In some ways, the future of consumer technology seems likely to detach us from our physical surroundings and transport us into new realities. The first wave of virtual reality services – seen in the likes of Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear headsets – have now hit Main Street, and many are predicting that immersive, virtual-reality experiences will rapidly grow in popularity.
But there’s another technology force that seems to pull us in opposite direction, connecting us ever more closely with our physical location. Consider some of today’s most popular mobile apps, and how your physical location is central to to the digital experience – from ride hailing, to fitness, social media, dating, restaurant reviews, accommodation searches. These have emerged as the so called Unicorn companies, depicted in the graphic above.
Traditional companies often think of digital (or, virtual) customer experiences as being something entirely separate from physical customer experiences. In reality, mobile technology enables organisations to create uniquely ‘local’ services, aware of the user’s physical location and surroundings, informed by their context.
This is the real power of mobile: as our users’ smartphones interact with the world around them (GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, or camera), we’re able to move beyond simply creating “digital experiences”, to augmenting our users’ very experience of the world and our services.
Timing is everything
Yes, location-based services may not be anything radically new. But with greater levels of mobile network coverage, and more and more users becoming comfortable with apps on their smartphones, the timing is now right for companies to make the most of personalised, geolocated services.
Almost every industry, every business, can find an application for geolocation services. From the insurer who’s now able to deliver personalised vehicle cover based on where, and how a client drives, to a holiday resort that delivers free WiFi in exchange for contextual information on which attractions and activities its visitors are using.
Nowhere is geolocation more applicable than in the retail space – where beacon technology, loyalty programmes and mobile apps are converging to enable finely-tuned marketing campaigns. Retailers can understand, in far greater depth, the true intent of their customers, and present targeted offers that appeal directly to an individual’s interests. More importantly, they empower customers with greater levels of control, by allowing the customer to maintain their preferences associated with their profiles.
So the true timing opportunity is to engage the customer at every convenient moment.
Visualising the future
The next wave of innovation in the retail marketing space could well be in taking these high levels of accuracy made possible by geolocation, and combining it with the limitless imagination of immersive, augmented reality services. An early, albeit fairly basic example, of what’s possible is the highly-popular Nintendo game, Pokemon Go.
Built on the ‘Ingress’ platform, a location-based, augmented-reality game that was originally developed by Google, Pokemon Go has proven to be a massively addictive game for users around the world.
Flippant as it may sound, examples like Pokemon Go are raising questions for business leaders – now asking themselves how they can use similar technology to create new experiences for their customers.
In our example of the retailer, augmented reality could help customers better visualise how that piece of furniture would look in their lounge, or how that item of clothing would look on them. Combined with targeted offers based on one’s location, and mobile alerts for limited-time discounts pushed to them while they’re browsing on the shop floor, the retailer now has a powerful set of marketing and sales tools.
As you’re designing your digital strategies, consider how location based services can be used to give more customer relevant context to your business offerings – to help you better understand the customers, and to wow them with the most relevant, context-aware services possible.
In the future, every moment in time is an opportunity to engage with customers on their own terms and take them on a journey that always leaves them wanting more.