Location, location . . . location

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Well, if you haven’t heard about the explosion that is taking place in location related services, you just haven’t been paying attention. (I almost said you haven’t been in the right place. But I restrained myself.) I will attempt to summarize most of what’s going on currently.

First let’s talk about money. We all like it and there is quite a bit to made according to Juniper research.  They are predicting that revenue from location based services will total $12.7 billion by 2012. (Yes. I know 42.3% of all statistics are made up but the potential is undeniably there.)

Foursquare, this year’s Twitter, is experiencing 1 million check-ins a week with 500,000 users. For those unfamiliar with the application it’s a game that allows you to check-in to venues and share your check-ins with friends. Foursquare has been very busy signing multiple agreements in an effort to monetize early so they don’t have to listen to TechCrunch talk about how they can’t monetize their service. Foursquare’s success is also creating a user generated platform of information that businesses can tap into. The question is ; how long before businesses know what’s going on?

Twitter stands a good chance at winning the location war. (If you’ve read recently that Twitter’s growth has leveled off, rest assured that it’s still growing as evidenced by users tweeting more than ever. Again; membership level. Participation growing.) Its user base is already using mobile and it can look to Migg33 for some ideas around additional monetization opportunities; rhymes with virtual goods. Twitter recently added the concept of ‘places’ to their API thus enabling developers to include geo-data into their applications. In late January they also rolled out location based trending which can provide insightful data surrounding your brick and mortar store. (Mashable has a great post on how to get your business ready to geo-location ready.)

Apple also wants a piece of the location pie. (Yes. It’s a big pie.) With the massive success of the iPhone and the acquisition of Quattro in response to Google’s acquisition of AdMob, Apple wants to own location based advertising. They feel that if you have to search to receive an ad, you’ve already failed. Maybe ads based on check-ins? There is already a user generated content mash-up based on Foursquare checkins called FourWhere. Also, Apple’s recently patented, iGroup technology will allow iPhone users to find each other at an event and then text as a group. that would add a lot more information to a location. Brightkite also recently added this feature, called Group Text.

Not to be outdone. Google is pushing the concept of location with its nearby filter the recent focus on QR codes and need I mention all of the work they’ve been performing on maps. (Facebook will announce it’s location play at f8 and we know it will also include QR codes. The only reason Android was created (imho) was to create a platform for location based advertising.

It’s way to early to say who will win the location wars. In fact, for the benefit of this post I would define winning the location wars in the following way:

The businesses that are able to monetize location as it relates to their model and increase brand depth.

Two of the best tactics for accomplishing this goal are:

  1. Situational advertising – Mobile ads are delivered based on time, location and past behaviors. This is best if the business partners with the consumer.
  2. Conduit marketing – The business utilizes satisfied customers by providing them the tools to let their friends know about the service. (A more complete explanation lives here.)

I’m excited to watch the concept of location evolve within each business model. Businesses should look for ways to partner with their customers (situational ad delivery, conduit tools, privacy) to build out this new offering.

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I’m an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I’m currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, cycling, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive + surf. I’m passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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