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Connected TV Provides Opportunities For Location-Based Marketing

24 Apr

While connected TVs aren’t in every living room yet, the rise of ‘second screen’ applications and platforms means that watching TV is certainly a lot more interactive than it used to be. In fact, a recent Nielson study showed that 88 percent of tablet owners and 86 percent of smartphone users in the U.S. use their devices while watching TV at least once a month.

Companies have been cropping up to take advantage of connected TV trends at an increasing rate – from broadcaster analytics tools, to second screen platforms, to interactive apps that allow viewers to interact with what they see on the screen in real-time. Perhaps seen a different way, this is also location-based marketing, if the living room is the location and a TV and smartphone are the mediums.

Social platforms can extend and enhance TV shows, much in the same way that reader’s comments do for news articles. The background noise can enhance the experience for viewers, and broadcasters can use it to more accurately measure the effectiveness of their shows. What’s changing is the ability for brands to use the knowledge of a viewer’s location, time of day, and other demographic data, to create a mobile response to what is seen on TV, triggering a call to action that drives traffic to websites or physical retail locations.

One example of this was from this past Super Bowl, where one-third of all the ads were connected to the mobile app Shazam.  When the Shazam-enabled TV commercials aired during the broadcast, the app responded by displaying a mobile ad and a location-based offer with directions to the closest retailer for redemption.  Brands that participated in the Super Bowl campaign included Toyota, H&M and Pepsi and Bud Light. Shazam has also worked with the GRAMMY Awards, and just recently announced a relationship with American Idol.

Austin-based 44 Doors has been using QR codes in television, even though their effectiveness and adoption has been questioned. In December 2011 a Christmas movie with Billy Ray Cyrus, which was produced by the Hallmark Channel, gave viewers a multimedia link with QR codes. Anyone who scanned the code could download free music and videos. The BBC was one of first broadcasting companies experimenting with using QR codes on their shows; they began adding them to cooking shows giving viewers a chance to find recipes.

“In this context, the television screen is simply a location-based touch point that a viewer can interact with. QR codes allow for seamless access to content without the burden of typing a URL while leveraging the ubiquity of mobile web use on smartphones,” said Tim Hayden, Chief Marketing Officer at 44Doors, in an interview.

“While watching television, viewers may see an advertisement or, as in this case, in-program content that they want to access in the moment or view later. Enabling viewers to access content at the very minute they want or need it may help drive program viewership volume, loyalty or instantaneous purchase activity, while providing a network or advertiser valuable insights around location, timing and specific demographic behaviors.”

There’s no question that there will continue to be integration between TVs and second screens, and consumer adoption of second screen platforms and connected TV apps like yap.TV will likely only increase. Broadcasters can look at this trend as a new frontier for location-based marketing, one that goes beyond the commercial and often has much more measurable results.

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Location-Based Tools Tying Music to Local Experiences

23 Mar

As location-based marketing becomes increasingly popular, the variation of place-centric apps is also increasing, with niche players competing to provide targeted local ads and promotions. The music industry, in particular, has staked out its place in the location-based marketing scrum through the development of applications that combine music and location into integrated marketing tools.

An important part of a musician’s success is their ability to connect with their fans and create “personal” relationships with them. This is exactly what location-based music apps allow them to do. The application Herd.fm, for instance, enables bands to upload their tracks according to location, allowing users on the app in the same location to view all the tracks and download them. The app empowers bands interested in creating a local identity within their hometown a great potential to connect with other locals.

A similar app, SoundTracking, utilizes a social network similar to Twitter to create a music sharing experience. Users are able to follow other users and gain followers, and then share whichever song is playing on their iPod or in their surroundings. If users are unaware of which song they are hearing out loud at a store or on the radio, they can hold their phone up and allow the app to recognize the song (similar to Shazam) and then publish it to their SoundTracking profile. The app provides artists with the opportunity to share their own music on their profile to their followers, but also provides them with more exposure as users share music with their followers.

Antony Bruno of DigitalMusic.org (part of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers – NARM) said in an interview that “it’s all about fan engagement.” “Every band and artist should absolutely be exploring this stuff,” he said. “We need to use these emerging platforms to enable fans to feel connected to the artist, no matter where they are.”

Another way music is being reinvented is via location-based storytelling.  One company in this space is Broadcastr, an app where stories are recorded and shared in audio format, each pegged to a specific location. Users can search for stories by location or category, or may opt to “follow” a person who they consider to be a good storyteller, sorting stories by that person into a special tab. Listeners can rate stories as they hear them, and stories can be shared with others via email, Facebook or Twitter.

A similar platform is German startup SoundCloud. SoundCloud is the world’s leading social sound platform where anyone can create sounds and share them everywhere. As users create these sounds they can tag them to the places they were created via built-in Foursquare integration.

Thom Cummings, VP Marketing for SoundCloud, said in an interview that “creating memories linked to places and saving them though technology is simply amazing.” “Sound is one of the most powerful mediums we have for recording personal histories,” he said.

One band, Bluebrain, has taken this concept of location-based music sharing even further, creating two albums that integrate with the listener’s location. Bluebrain’s two albums, National Mall and Central Park, require users to download their application, which tracks their location and changes songs from each album based on their location in Washington, D.C., for the former, and New York City for the latter. As listeners navigate through different zones, their listening experience is altered. So far, these are the only two location-based albums of this type, and both provide a completely unique experience.

Music is simply the next expression of the vast array of location-services that have the power to not just help people get from one place to the next, but to also have an emotional connected experience around the places they visit.

photo credit: Gonso†Madrid via photopin cc

Looking for Location-Based Love

13 Mar

The rise of location-based services like Foursquare and Groupon have truly changed the way people explore cities and find deals on the things they’re looking for. But what about the people they’re looking for? With the rise of mobile location services comes new ways for singles to meet people, and new ways for dating apps to find customers. According to Juniper Research, the mobile dating market is expected to grow to $1.4 billion by 2013, and startups are poised to take advantage of that growth.

Location-based features are popping up in new and existing dating services. Users can take advantage of the GPS capabilities of today’s smartphones to show nearby singles who meet their dating criteria. Apps can make recommendations, enable people to digitally flirt, explore users’ profiles on other social services like Facebook or LinkedIn, and of course arrange to meet-up.

A recent study by online dating site Skout noted that 69 percent of people were comfortable meeting up with someone they met on their iPhone, and 40 percent were using a mobile dating service while out at bars, clubs and restaurants. Recently, location-based dating apps for those looking for local love have flooded the iPhone and Android markets.

One such app is Blendr – which allows users to network with other locals and check in at venues using their phone’s built-in GPS. The U.S.-based app also lets romance-seekers view “hotspots” on Google Maps as a fiery glow, representing what locations are currently trending.

With a slightly different spin is Grindr, the original app from the team behind Blendr, a mobile dating app targeted primarily at gay men. The app comes in both free and subscription-based versions (Grindr Xtra). It uses geolocation to enable users to find other men within close proximity. This is accomplished through a user interface that displays a grid of user pictures, arranged from nearest to farthest away. Tapping on a picture will display a brief profile for that user, as well as the option to chat, send pictures, and share one’s location.

Last month industry powerhouse Match.com acquired OKCupid for $50 million in cash. OKCupid has over eight million users, had previously raised $6 million in funding, and recently added a new Locals feature in their mobile apps. Locals shows users matches nearby. Members can then indicate that they would like to meet those locals, and the users they pick will get a notification.

Sharing location-based data brings up the question of safety. Ian Bell is the founder of Tingle, a dating app for iPhone. He said the idea of using location in a dating app can make users (especially women) wary. “When we talked to women we discovered, predictably, that the notion of having their exact location plotted on a map for the scrutiny of strangers was a no-go,” Bell said in an interview. “Still, that’s how the vast majority of mobile dating apps work today.” Though the app asks users to check in at specific locations they’d like to share, Bell says it doesn’t happen often enough to be useful for discovering new people. Tingle tracks a user’s location and shares their proximity, as opposed to a specific location, when users pass near one another. “In Vancouver, where we have our most densely-concentrated user base, this happens hundreds of times a day.”

Another challenge for these services is that users in smaller markets might not find as much value from location-based services, since population density directly impacts how many active users will be nearby at any given time. But if companies can incorporate real-time location-based features as value-add elements rather than a core product, while still offering members in more sparsely populated regions other alternatives, the downsides are considerably diminished.

Dating is obviously changing and with the penetration of smartphones and GPS-enabled devices on the rise, users can expect to find their next love interest no matter where they are. And for companies that are looking to tap into the dating industry’s expected $1.4 billion growth next year, integrating location-based features will be key, but so will be making sure users feel safe.

With additional reporting from Erin Bury.

Venuelabs Helps 100K Storefronts See Local Blind Spots

22 Feb

Shoppers carry their purchases during the Black Friday sales at a shopping mall in Tysons Corner

Seattle-based Venuelabs has just announced that it is now tracking over 100,000 storefronts in nine countries. Angel-funded Venuelabs is a location-based analytics and marketing platform that provides retail and storefront brands with storefront analytics and location intelligence. The company launched its platform in February 2011, and has worked with retailers, brands and restaurant chains such as Jaguar, Juice It Up, Chevron, and Little Caesars Pizza to aggregate and report on location-based activity relative to their respective retail footprints.

The company has seen dramatic growth in location-based consumer activity at retail storefronts over the last 12 months, related to the continued penetration of location-aware smartphones and the growth of local consumer services and mobile applications like Foursquare, Facebook Places, Yelp, CitySearch, and UrbanSpoon. Across the more than 100,000 storefronts, Venuelabs has measured over 41 million people talking at storefronts, more than 24 million interactions, over 184,000 distinct sources, and more positive consumer feedback than negative (58 percent vs 42 percent).

Venuelabs founder Neil Crist says the company usually works with brands that have between 400 and 7,000 retail locations, with an average of seven to 10 online pages for each location on services like Yelp and Foursquare. “That’s too many pages to follow for the brand,” Crist said in an interview. The company introduced the VenueRank product in November 2011, when it was already tracking more than 55,000 storefronts. VenueRank assigns a score out of 100 to each of a brand’s retail locations based on their online engagement at a local level. ”The brands we were working with were asking a lot of questions about the relative importance of a check-in, a tip, a Like, a Tweet, or a review, and how to look at these things in a unified way and measure that,” he said about the motivation behind VenueRank. “Retailers, particularly the ones with more than 200 locations, are now starting to rely on VenueRank to understand how their stores compare to each other, and how their stores compare to competitors.”

The location analytics space is hot at the moment, with several new entrants jumping in to fill the apparent void left by the traditional keyword-based brand and social monitoring tools like Radian6, Visible Technologies, and others. Other location analytics providers include Los Angeles-based Momentfeed, New York-based LocalResponse and Vancouver-based Geotoko, which was recently acquired by HootSuite.

The keyword-based solutions fall short for retailers because local storefront activity, content and sentiment is not captured or analyzed. This local blind spot is the most critical to monitor and analyze, because it represents customers in store, at the point of purchase. When companies monitor the more mainstream social media channels of Facebook and Twitter alone they miss key opportunities to connect “fans” to physical locations.  Monitoring online conversations as they relate to physical locations will become increasingly important for brick-and-mortar stores trying to connect with a new base of customers.