopper can have for finding the best deals.

The numbers are growing, but what’s next?

Recent stats from AdvertisingAge showed Foursquare checkins on Black Friday as a significant increase over last year.  And while Starbucks and Mcdonald’s topped the list, Wal-Mart with over 149,000 was the leading national retailer.  But it checkins and QR codes are just the start.  Expect to see these apps and more to further expand to include real-time product inventory, mobile wallets, and even virtual goods in the form of augmented reality.  eBay Mobile announced that shoppers in the U.S. purchased nearly two and a half times as many items via eBay Mobile this Black Friday when compared to 2010 and PayPal Mobile (another division of eBay) announced a six-fold (516%) increase in global mobile payment volume compared to 2010

Shoppers will increasingly choose the convenience of mobile to find the best deals from wherever they are while avoiding big crowds and long lines. The ability to simply pick up your phone or tablet and purchase what you want, when you want it, has become an attractive alternative to shoppers in record numbers this holiday season. The possibilities are endless.

Tap, Tap: Is the NFC Tipping Point Finally Here?

6 Dec


There’s been a lot of hype recently about Near Field Communication (NFC), a wireless process that allows a device to collect data from another device or “NFC tag” at short range. NFC works similarly to Bluetooth, except instead of having to program two devices to work together, a connection can be established with a simple tap. NFC technology is finally being integrated into most wireless phones, and has become possibly the best way to enable payments, exchange contacts, utilize transit systems, collect and exchange information and so much more, all with just the tap of your phone. According to the NFC Forum which is dedicated to advancing the use of Near Field Communication, this technology (in a nutshell), “makes life easier and more convenient for consumers.”

Why use NFC?

NFC technology has broadened the payment options for consumers everywhere. If the convenience isn’t enough, there are also many additional benefits that come with using NFC. A good example is the easy access to offers and rewards. Google Wallet, for example, allows its users to store payment cards, offers and more on their phones and online. Users are also granted access to exclusive “Google offers” which can lead to great savings and are easily redeemed in store with a simple tap of the phone.

Some NFC applications like Square make things even easier for users, allowing them to go to participating retailers and use NFC technology to pay using a “tab” system. Before entering, users can open up a “tab” on their phone for a participating store. Once at the register all they have to do is give their name, and the close proximity allows the merchant to find an individual’s personal “tab” and automatically receive payment when selected. How much easier can it get? As an added bonus, Square users can also store paperless receipts within the app, helping to easily keep track of funds and even help the environment by saving some trees.

Is NFC safe?
Two big worries people have about NFC technology are safety and privacy. However, there shouldn’t be too much cause for concern. The short range (about 1.5 inches) makes NFC a good choice for secure transactions. Most NFC applications also have systems in place to analyze user transactions as they happen. Any unusual activity is detected and investigated immediately. Additionally, many retailers are now using equipment like Verifone, a leader in secure electronic payment technology that allows both the retailer and consumer to make transactions safely. Also don’t forget, if your phone is ever lost or stolen you can always cancel your credit card right away, the same as you would with a lost wallet. When you think of it, NFC really isn’t much different from physically using a payment card – aside from the additional perks!

What are the location-based marketing implications?
This new technology creates a connection between consumer and retailer like never before. It also creates a world of possibilities for location based marketing. It makes the shopping experience a little more personable, for example, by allowing people to pay with a name instead of a card. Some NFC apps also allow users to view menus, have access to special deals, and even browse social networks associated with a retailer instantly. The use of NFC also benefits retailers by allowing them to analyze consumer patterns more easily, connect with them, and learn what keeps them coming back.

One further point to note, is that while much of the attention given NFC has centered on its use for payments, there are lots of other great location-based marketing applications as well.  Person-person interaction (ie. Bump), deals, loyalty programs, checkins, and even tapping your phone to open your hotel room, are just some of the possibilities.  As this technology continues to grow certainly so will the potential for location based marketing opportunities.  So, how will you be making your next purchase?