Ever since smartphone makers began incorporating GPS receivers into their handsets, marketers have dreamed about making use of the technology. Their goal has been to use location to target consumers with messages based on not just who they are, but where they are.
But while telecommunications companies have talked about triangulating the location of consumers down to a matter of metres for the best part of a decade, a successful advertising model that uses this capability has yet to emerge.
For starters, consumers have hardly warmed to the idea of advertisers knowing where they are. On the flip side, even one of the most successful implementations of mobile location-based services, Foursquare, has not delivered a user base large enough to retain the interest of major brand advertisers.
But it seems that for those who have dreamed about a geo-targeted marketing revolution, it has been a case of 'right place, wrong time'. New technology initiatives and business models, and increasing consumer acceptance, could see mobile location becoming a much bigger part of a marketer's arsenal in 2014.
According to CEO of Brisbane-based mobile location-based services experts Locatrix, Mark White, the failings of many location initiatives to date stemmed from not taking into account what actual consumers want.
Locatrix developed Game of Phones, a smartphone-based game for Virgin Mobile which saw users collecting virtual prizes 'dropped' all across Australia. The game used location technology to determine when a player was within 50 metres of the prize, and then awarded them. White claims Game of Phones was Australia's largest-ever location-based game.
White cites specifically the idea that someone might want to be offered a discount coupon as they walk past a shop or fast food outlet as a failed idea.
"Everyone sees that as a use-case and everyone hates the idea of that as a use-case," he claims. "That's a value proposition geared more to the advertiser than the user. And what we have to do is look at location-based marketing and ask how we use location to make sure we give the benefit to the user at the most appropriate time for them."
According to White, the critical element when designing services that utilise mobile location is to ensure they have more attributes than just location. "If you are engaging purely based on location you are going to fail," he says. "What you need to be doing is engaging your audience, and engaging based on things which are a combination of location, profile and content. And that hasn't happened yet."
The potential of location-based marketing services through mobile continues to attract the interest of major brands and start-ups alike.
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