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Navigate the challenges of location-based technologies

TTlogo 379x201 Navigate the challenges of location based technologies

As the popularity of Google Maps, Snapchat and Pokémon Go has made clear, location-based technologies have revolutionized how people use mobile phones. By 2018, there will be 2.5 billion smartphone users worldwide, according to eMarketer Inc. They will be navigating to restaurants, Snapchatting their vacations, checking movies playing at the nearest cinema, RSVPing on Meetup or looking up product availability at area Walmart stores.

According to the Pew Research Center, 90% of smartphone owners use them to get information related to their location. Now, companies are starting to tap the location-based services (LBS) on consumers’ phones in order to send them relevant offers and messages. According to the Location Based Marketing Association’s (LBMA) latest trends report, 75% of marketers agree and believe that location-based marketing is an important business issue for 2016.

Location-based technologies use wireless transmission, such as between a smartphone and a beacon or Wi-Fi access point, to pinpoint a user’s location. A mobile app that has access to a phone’s location services can provide navigation as well as location-specific content, like coupons or product reviews. In fact, there are myriad uses for LBS in marketing, advertising and customer engagement.

MEPLAN GmbH, a German trade services provider, created the expoNAVIGATION app to help conference attendees find their favorite exhibitors faster. A user searches a database of exhibitors and enters a list of those he wants to visit. The app uses beacons to plot the shortest route around the floor, thus optimizing the customer’s time and, hopefully, boosting sales for exhibitors.

The Aquarium of Western Australia (AQWA), based in Hillarys, Australia, has a mobile app that guides visitors along several themed tours (like the Shipwreck Coast or Animal Extremes tours) with interactive activities for kids. Created by Apps Ppl, a developer of cloud-based mobile apps, the AQWA app is part of a larger mobile app — “Everythere” — that tourists use to research activities around Perth and to get directions.

Location is the only piece of data that lets you know where people are throughout the day so you can engage [with] them. Asif Khanpresident, Location Based Marketing Association

But it’s the ability to combine location data with other customer information collected from a mobile app or store loyalty program that has the biggest potential for personalizing how businesses engage with their customers. People often use smartphones to browse the web, make online purchases and pay at the checkout counter. That information, and more, can be accessed and used to understand the buyer’s habits and shopping preferences.

“[LBS] can tie your entire marketing strategy together,” said Asif Khan, president of the LBMA. “We’re using location to blend brick and mortar with e-commerce and digital.”

The data can also be aggregated and combined with other consumer information and used to analyze consumer behaviors and trends.

Investment in location-based technologies will rise significantly in the near future, according to Juniper Research Ltd., based in Hampshire, England. The firm expects the LBS market to jump from $ 12.2 billion in 2014 to $ 43.3 billion by 2019, with context-aware mobile services being the main driving force.

Potholes in the road to location-based technologies

Nevertheless, businesses have been cautious about adopting LBS, despite their interest. Forrester Research’s report “Make Smart Wireless Location Technology Decisions” found that just 3% of businesses surveyed were actually using beacons, while another 11% were piloting them.

This is because location-based services are actually a collection of technologies — some old, some new and others still in research and development. It’s a rapidly developing market, one that can quickly confound an unsuspecting marketer or business owner.

The most common technologies are the following:

GPS: GPS systems are commonly used for maps and other outdoor navigation. They can’t penetrate walls and aren’t accurate enough for use in small spaces, so they’re not used for indoor tracking.

Wi-Fi: Already generally offered free to customers, Wi-Fi is often used for simple tracking of store traffic. One downside is it can’t identify unique individuals if they’re using an iPhone, and accuracy can vary.

Bluetooth beacons: Used primarily for indoor navigation, beacons have an accuracy range of one to several meters, depending on the product and whether fingerprinting or triangulation techniques are also used. Available in sizes as small as a matchbook, they can be hidden behind pictures or in lights. According to Forrester’s June 2016 report “Make Smart Wireless Location Decisions,” some beacons can send only basic data and can’t accept updates, while others are more flexible. Beacons also require maintenance.

“You have to place them, manage them, change batteries in them. They’re operationally intensive,” explained Andre Kindness, principal analyst at Forrester, which estimated an annual maintenance cost of $ 240,000 for keeping beacons operational in a 1,000-square-meter store versus $ 60,000 for Wi-Fi. On the other hand, Wi-Fi nodes run $ 900 a piece, according to the same study.

Two emerging technologies are visible light, emitted via smart LED lights and potentially capable of tracking with an accuracy of a few centimeters, and ultrasound waves, which send out chirps that are picked up by a phone’s audio receiver.

Both are promising technologies, said Bruce Krulwich, chief analyst at New York-based Grizzly Analytics Ltd., which specializes in mobile technologies like location-based services and IoT. However, both have their drawbacks, as well. For visible light, businesses have to replace their lighting with smart LED lights and controllers. Meanwhile, ultrasound may trip on other ambient sounds.

With more work, however, both may achieve performance better than today’s Bluetooth-based solutions, said Krulwich.

Fear of big brother

Consumer concerns about privacy are another challenge for location-based technologies. To work well, the apps need access to the phone’s location services, and consumers can deny apps access. According to the Pew Research Center, over one-third of adults and 46% of teenagers turn off location services due to fears over privacy.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) mobile app requires both Bluetooth and location services to be fully functional. To encourage participation, the museum pre-empted the usual terse system messages users get asking if they want to share location data with one that asks, “Would you like to receive location-based data?”

“We created it to be less intimidating,” said Tomas Garcia, digital media product developer at LACMA. He added that it’s also faster than using individual service prompts.

In fact, users will give up their location data for the right incentive. A Forrester brief, “Fuel Contextual Marketing with Location Data,” found that most phone owners would do so in exchange for benefits like discounts, a loyalty program, rewards for visiting a store or to get navigational aid in a store.

A location-based future?

Location is rapidly becoming the most valuable piece of information for consumer marketing.

Social media platforms and many mobile apps, like weather and news, already collect a user’s location information, said Khan, and they make it available in aggregate form to advertisers.

“We describe location as the cookie for the physical world. Location is the only piece of data that lets you know where people are throughout the day so you can engage [with] them,” he said.

Behavioral data, such as location, is fast becoming more important in marketing than standard demographics, said Maribel Lopez, head of mobile marketing research firm Lopez Research, based in San Francisco.

“Behavioral demographics are much more interesting,” said Lopez. “You may find that Android users do this, iOS users do that, people who are in my store 10 minutes do one thing, while those who stay much longer do another.”

But that also means marketers must think through their messages to target customers’ preferences without making them feel stalked.

“The greatest challenge will be to figure out what messages you want to send and where,” said Lopez. “It’s the most contextual engagement you can have, and people expect engagement, not a generic message or coupon.” 

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Microsoft may bring location-based marketing to Office 365

Over the past few years, software providers have made “systems of intelligence” one of their key priorities. The…

premise of this intelligence is to aggregate data from a variety of systems, enabling applications to learn from context to build on this aggregated knowledge. By augmenting internal company data from CRM, ERP and service systems with external information, companies can improve operations, better serve customers and innovate more easily.

While the industry is just embarking on this journey with artificial intelligence, companies like Microsoft have pursued systems of intelligence with zeal. Microsoft’s recent acquisition of LinkedIn for $ 26 billion, as well as its integration of Office 365 with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, demonstrates its intentions. Microsoft is hard at work to integrate internal systems of data and to augment that data with external sources of information.

In recent months, an unconfirmed rumor has circulated that Microsoft is extending its roadmap further, working on an offering that combines Office 365 with location-based marketing (LBM). This service would enable Microsoft to deliver targeted marketing and/or ads to customers that would tailor messaging and advertising to their profiles and preferences. Microsoft declined to comment for this article.

To date, Office 365 doesn’t have much interaction with location-based services, but a more concerted LBM strategy makes sense given its recent moves. Today, Office 365 uses location in so far as it uses the network “location” to prevent a user from accessing a service based on his location on the network. But that’s a far cry from location-based marketing (or location-based services), which uses the mobile device’s GPS coordinates or proximity to a beacon to determine the recipient’s location in order to serve relevant and timely promotions, offers or ads.

Location-based marketing brings systems of intelligence to the next level in terms of being able to target customers in real time regardless of the communication channel — mobile, web, social, physical store — they use. While LBM can pinpoint customers’ preferences, it also poses concerns about data privacy and the risks of tone-deaf, intrusive marketing. Microsoft’s foray would have to address both sides of LBM to be effective and truly exploit the potential of combining Office 365 with LinkedIn, Dynamics and other services.

Microsoft Office 365’s mobile play

Today, Microsoft Office 365 is a suite of subscription-based productivity applications based on the popular Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft provides Office 365 apps for various platforms; the apps are installed directly on the user’s desktop or laptop computer, mobile device and so on.

Microsoft encourages users to be connected to the internet at least once every 39 days to maintain features. Microsoft lets the same user install Office 365 on multiple devices such as a laptop and smartphone, for example, without incurring additional licensing costs. By contrast, most other vendors’ location-based services tend to focus on mobile devices — particularly smartphones — rather than laptops. Today, users can download basic Microsoft Office mobile apps for free and get additional features when those apps are connected to Office 365.

Potential opportunities

Microsoft’s Office 365 location-based marketing strategy could play out in different ways.

  • Combining the user experience with the marketing platform. Microsoft could exploit its unrivaled ability among marketing platforms to deliver user experiences via productivity apps like Office 365 in concert with its Microsoft Dynamics CRM/marketing platform. Newer offerings like Skype for Business provide additional features that other marketing platform vendors lack.
  • Bing, LinkedIn and Microsoft Dynamics. Microsoft Office 365 could use its mobile and desktop apps to capture location data for distribution to Bing and LinkedIn advertising or for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the customer database, which could then deliver targeted messages. Microsoft would need to gain end-user permission for this, of course.
  • What to market. Microsoft could use Office 365’s location-based data to market an array of items, from office products to services for business travelers (e.g., coupons as you pass Starbucks). And, of course, Microsoft Office 365 is used by small businesses as well as families (think consumers) to whom Microsoft and its corporate customers could market as well.

Assessing Microsoft’s opportunity

Location-based services could help Microsoft to catch up to other omnichannel marketing automation platforms, such as Oracle, Salesforce and SAP. The addition of LinkedIn could add exciting new possibilities that are yet to be determined. And few other marketing platforms can boast Microsoft’s deep penetration with end users.

And yet, Microsoft would still need to encourage users to share their location data. They might be willing to share their location data in exchange for free access to premium Office 365 features. Still, Jesus Shelby, a solutions architect at services firm eGroup who has migrated thousands of users to Office 365, does not believe that Microsoft will combine Office 365 with location-based marketing. Shelby said that, today, Microsoft makes a point of not using data gathered from users to market back to them.

Beyond the potential user privacy concerns, Microsoft would need to build out substantial robust location-based marketing capabilities to compete with other omnichannel marketing platform vendors. But this could be a start.

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Google acquires Urban Engines to bring its location-based analytics to Google Maps

Google has acquired Urban Engines, a provider of location-based analytics for urban planning. The team will be joining the Google Maps team in a bid to “help organizations better understand how the world moves.” Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founded in 2014, Urban Engines leverages big data and spatial analytics to help local governments and businesses assess urban mobility and improve transportation offerings in the surrounding area. The company was created by Shiva Shivakumar, Balaji Prabhakar, Giao Nguyen, and Deepak Merugu. The move to Google is a homecoming for Shivakumar and Nguyen, who previously served as the company’s vice president of engineering and principal engineer, respectively.

After two years of analyzing “billions of trips” and “improving the lives of millions of commuters,” Urban Engine said it’s time to prepare the next phase of its journey.

In a blog post, Urban Engines explains that since its story began — during a traffic jam — it has been working to make the world as easy to navigate “as our web world.” It has leveraged mobile technology, GPS and beacon sensors, and other signals to better understand how people and objects move around the world. The company has ambitions to create an urban OS, which is described as intelligent software layered on top of our real world.

In 2014, Urban Engines raised an undisclosed amount of funding from notable investors, including Andreessen Horowitz; SV Angel; GV; Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt; and Ram Shriram, Google’s first investor.

The company has done work for customers in the Americas, Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, including partnering with mayoral offices and ministries within “smart cities” to help them better understand their constituents’ mobility challenges.

We’ve reached out to Google for additional comment and will update if we hear back.

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Big Data – VentureBeat

Groupon sues IBM over location-based patent

IBM Denis van Zuijlekom Flickr 780x412 Groupon sues IBM over location based patent

(Reuters) – The online marketplace Groupon has sued IBM, accusing it of infringing a patent related to technology that helps businesses solicit customers based on the customers’ locations at a given moment.

Groupon filed its lawsuit on Monday with the federal court in its hometown of Chicago, two months after IBM accused Groupon of patent infringement in a separate lawsuit.

“IBM is trying to shed its status as a dial-up-era dinosaur” by infringing the rights of “current”technology companies such as Groupon, according to Groupon spokesman Bill Roberts.

Doug Shelton, an IBM spokesman, said: “This counter suit is totally without merit.” IBM’s full name is International Business Machines Corp.

The latest lawsuit concerns IBM’s WebSphere Commerce platform, which Groupon said lets merchants send messages to customers with GPS-enabled devices based on their real-time locations, and their use of social media including Facebook.

Groupon said the platform infringes a December 2010 patent, and that it deserves royalties based on the “billions of dollars” of revenue that Armonk, New York-based IBM has received through its infringement.

“IBM, a relic of once-great 20th Century technology firms, has now resorted to usurping the intellectual property of companies born this millennium,” Groupon said in its lawsuit.

On March 2, IBM accused Groupon in a federal lawsuit in Delaware of infringing four patents, including two related to Prodigy, a late-1980s forerunner to the Internet.

“Over the past three years, IBM has attempted to conclude a fair and reasonable patent license agreement with Groupon, and we are disappointed that Groupon is seeking to divert attention from its patent infringement by suing,” Shelton said.

The Chicago case is Groupon Inc v International Business Machines Corp, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 16-05064. The Delaware case is International Business Machines Corp v Groupon Inc, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, No. 16-00122.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)


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Big Data – VentureBeat

If location-based marketing means focusing on the blue dot, you’re missing the point

That useful little blue dot on your smartphone’s map is like a flame to a moth for location-based marketers.

But as I found out from Mike Schneider, VP of marketing at Skyhook, during our webinar “Drive ad revenue with precise location targeting,” if you focus on pushing offers, messages, and coupons to people based on where they are right now, you’re missing the point of having their location at all.

In fact, it turns out that not only are you missing the chance to discover that person’s affinities, you’re probably getting their location wrong while you’re at it.

“Let’s take a look at the old adage of ‘message, person, place, and time,’ and let’s assume that that’s the experience,” Scheider said. “Advertising has been a very ‘content first’ ecosystem. The way you do it now is you think about the content and try to get that in front of a person, in a place, at a time.”

He’s right, of course. When we’re advertising to a person right now, we think about the demographic of the average website visitor in the hope that we’ll hit the right person at the right time from a cast of thousands. That’s fine, but we typically fail to understand the location of that website visitor or their affinities. Too often we throw ever-increasing amounts of money at blanket campaigns rather than stepping back to understand the exact persona of the potential buyer.

That’s where location comes into play, but not just the most current location.

Targeting based on a single location is folly. The real magic happens when you understand a person’s journey over time.

The problem with many location-based marketing systems right now is that marketers use IP address as an indicator of location. That can be inaccurate in the extreme. A single IP address may reference as much as a six-mile square area.

If you were a courier delivering packages, it would be the equivalent of dropping all of them at the center of a zip code area, rather than delivering them by hand to each recipient’s mailbox.

Or, as Schneider put it, it’s like “your cardiac surgeon doing heart surgery on your liver.”

logo placeholder 160x160 If location based marketing means focusing on the blue dot, you’re missing the point

 If location based marketing means focusing on the blue dot, you’re missing the point

And according to Schneider, 60 percent of marketers aren’t getting accurate location information.

Once you have an accurate location, and once you start attaching that location to real places, you can build a full picture of the person.

“If you have good location in the advertising technology space,” Schneider said, “you can understand [the customer’s] persona.”

By looking at good locations signals over time, you can determine if someone is a coffee lover, or a new mother, or a combination of any of the 50+ personas Skyhook understands from processing that data.

That is the way to leverage location-based marketing. Not from a single signal. Not by pushing ads to someone just because they are in a particular location (or in the general vicinity, if you’re using an IP address), but by looking at good location data over time to better understand the person, place, and moment to send the most relevant messages.

It’s a win for you because it helps keep your ad spend low while yielding high performance, and it’s a win for the consumer, since relevant messaging cuts through the noise and provides them information they might actually be able to use.

Dig deeper by listening to the entire recorded webinar now. Schneider and I delve into the strategy of tracking location over time to better target advertising, and we answer some super-relevant questions from our live webinar audience.

Skyhook Wireless is a worldwide leader in location. Skyhook created and operates the most advanced global first party mobile location network that provides the fastest, most accurate and battery-friendly location results to the mobile … read more »

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VentureBeat » Big Data News | VentureBeat

Location-based service apps yield treasure trove of information

As location-based technologies gather steam, they are helping companies use the reach of online tools and technologies to get people back into the stores to buy products. With the recession, the growth of online retail, and the rise of the voice of the customer, companies need to entice buyers to return to the store and to buy while they are there. Location-based service apps like mobile wallets, Beacon sensors and mobile apps have helped seal the deal to turn customer online browsing into in-store purchasing.

Companies are using information that they can gather about customers, including location and other data, to provide digital offers that can augment customers’ experience in stores.

Men’s retailer Men’s Wearhouse, for example, uses mobile wallet technology to provide unique offers when customers are proximal to the store. Not only does it provide consumers with additional discounts and convenient information when they are near a physical location, but it gives sales associates critical data about consumers, including that they are ready to buy because they have downloaded coupons to their mobile wallet on their smartphone, for example.

“When a customer comes in to Men’s Wearhouse and they know this customer has come in because they have saved a coupon to their wallet, they know this person has the intent to buy,” said Brent Leary, a CRM expert and a principal at CRM Essentials. “Instead of someone just wandering into the store  — who may just be looking — if someone comes in with a coupon they have saved to their mobile wallet, that is a level of intent that is different than someone just window shopping.”

“I think it’s a must-thing to do,” Leary said. “It’s all about using the reach of online tools and technologies to get people moving to the actual physical location and once people get to that location, that’s the challenge.”

Companies also need to be careful stewards of consumer data. They need to avoid barraging customers with endless offers or sharing personal data with other companies without customer consent. While 57% of respondents to a recent Forrester survey are willing to share data in exchange for offers and discounts, they also want assurance that their data will be handled with care.

For more, check out the podcast above.

Next Steps

Lifestyle centers take aim at traditional retail

Nordstrom’s Beacon technology enhances customer service

Mobile payments begin to take off?

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