World Wide Where? Getting location-based mobile marketing right | MMA Global
August 21, 2009
Submitted by Useful Networks, Inc.

By Chris Glode - July 20, 2009

The new generation of mobile Web browsers provides the missing ingredient for marketers: location.

Ever heard this story? A customer walks past a Starbucks, receives a timely SMS alert with a coupon, and a full-on latté-sipping-fest ensues. This, we have been told, is the Promised Land of location-based mobile marketing.

Setting aside whether customers would embrace this type of experience, mobile technology limitations and platform fragmentation have currently constrained reach (read: how many customers are accessible).

Historically, the promise of location-based mobile marketing has far surpassed its true capabilities. As a result, such campaigns remain fodder for futuristic movies –“Minority Report” – rather than practical marketing solutions.

However, technology is catching up. The new wave of smartphone browsers such as Safari on the iPhone 3.0 and Android on the G1 allows marketers to obtain device-location data during a customer’s Web browsing session, providing a whole new set of tools to engage consumers.

Better yet, these geo-browsers are another example of the convergence of mobile and traditional Web browsing.

Firefox 3.5 includes geolocation support as well, further extending the reach of this technology to an audience that will finally equate to the critical mass that advertisers crave.

Now, Web content can now be served to Web-surfers with an awareness of where they are.

Imagine checking your favorite news site, blog or discussion board and having hyper-local stories appear instantly – for example, hours ago, the police department arrested a prowler one block from your home – or receiving local special offers from neighborhood businesses that you walk by daily.

Better targeting = bigger demand
Let us say you run a local pizza joint with three locations in a large metro area.

Current advertising through mobile and online channels has not shown a good return for you. After all, without quality geo-targeting, more than 90 percent of your ad impressions are wasted on customers who are outside of your delivery area or live too far to drive to your shop.

With the innovation of geo-aware browsers, you will be able to target your mobile and online advertisements based on ZIP code, neighborhood or even street intersection.

You can advertise with confidence that 100 percent of customers who view your ad are within range to actually purchase a pizza at your shop. That is the power of location-based advertising.

Further, geolocation significantly enhances the ability of marketers to extract more value from performance-based campaigns, particularly for brands with a strong bricks-and-mortar presence.

In other words, when physical store locations are important for a brand, the value of knowing a prospective customer’s location increases, as the customer can be directed to the store, and conversion is easy to measure via coupon redemption.

For example, a nationwide quick-serve restaurant could blend a traditional mobile brand awareness campaign with a performance-based call-to-action campaign. Users located more than a few blocks from the nearest restaurant could be served a brand/product awareness ad.

Meanwhile, users within a small radius of a nearby restaurant could be presented with a time-sensitive coupon which is only valid locally, along with a map showing the store location and contact details.

Campaign performance tracking is another discipline which will benefit from geo-targeting.

Marketers can now track campaign engagement and performance – for example, click-through-rate or cost per acquisition – at a hyper-local level.

Using map visualization tools, a campaign manager can analyze the success of a marketing campaign.

Think of a heat-map-style report which reveals that a jet-ski campaign is over-performing in neighborhoods within 3 miles of a body of water. The marketer then makes the adjustment to increase spend in this area or specify additional new targets with a similar geographic profile.

The ball is now squarely in the court of the advertising networks and agencies to develop the tools and campaigns to leverage the underlying browser technology and allow marketers to understand, embrace, create, manage and report on geo-targeted ad campaigns.

How does it work?
The enabling technology behind Web geo-targeting has been in development for years, combining advances from a variety of ecosystem partners and components.

On mobile devices such as most smartphones which have multiple sources of location – GPS, cell tower, WiFi – the developer or publisher implementing the campaign has the ability to tap into each of these unique sources depending on what source best meets the needs of the campaign.

For example, to target a regional advertisement at customers in a certain geographic market, a WiFi or cell tower location is just the ticket: quick fix, low accuracy requirement and almost always available.

By contrast, a mobile advertising campaign which ultimately provides walking or driving directions to the nearest retailer could benefit from the pinpoint accuracy of GPS, provided the potential customer is outdoors and has device GPS turned on.

Meanwhile, for traditional Web browsers, WiFi location is the answer. After all, we are just now starting to see laptops that have GPS capabilities.

What about privacy?
Clearly, users want to know when and with whom their location information is being shared.

How this experience is handled has been left to the individual browsers. It generally involves a simple popup asking the user for consent to share her location with the Web site being viewed.

This opt-in-based process ensures that consumers have total control over whether to give permission for their device to share location with the content publisher and advertiser.

While there is potential for abuse, advertisers and publishers are well-incented to promote customer understanding and trust in this technology, and how it is being used.

After all, any type of privacy incident will be the responsibility of the marketer or publisher, since the user must consent to each individual Web site – by domain – when sharing location.

At least, this method is how early-adopting browsers have implemented the Javascript Geolocation API which enables this technology.

What’s next?
With the wider support for browser geolocation offered with iPhone 3.0 and Firefox 3.5, demand for location-based advertising is already heating up.

Several highly successful nationwide trials nationwide were recently completed, and we will see many more this year.

With the converging trends of increasing smartphone penetration and browser-based geolocation ubiquity, expect to see more engaging, interactive and lucrative location-based advertising campaigns from the forward-thinking brands and agencies savvy enough to capitalize on these emerging opportunities.

Chris Glodé is senior director of product management at Useful Networks, a location-based advertising service provider in Denver, CO. Reach him at [email protected].