Shortly after my might-be-annual trip to join fellow SXSW Interactive attendees to talk tech with the Texas Governor (thanks this year to Adam Beaugh), I discussed with the Texas Rangers assigned to the office the highly improbable possibility that we might see Governor Perry checking into his barber shop via foursquare or Gowalla. “That is most likely a security risk we would not allow,” they stated with an earnest cool about them.
A few days prior to this diplomatic visit, a New York Times article on location-based advertising deliberated what appears to be a herd of new mobile applications available to users who wish to share their whereabouts in the name of a game, a free beer or meeting up with friends. While the conversation today seems to be centered around the “security risk” or privacy forfeited when using an app like Whrrl to share your location with others, the larger challenge at hand is in convincing retail businesses to embrace this new opportunity to lure ideal audiences through their doors.
Uncovering user habits and routines is a small portion of what is really happening here. It is human nature to be out and about with like-minded others chasing our passions and pleasures. The games within location-based applications are very similar to alternative reality games such as scavenger hunts and other prize-laden adventures of chance that motivate us to explore the offline world. Through new experiences, we learn more together, discuss what we learn and share insight with each other to gain ground on life and our dreams. And, yes, I consider a beer with a good friend, a new gadget or free bowl of queso as threads in that pursuit.
To compound the success of incentives (such as foursquare’s “Special Nearby” incentive), retailers have a larger opportunity to weave their own games, stories and promotions into the connection made with users of location-based mobile apps. The suspense and the payoff alongside “VIP” recognition or “club” status seems to be the next logical step in converting app users into community or program members. With an increasingly mobile lifestyle, consumers will expect similar treatment and reward in the offline real world as they do in any web-based or paper program.
I’m excited for what is about to happen, the shift in consumer expectations and marketing opportunities. Location-based apps such as foursquare, Gowalla and Whrrl are just the beginning, and there is so much more your brand can do to leverage audience passion through having the ”brand” be playful, suspenseful and downright fun.
Do you see the same opportunity for restaurants, stores and national brands?