WebNow CEO assesses where we are with location-based services
The evolution of Web 3.0 and associated new technologies has radically changed the way businesses and individuals interact with each other. With that comes a fine line of perception that businesses ignore at their peril.
With the new openness and accessibility created by Web 2.0 and now evolved into Web 3.0, there is a tacit understanding between companies and their customers.
Companies can target their messages more accurately. Google`s advertising methodologies allows a business to talk directly to consumers profiled on the contents of the customer`s inbox. Facebook`s methods are even more directed, with its ability to track not only a customer`s own habits, but the habits of his or her friends too.
However, in return, customers now have the power to kick back against an organisation which they feel may be performing inadequately or inappropriately. Nielsen research showed that 70% of people would trust personal recommendations over a company`s advertising. Disgruntled Web-savvy customers have many tools at their disposal to at best discredit, at worst seriously damage, a firm`s reputation.
Other, new technology is coming on stream all the time, taking advantage of a much more easily accessible customer base and a more direct interaction between business and customer. With this accessibility comes a very fine line of perception that companies must tread. Location-based services is an interesting case in point.
On the face of it, services like Facebook Places, Loopt and Foursquare can add a dimension to the social activities of tech-lovers who want to connect with each other while they`re out and about. The mobile technology allows people to pinpoint their locations, `checking in` when they arrive somewhere. They can meet others who have checked in at the same location. It`s using social media in three dimensions.
It is early days with a relatively low uptake as yet. Some of the services are currently only available in the USA. But as the technology becomes more widely adopted in time, the opportunities for businesses to use it as a communication and business tool will expand too. For example, a taxi company could use the system to locate passengers who have booked a car. How better to improve your customer`s experience than by finding them where they are? The number of applications is potentially huge - digital coupons, event listings, customer reviews, happy hour promotions, and so on.
Jean-Pierre Dumont, CEO of Web hosting and development firm WebNow, can also see the other side of the coin. He explains: "Location-based technology is a great step forward in the way we interact in an increasingly mobile world. But it must be used properly. These services are taking companies into new advertising territories and those businesses which adopt the technology must think strategically about how they use it."
He explains: "If every restaurant along Long Street in Cape Town or Oxford Street in London used the system to promote a special offer to users checked into that particular location, it is easy to imagine how the value of the information can be minimised, or worse, treated as spam. Of course, no business can control what their neighbours are doing, but it is an important point for companies to think about."
Businesses will need to change their approach to how they promote themselves using the technology to demonstrating how they can make a customer`s life better, easier or more fulfilling. Cutting through the competitive noise will depend not on who shouts the loudest or most often, but on who can make the most compelling, engaging argument.