LBS: No BS, It’s Mobile Marketing’s Game-Changer

Location-based services have evolved in ways most of us didn’t foresee just a few years ago. Instead of cellular tower triangulation–with which forward-thinking marketers imagined that the phone of a person walking by a Starbucks could be “read” and sent a coupon for a latte–it’s all about the apps. Two LBS applications for marketers–WeReward, a cash-payout system which this week put out its Android version, and PlacePop, a virtual loyalty card program currently for iPhones–got me thinking: Like the mobile platform for consumers, LBS software means finely tailor-made offerings for marketers–and this customizability is what will change mobile marketing.

PlacePop, for which an Android edition is in the works, thankfully avoids cloaking itself with socializing and gaming visages meant to convince consumers that it’s “fun” to use them. Instead, it’s a straightforward marketing tool that uses the tried-and-true tactics–loyalty rewards, specific locales, and personalized greetings upon entering a business–of older strategies, like opt-in SMS/text and email, or even those paper stamp cards that make each visit count toward something free or discounted. Consumers can reach increasing status levels, and marketers can choose how to reward their rising number of visits.

PlacePop sounds easy for companies to use, with a soon-to-be-launched self-serve dashboard with which business owners can set up and manage a virtual card program for their location in less than five minutes. The dashboard also enables marketers to see data about activity at their venues, such as who is visiting and how often–providing measurable ROI.

WeReward, which has been available for the iPhone, offers the best incentive of all for consumer participation: Cold hard cash. (Caveat: It’s in increments of nickels and dimes, varying according to the advertiser, until a consumer accrues $10 or more–enough to receive  a PayPal payout.) Consumers earn money for checking in and spending money at certain bars, restaurants, and retailers, verified with photos submitted by the consumer, GPS data, and manual reviews. Call it “the app that pays you back.”

WeReward seems straightforward and simple, but Ted Murphy, founder and CEO of parent company IZEA, envisions future LBS abilities that I believe would be compelling combined with WeReward. “We see a big opportunity in location-based video. Having the ability to experience a location or a product and sharing that experience through video could be a very interesting model,” he says. Considering that consumer-submitted photos are part of the verification process, I think video would be a natural extension of WeReward, with consumers exercising their inner Coppola while providing material for their payout. Also, says Murphy, “We see a big opportunity in real time, geo-targeted surveys for market research. Having the ability to capture opinions based on a person’s location and at a specific time can give you some pretty powerful data. In a sense, it’s like real time exit polling from a centralized point.”

PlacePop, too, is poised to grow as LBS becomes more sophisticated. “We can expect geo-targeted marketing to take many forms,” says PlacePop Community Manager Julia Graham. “Loyalty programs of the future: Utilities that allow businesses to use location data to offer incentives that build customer loyalty over the long-term, these may integrate with mobile payments systems, as consumers edge closer towards a ‘digital wallet.'” And opt-in alerts can become even more timely with location-based campaigns, in which “consumers opt in to have coupons pushed to them when they cross a virtual boundary, or ‘geo-fence,’ that signals their proximity to a retailer,” Graham says.

Opt-in messaging, 2.0? That’s just what bleeding-edge marketers enthusiastic about LBS were imagining.