GPS-enabled smartphones have made location the cornerstone of the mobile experience. Location powers popular smartphone apps such as Foursquare, shopkick, and Yelp; overall, navigation and mapping apps are the third-most-used category of smartphone apps, ranking higher than gaming, news, and shopping. Yet, as important as location is, its dependence on satellite-based positioning systems prevents it from playing a significant role indoors -- where we spend up to 90% of our lives.
As I discuss in my new report, Next In Tech: Indoor Positioning, indoor positioning technologies are rapidly changing this situation by enabling users, venue owners, and app developers to determine a person's (or object's) position inside buildings. The impact of this change will be profound:
Make the physical world searchable down to the object level. By geotagging objects (through manual tagging or low cost tracking beacons), indoor positioning will make it possible to search for products and objects in the physical world as easily as we can on the Internet.
Provide a new platform for in-store shopper engagement and experiences. Indoor positioning will not only help shoppers with tasks such as locating products on shelves, calling for assistance, and accessing in-store services but will also enable retailers to engage shoppers in real time as they shop.
Digitize the call for help. Requesting help in venues will soon go digital, as indoor positioning will enable the help to come to you rather than you going to the help.
Maps and navigation are not yet mainstream, but they are more useful as product features anyway. This means that location is no longer a service like maps or navigation but is increasingly an enabler of new product experiences.
Location and maps are increasingly becoming features of new mobile products and services.
Location will happen automatically, behind the scenes. Adjustments will be invisible from a user perspective (think about the automatic weather update on your home screen widget).
Relevancy of local data will improve quickly. The era of basic point of interest (POI) information is over. Enriching addresses with more accurate information on opening hours, real-time data (traffic information, promotions, etc.), product/brand data, dynamic data (consumer reviews, inventory information) will deliver greater consumer benefits.
New algorithms will bridge the physical and digital worlds. Coupling more accurate local data with user context and other sources of information will foster the development of crowdsourcing and predictive analysis (e.g., predicting traffic congestion or air quality monitoring). Moving forward, these new algorithms will have far-reaching consequences well beyond mobile.
Delivering highly contextual mobile services is an expectation. Mobile phones are personal devices. Consumers expect personal and relevant experiences.
What is context?
Forrester defines “context” as
“the sum total of what your customer has told you and is experiencing at his moment of engagement.”
Situation: the current location, altitude, and speed the customer is experiencing.
Preferences: the history or personal decisions the customer has shared with you.
Attitudes: the feelings or emotions implied by the customer’s actions or logistics.
eBusiness professionals make limited or very basic use of context today. Mostly, they use an individual’s location to tell her where the nearest store or hotel is. The use of location is a minimum requirement today to meet consumer expectations of “decent” mobile services. The bar is rising quickly though. eBusiness professionals need to layer intelligence on top of contextual information and plan how they will use new contextual information such as temperature or altitude.
Here are a few scenarios that simply leverage intelligence with location:
Banks. Should a user require the same depth of authentication at home, at work, or in a foreign country?
Hotels. How much should you quote a prospective customer for a room tonight if she is 5 miles or 500 miles away?
Airlines. What home page services should you show a passenger whose flight leaves in 2 hours? In 10 minutes?
The consumer appetite for smartphones shows no signs of slowing in 2011 and neither does the growth of the mobile channel at leading retailers. eBusiness leaders, who have been focused on replicating the online store experience on mobile are now turning their attention to new mobile innovations that will not only drive revenue growth for the mobile channel but create an immersive multichannel consumer experience that bridges the gap between online and in-store shopping.
Location-based commerce is one such innovation that is gaining interest among eBusiness leaders responsible for mobile strategy. Some retailers have experimented with third-party location-based services including foursquare and Shopkick to roll out location-aware mobile coupons. A few retailers have innovated further and are developing location services into their own mobile shopping apps beyond the basic "store finder" feature to create new ways to interact with shoppers via their smartphones. With my latest research, Location-Based Commerce: An Evolution In Mobile Shopping, we look at how consumers' mobile shopping habits, location technology available in newer generation smartphones, and mobile push notifications have matured sufficiently to empower a new set of location aware multichannel experiences. Retailers are using geo-fences defined in the vicinity of their brick-and-mortar stores to attract nearby consumers by sending relevant, timely, and location-aware messages to customers' phones.