The growth of the smartphone provides a number of opportunities for brands to engage with consumers based on their current location.
According to stats from the Mobile Marketing Association, 26% of mobile users regularly use a map, navigation tool or similar service that automatically determines their current location.
Location-based marketing allows brands to adapt their marketing messages based on where consumers are geographically when they see them, and also what that location may tell you about their habits.
There are a number of location-based strategies, which can be broadly split into “Push” and “Pull” marketing.
Push methods would be using Bluetooth or SMS alerts when consumers are near to a store or venue, though there is the downside that customers may find these tactics invasive, and would therefore be less receptive to marketing messages.
A pull strategy is a better approach, and this means using consumers’ locations and search habits to serve up information and offers that can entice into local outlets.
Here are ten ways businesses can appeal to local consumers…
Mobile apps are an obvious way to appeal to users based on their location, as they provide the ability to detect the users’ location automatically.
Also, users of smartphone apps may be the most receptive to location-based marketing. For example, MMA stats reveal that 63% of iPhone owners use location services at least once a week.
For example, retailers can use apps to direct customers to their nearest store, provide promotions or allow them to check local stock and reserve items for pick up, as with the Argos app.
Apps could also be used by cinemas, theatres, and other venues to target consumers in the local area and provide them with last minute offers on tickets.
With so many apps out there, it can be a challenge to get your on onto a consumer’s smartphone, so you need to be innovative and offer compelling reasons for people to download and use your apps.
Mobile search is currently growing at a much faster rate than desktop search, as more people buy smartphones.
In 2010, the use of mobile search in the UK grew by 247%, and though it is still relatively small, at around 3% of total search, this is still a significant (and growing) audience for marketers to target.
Many mobile searches are likely to revolve around local specific phrases, marketers need to incorporate this into keyword research and SEO strategies.
This provides opportunities for businesses large and small, and can allow small businesses with a smart local search strategy to compete with larger competitors.
Businesses can pick a location and use Google’s Mobile AdWords to target ads within a specified radius, and thus target potential customers in the local area.
Recent extensions to the service include click to call options, so that users can phone directly rather than heading for a website, especially if it hasn’t been optimised for mobiles.
The ads can also be expanded to show maps and directions to help drive customers into local stores and other services.
Foursquare, as well as similar services such as Gowalla, are location-based social networks driven by mobile access, especially apps.
It allows users to connect with friends and share their location by checking in then rewards them with ‘badges’.
This provides opportunities for marketers to build campaigns around user engagement, where check-ins to specially created locations are encouraged and rewarded.
It allows retailers and restaurants to drive footfall into their physical locations with the use of vouchers and special offers.
For example, last year, Starbucks rolled out an offer across the US, through Foursquare. Becoming a ‘mayor’ of an individual shop enabled the user to redeem a $1-off coupon for coffee.
Launched in the UK in January this year, Facebook Deals allows users to check in to physical locations and receive rewards.
For example, Westfield Valley shopping mall in Silicon Valley offered a $200 discount on jewellery if Facebook users checked in through Places.
When they did this, they received a unique code that could be presented in-store to redeem the discount. In an earlier Places promotion, the mall had also offered a 15% discount on a fashion brand and the chance to win concert tickets.
Like Foursquare, it offers an opportunity for local businesses to drive footfall into local outlets, though since more people have Facebook accounts, it potentially offers greater reach.
Directory apps and mobile sites
Apps like Yelp, Qype Radar and Yell offer directory information and user reviews on a variety of local businesses, and provide a useful, location based resource for users.
For example, by using Yelp, I can find a list of local restaurants, reviews from people who have eaten there, as well as contact details and directions.
Businesses should ensure that they are listed on apps and sites like this, and encourage customers to leave reviews. If they are good (and lucky) enough to have a few positive reviews, this is a great way to attract custom.
Also, listings and reviews from site like Yelp and Qype will frequently turn up in search results, so this can also benefit a brand’s local SEO strategy.
Since most smartphones come with Google Maps pre-installed, then it’s fair to assume that this is the most widely used map tool for mobile users.
As well as finding directions, Google Maps also allows users to search for local services, while results from Maps while often appear in search results pages.
A free listing on Google Places means businesses can be seen on Google Maps, and within local search results, alongside information on opening hours, images, contact details and more.
A Google Places listing should be a staple part of any company's online marketing presence.
Location based wi-fi ads
There are millions of wi-fi hotspots around the UK, in town centres, cafes, restaurants and more.
All of these locations offer an opportunity to reach serve ads to mobile, tablet or laptop users based as they access the internet.
Ad networks such as jiwire allow advertisers to identify and deliver ads to audience segments based on a person’s physical location, while taking the venue type and brand into account.
So, for example a customer using wi-fi in a shopping centre can be served up ads by retailers about their new clothing range, or offering a coupon or discount to lure them in store.
Vouchercloud has Android and iPhone apps which help users to access discounts and offers, based upon where they are. The app has been downloaded 1.3m times since it launched in January 2010.
The apps use the phone’s GPS system to show users offers for businesses close to their location depending on what they are looking for, from restaurants and shopping to hotels and bars.
By getting listed on apps like this, retailers and local businesses can gain an edge over competitors, and attract more passing custom.
Create hyperlocal content
Whether on your own blog or website, or on Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles, hyperlocal content can help you to appeal to consumers in their local areas.
The more local the content, the more relevant it is for people, while it can also benefit your local search strategy, as this content will be indexed by the search engines.
For example, each branch of Majestic Wines has information about its staff, upcoming events and news on the main website, as well as individual Twitter accounts which local customers can follow.