Utilising location-based services alongside other forms of social media and online PR provides a new and unique means not only for brands to maximise their exposure to complement more traditional marketing and promotional activities, but also as a key way for brands to interact and engage with their customers on a new level, both in-store and beyond.
Location-based services such as Foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla, and Loopt are quickly starting to spread from the tech-savvy to the masses at an impressive rate. As with the Facebook "Like" function, or the much-loved, "Re-Tweet", the "Check in" works in much the same way in that it stimulates further conversation and engagement between consumers, providing retail companies with the perfect opportunity to further extend the in-store experience.
New York-based ice-cream franchise, Tasti D-Lite, not only reported a 36% bump in sales that it attributed in part to its Foursquare TastiRewards programme, but the company has also taken steps to install iPads in the form of customer information points called Tastipads. Customers can use the new Tastipad touch-screen kiosks to browse menus, "check in" for reward points and sign up for "new flavour" promotional alerts to be sent to their smartphone. Already, the possibilities from a model like Tasti D-Lite would seem endless. Imagine if companies transferred the same rewards-based system in areas like the music and entertainment industry, with artists offering exclusive mp3 downloads when fans check-in to their live shows, or if you could walk into a music or book store, check in, and receive a free record or e-book of the week downloaded instantly to your smartphone or iPad.
It's also worth taking into account the question as to which location-based service app will become the preferred choice; both among retailers and consumers. With Facebook Places able to tap in to Facebook's 500 million users and Foursquare surpassing the 2 million mark already, surely we will start to see more and more of these types of apps emerging. In light of this, and as competition continues to grow, the location-based social media apps themselves will continue to develop in their functionality and design. Naturally, the more the functionality and design of such apps grows, the bigger the opportunity for brands to create new and exciting interactive experiences becomes.
Once the connection between the in-store and social media experiences become effectively integrated, the overall connection between customer and brand will inevitably strengthen as a result. With customers now also able to shape their own in-store experiences through their smartphone or iPad, the all important in-store experience has now taken on a completely new space. Factor in the speed at which ideas and conversations are being shared between like-minded consumers through social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and the idea of creating an innovative, interactive and integrated brand experience incorporating an engaging location-based services strategy presents an almost limitless possibility.
For the consumer, location-based services also present a new way of looking at social media that has perhaps been overlooked in the past. The more companies move towards utilising social media for loyalty and reward-type programmes, the more value social media gains as currency - and for both the tech-savvy and the masses, surely that can only be a good thing.