Last time, we talked about trust in cyberspace. It’s a theme that came through strongly in the Economist’s take on location-based services and a challenge to those seeking to engage with consumers in transit.
If anything, trust is even more important when you are on the go: trust that no one can see where you are unless you want them to, trust that you aren’t revealing your whereabouts to burglars. The question on every marketer’s lips is, does the average consumer have enough trust in social networks and brands to reveal his (or perhaps even more importantly her) location?
Work we’ve done in Australia suggests that there is some way to go before location-based services definitively break out of the “geek ghetto” to fulfil their brilliant potential. The majority of consumers express strong fears that knowledge of their location could be used to their detriment.
Around 80 percent were fearful of being tracked or stalked or burgled if the wrong person knew they were out of the house. For some (such as users of the iPhone app Loopt that allows friends to track each other 24/7) the notion of being tracked is not a deterrent, while for others it is downright creepy.
But the apprehensive are open to being persuaded. Based on the study, 41% of Australians believe the potential benefits of location-based technology outweigh the risks, while only 13% believe the risks outweigh the benefits. To address people’s emotions, services need to have in place clear and well-communicated safeguards that reassure consumers the technology is safe.
But if these services are to really take off, they also have to address a more rational question: “What’s in it for me?”
In this sense, location-aware is where online retail was 10 years ago. Consumers were reluctant to buy online until retailers lured them in with discounts, greater choice and a reassurance of security.
And just like then, some categories are better placed to lead the way than others. Some services, like gay dating app Grindr, appeal to people’s emotions, while others make the cost of disclosure seem so small it doesn’t count (which Ryanair did with online booking via its famous £1 fare). Urbanspoon is a leader here – the cost of revealing location is small but the payoff is a handy app that helps you find a spot to eat nearby.
Travel brands have the advantage of the “What’s in it for me?” factor: Public transport information and travel aids are much-desired location-based services.
In Melbourne, tramTRACKER not only allows commuters to find the nearest tram stop based on location, but lets you know exactly how far away your next ride is. Similarly, Lonely Planet has done a nice job of incorporating their guidebooks into apps that feed off current location.
Location can be leveraged into revenue as well. Indeed, special offers are the most effective way of accessing consumers’ location information; half would divulge their location for an immediate benefit, according to the study.
But marketers beware: Offers and advertising are not the same thing. Three-quarters of Australians will reject brands that send them ads without an explicit benefit. Consumers consider their mobiles a part of their personal space and if you’re stepping into it, you’d better make sure they get something out of it.
The benefits of all this for travel brands are twofold. Operators at the originating destination (think travel agents) can use location to engage potential customers, while businesses at the destination can use it to stimulate sales (by sending out a special offer to turn around a slow day, for example).
The key to cracking the location code is leading with the benefit and using that to start the conversation. Again, we saw that with the Internet 10 years ago. But it’s actually been true of almost all technology through the ages. The technology changes but the battle to win the trust of those 50,000-year-old bits of technology known as hearts and minds still has some common features.