Bridging The Gap – Multi-channel Location Based Marketing

Bridging The Gap – Multi-channel Location Based Marketing

A guest post from Asif R. Khan, Founder & President of the Location Based Marketing Association [bio]

Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Deals, Groupon – the list seems to grow by the week. For businesses, it can be an overwhelming task to understand and keep up.  All of these platforms are part of what the industry refers to as Location Based Services.

A location-based service (LBS) as defined by Wikipedia is “an information and entertainment service, accessible with mobile devices through the mobile network and utilizing the ability to make use of the geographical position of the mobile device.”

At the Location Based Marketing Association (The LBMA) we think it’s much more.  Simply put, any form of marketing media (print, radio, TV, billboard, social media, digital, etc.) that has the ability to impact a potential consumer in a specific place is location-based.

For businesses in particular, be it retailers, manufacturers or financial institutions this much broader definition is extremely relevant as local is indeed the game changer.  Most businesses don’t sell beyond their local market, so using location-specific tools is an ideal way to engage with potential customers.

The numbers support it

  • 80% of potential customers research online before purchasing in a 10-20 mile radius (orange soda)
  • Almost every local search now includes mapped results
  • According to Google, 30% of all searches are local in intent
  • 47% of North American businesses were considering offering local deals in 2011 (The LBMA)
  • 53% of the “on-the-go” U.S. audience is willing to exchange their location in exchange for more relevant content and better information, including mobile deals (JiWire).

LBM is more than mobile

It’s not a dismissal of traditional media. In fact, location-based marketing can actually increase the relevance and effectiveness of that media.

Think about a billboard that sits across the street from a café.  Today the billboard is bought by a brand on the premise that a certain number of people view it as they walk or drive by every day. But how many people have a one-to-one engagement with that billboard?  How is it measured?

If someone walks into that same café to buy a coffee, while at the same time sharing their location via Foursquare or some similar platform, the brand now has the ability in real-time to engage that consumer on their mobile device and ask them to look across the street at the billboard – and potentially to react to it in some way, perhaps by texting something to a short code or filling out a brief mobile survey.  If this happens, it results in a billboard campaign that is actually measureable with a stronger return on investment.

Location is not only about consumer marketing.  Many businesses are already utilizing the physical, real-time position of devices for things like fleet and asset tracking, or even to make sure their employees are where they are supposed to be.

Businesses considering location-based marketing should also think about gamification – bringing gaming elements to the engagement of consumers.  In other words, making it fun!

Many new services such as SCVNGR and ShopKick are focused on connecting big brands with their fans by having them complete tasks (scavenger hunts) throughout cities (outdoor) or even within individual stores (indoor), as location can be determined via GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi or directly through cellular tower triangulation.

Realizing a multi-channel location world

Advertising agencies and the brands they represent understand that location-based marketing is a big part of the future, the issue remains however that most of the advertising dollar is still targeted towards traditional media.  If we continue to view LBM as solely a mobile form of marketing, it will never get the budget necessary to make it mainstream.

To unlock the dollars we must start to find ways to use location-based services (LBS) to make the traditional media more measurable and effective.

Several examples of this kind of thinking are starting to emerge.

The recent collaboration between SCVNGR, Subway and Warner Brother’s around the launch of the Green Lantern movie in the U.S. would be one.

In the Los Angeles area, a multi-media marketing campaign encouraged consumers to download the SCVNGR app, then visit and check-in to participating Subway restaurants.  During the two-week promotional period, users collected points by completing challenges.

1200 FREE movie tickets to see Green Lantern were unlocked during this campaign, and the top 25 leaders won a pair of tickets to the LA Green Lantern movie premiere.

Users were also able to unlock exclusive Green Lantern video content and wallpapers for their mobile phones.

Another example would be the announcement last week by Lamar Advertising (one of North America’s) largest billboard companies, with the release of their mobile LBS app – Road Ninja.

Effectively, Road Ninja, is no different than any other location-based mobile app.  It’s purpose is to help you find restaurants, entertainment and other places around you and to incent you to visit these places through the push of deals, coupons, and offers.

The difference here is that if you already buy billboard ad space from Lamar, advertising in the mobile app is free.  As a brand you just increased your reach by delivering you message across two channels.

In summary, marketers need to better define who their target audience is and where they are hanging out both online and offline.  Set clear and realistic goals and identify the best location based services to meet them.  Most importantly, take action – don’t wait to get started.  Look at where you’re already spending money on billboard, television and other media and seek to increase the ROI of those campaigns through LBS platforms that can supplement them. Be sure to monitor online and respond – ultimately it will convert to sales.  And best of all have fun!

Asif R. Khan is a veteran tech start-up, business-development and marketing entrepreneur with more than 15 years experience. He currently works as a consultant, educator and speaker to the location-based marketing services community.

Prior to launching The LBMA, Asif worked with companies as diverse as Limited Brands, IBM, Baxter Pharmaceuticals, Molson-Coors, Communispace, BestBuy, American Airlines, ScotiaBank, and Sears. You can listen to Asif’s weekly podcast – This Week In Location-Based Marketing – every Monday at 10am EST.

An avid technology evangelist, Asif holds degrees in economics and management sciences from the University of Waterloo, blogs at and can be found on Twitter at: @AsifRKhan and @TheLBMA.

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