1058_1For years, we've used the same example when discussing location-based services: imagine you're walking past a Starbucks and a coupon for a dollar off a latte is pushed to your mobile device just as you pass the store. Location targeting enables advertisers to deliver brand or tactical campaign messages when they are most relevant to the consumer – when he or she is within a visiting radius to a shop front; and when this individual is most likely to make a purchasing decision.

In Asia, location based advertising is still at a nascent stage. However, it is highly relevant as it offers marketers the possibility of better targeting and higher levels of consumer engagement within fragmented or disparate regions. APAC consumers can vary greatly, there is no one size fits all solution. Even within a single Asian country, we see significant differences in consumers - from language to socio-economic factors and even access to mainstream media and internet connectivity. By combining the massive reach of the mobile phone and targeting abilities of location aware solutions, marketers can enable delivery of relevant, localized content that engages the consumer and adds value to the brand.

Location-based services can be split into four categories. These define the various ways that businesses can work with LBS players to reach out to their target audience.

  • Business to Business (B2B): These include location-based enterprise applications like fleet/asset management or courier tracking services.
  • Consumer to Business (C2B): These are proximity-based services that consumers access when they need them. Examples would be a user being able to locate a close by hospital during an emergency or a nearby restaurant or movie theatre for a night out.
  • Business to Consumer (B2C): These include proximity-based, targeted advertisements, discounts, offers, coupons etc delivered to consumers at the right place and time. A common example used is that of a consumer walking past his favourite coffee shop and immediately receiving a coupon for a dollar off on a latte.
  • Consumer to Consumer (C2C): These include location-based social networking services that allow users to update their friends and contacts on their location or track the movements of their friends. Having a presence on location-based social networks can help businesses track their customers.

A successful LBS offering comes from collaborations between different players. These include operators, sponsors, service providers, application service providers, application developers, content providers, location determination technology providers, regulators, etc.

Today, location infrastructure can locate a subscriber within 15 to 150 meters, depending on whether handset or network-based solutions have been deployed within the carrier network. This provides the location granularity that would help enable more targeted mobile marketing applications.

Why, then, is location still not mainstream for brand utilizations? Consumer privacy and permissions need resolution and have been debated for some time. Ensuring consumers appropriately provide permission to be located at the time and by the application that they've authorized will be a crucial issue to solve before mobile marketers can use location in broad mainstream campaigns. Rules around access to and protection of the consumer's location information and location history will also be key.

Another necessary component to ensure ubiquitous location services will be location interoperability between carriers and handsets, similar to what has been developed for SMS. Passing or sharing a location between applications and networks will be key to moving location-based mobile campaigns across carriers forward.

Let's also not forget mobile marketing applications require the consumer to opt in to participate. The example of a consumer being pushed an ad when walking by a store will only happen if that consumer previously signed up to receive the alerts. There may never be a mass push of ads to all consumers who walk by a Starbucks, with perhaps one exception. In Europe and Asia, there are small-scale location services applications using Bluetooth technology that will do exactly that: push marketing and ad messages to your device if Bluetooth is turned on and you're in range of the application. This may be interesting but is also intrusive.

The 'where' is only one component for location services. We should also be able to know the 'who', knowing details about consumers at any time: their interests, availability, and personal information. Together, the 'who' and 'where' would be a valuable combination for any mobile marketer. It would enable true consumer targeting based on the consumer's exact preferences at the time and place the consumer is ready to interact with your brand.

We're now seeing new business ideas based on location-based technology. For example, there are dating services that use the technology to set up meetings for their computer-generated matches. Anytime a prospective match from their database is in close proximity to each other, both parties get a notification with each other's details on their mobile devices and can decide whether they would like to go ahead and meet with the other person. A number of such smaller businesses and application developers can use their local insights and databases to create unique LBS offerings.


By Rohit Dadwal, Managing Director, Mobile Marketing Association Asia Pacific Pte Ltd