The Huge Potential Of Location-Based Apps

Screenshot from Google Maps application on BlackberryThe growth of smart phones – from a consumer perspective, the iPhone in particular but also Blackberries – has really driven mobile apps into the limelight at a faster rate than almost any technology out there recently.

Over the last couple of years, and especially the last few months, we’ve seen mobile applications vault more and more into the mainstream. We’re at the point now where many people don’t think twice about downloading the latest Facebook, Google Maps or gaming application to use on their mobile device – any more than they would about downloading something to their desktop.

Mobile apps even appearing for business functions now (beyond regular email) – email campaign service Constant Contact launched an iPhone app yesterday to let people check in on their email campaigns, for example.

(Caveat: Of course, many people aren’t there yet. I know plenty of people whose phones don’t even have bluetooth, let alone data plans)

So, if mobile apps are becoming a current “big thing,” what’s next?

My take: local.

Keeping it local

While as sites like Yelp have leveraged user reviews at a local level, the best mobile apps over the next couple of years will pair GPS, cell tower or manually-set location information with contextual content.

Consider FourSquare. I started playing around with FourSquare fairly recently. Essentially, it’s a social network that lets you tell your contacts where you are right now. There are a bunch of other game-playing features wrapped around it, but it’s basically a location-based social network.

Think for a minute about the potential simple extensions to a network like this:

  • Know when your friends are in the same neighbourhood as you
  • Receive special offers from businesses in the area (check in at a subway station and get a $10-off coupon for a nearby restaurant, for example)
  • Ensure ads are targeted to only come from businesses in the neighbourhoods you frequent, or even the kinds of places you visit

Take that kind of thinking and consider the optional extensions to your favourite apps. I might like to know which nearby restaurants my Facebook friends have eaten at. I might want to be notified about breaking news from near my location, whereas I might have to proactively check a news app to get other news.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every application. I won’t go as far as Kate Imbach and suggest that you care what your neighbours are eating, but there are plenty of extremely interesting applications even for recipe-based sites (perhaps showing you which stores in your area stock the ingredients you need).

Stop and think for a moment – could your company or your clients be working location-based applications into their marketing mix?

What do you think?

(Additional: I’m on the look-out for good books on mobile marketing, especially those considering topics like this. If you know of any, let me know in the comments!)

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.