What’s missing from Location Based Services? Locations.

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Frog's Leap Winery
Frog's Leap Winery in Sonoma, CA

I Want to feel special

Foursquare, Facebook Places, Scvngr and Gowalla are all the rage. I know. I’ve been using location based services (LBS) since my friend Doug Hurd from Where.com introduced me to the concept almost five years ago.

Since I joined Foursquare and started playing with Gowalla I’ve felt that there’s one thing missing from my LBS expereince: the locations. I don’t mean the listing of the location on my device or the application (they’re all there,) I mean the actual participation in a meaningful way by the locations themselves.

Sure, some brands have tried hard to engage in these channels, but it wasn’t until I went to wine country with my wife that I really came to appreciate the deep experience a community can build if every location (even in a relatively small geographic area) participates.

Wine Country businesses make ‘checking-in’ a habit

In the eyes of my wife, our trip to wine country finally justified my credibility as a social media guru in her eyes. For years, she’s been wondering what the value of all my “status updating and checking-in crap” means to her and it wasn’t until we visited winery after winery, restaurant after restaurant and received ‘special’ attention that she realized that there was something in it for her.

I’ll be honest. I usually check-in to locations when I’m bored. Maybe my wife’s in the bathroom and I’m waiting for her, or maybe my wife’s phone rings and she’s on a call. These are the times I usually check-in to a location. I look at the tips (sometimes they’re helpful – many times they’re not) and I see if I know someone who’s here (I never do.) At the first winery we visited, I checked-in in one of these lull moments only to be greeted by a “special offer.” I love that – it’s unexpected and really exciting.

Special Offers Across an Entire Community
Special Offers Across an Entire Community

Before I knew it, we were being whisked away to a private tasting room where we sampled (for a fee) the exact same wines that were being tasted outside, but we felt special – really special. My wife was overjoyed!

At almost every single location we visited we were rewarded with small things – special offers that everyone in the organization understood and appreciated. Everyone would thank us for checking-in and it felt like we were treated with extra care and attention. (I’m not even sure this is the case, but perception is reality when it comes to brand building.)

Why LBS works in Wine Country

There is one simple reason that Location-Based Services work in Wine Country: everyone (or almost everyone) is participating. I have no idea if the Chamber of Commerce taught everyone how to do this, or everyone’s learned on their own, but it works. My habit of checking-in only when I was bored changed completely. I started checking to see if wineries and restaurants had special offers before I arrived. I made many of my decisions on who to visit based on what kinds of special treatment we might receive.

Most importantly, checking-in, enriched our experience and perception of the entire community.

If you’re a director at a chamber of commerce, like Humboldt County or Langley, Washington, help your community understand the value of community-oriented LBS participation. Teach them how to do it and monitor their success. You’ll be happy you all worked together to deliver a premium experience that’s shared worldwide.

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Our Chief Strategy Officer is constantly searching for new ways to build online relationships by creating, distributing, and promoting valuable content. Each week, Drew Davis will introduce you to one of the new channels he’s found as he dashes around the online universe.

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8 Responses to “What’s missing from Location Based Services? Locations.”

  1. Rob Sheard

    Nice post Drew. I think these brand enhancing experiences are the reason LBS will be powerful tools for brands and retailers to engage the consumer in a more intimate way than other services. While Groupon is the flavor of the month and a lot of the LBS and socially driven site like Yelp and trying to imitate their discounts and offers I have questions about the sustainability of their business model:
    1. They must have a high churn rate on their customers, you can only afford to give away so many 50% Brazilian waxes or chicken wings.
    2. These sorts of things bring in the wrong kind of consumers and they are conditioned to only want to pay 50% off the price of your goods or services. I think Groupon has been able to thrive by targeting small business without the sophistication to calculate the lifetime value of the customers that the Groupon and the wannabes bring to their business.

    • Andrew Davis

      Thanks for the compliment.
      LBS can certainly be powerful (especially in the context of my Wine Country experience) but I also question their business model. It seems to me that it makes more sense to build a more robust “loyalty program” within the context of this kind of activity. If I frequent a location can I earn loyalty points towards something real? That’s more valuable than the special or the discount.
      You’re right, giving away stuff doesn’t build your business we have to offer something that doesn’t cost anything – like a prime table (or the private tasting room). It’s a great experience that engenders me to the brand and costs not a penny more for the brand to offer it.
      I spent (maybe double) at the two wineries that gave me a premium experience only because I checked in. That’s valuable.
      - Drew

  2. Eric

    Nice post Drew.

    I’m not convinced that the checking in model can be sustained over the long term. I think checking in worked for you in wine country because of it’s proximity to Silicon Valley. If you look at where the technology is being used, it has the highest penetration there by far.

    But everywhere else there’s almost no benefit to doing so, so most non-geeks aren’t going to adopt it. And for businesses, there’s only the slightest correlation between the mayor of that location and a great customer. When the bartenders know your name at the bar, you’re a great customer. If you’re the mayor, you’re just a geek with a smartphone.

    • Andrew Davis

      Thanks so much for commenting. So nice to see you – even virtually.

      I think you’re right. Wine Country is a prime place to see the technology at work – there are enough geeks around to really make the platform work.
      I love your last line… that’s really funny. Laughing aside, I think what wine country might represent is the potential for engaging in a really meaningful way with customers, even if you don’t know their name.

      Who knows, the LBS technology is still only in the adoption phase – it’s got a long way to go and it may never get there. :)
      Thanks again!
      - drew

      • Eric

        I think there’s definitely a future in LBS. I just don’t think that future is in check-ins. There’s just too much overhead to checking in and not enough benefit.

        • Sean Boice

          I agree with you Eric (and Drew). Check-ins are a novelty bred from the functionality and capability of a GPS enabled Smartphone. However, as Near Field Communication (NFC) becomes a more mainstream technology (it’s already in the latest Google Nexus S), Check-ins won’t require a manual action as they do now.

          With NFC technology, your Smartphone can interact with the restaurant and alert you to check-in and an app could simply check you in based on a Rule or profile you have configured. You could then receive a special offer if you qualify. I can see LBS Apps that allow you to configure auto check-ins based on location type (check me in to all Restaurants but not doctor offices:))

          The notion of being able to tell the establishment that I was at their location and that I am returning and there now while telling my “friends” is still a powerful feature and as we all become increasingly connected to the “social fabric”, it will become more commonplace to auto check-in (IMO).

  3. Sherry Jennings

    I like the concept, Drew; especially from a Chamber perspective. But I have to agree that the wine country’s proximity to Silicon Valley gives it a leg up in the Foursquare world. I’m still trying to get some of our merchants to check email. We have a handful of tech savvy restaurant owners and merchants, but they are in the minority. I’ll keep trying … as part of a larger communications initiative. (Hope you’re still not bitter about my status as Mayor of Olde World Ales & Lagers.) – sher

    • Andrew Davis

      Thanks so much for the comment! I am still bitter! I want to be Mayor! :)
      I completely understand the argument that because Wine Country is close to the tech capital of the world channels like FourSquare and GoWala are more viable. But you’re sitting miles away from the Microsoft Capital of the world. There are a huge number of techno-geeks in your area.
      That being said, I don’t think this is about technology vs. non-technology. As an organizing group you have to champion build and educate your constituents, visitors and residents about how technology like this can actually make an impact on their businesses and lives.
      No excuses.
      Hope that doesn’t sound to harsh. :)
      - Drew


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