Location-based services (LBS) – like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp – made a big splash last year as a fairly successful, yet niche, mobile tactic for brands aiming to reach consumers in the real-world. They are great platforms for rewarding loyalty, real-time consumer reviews & tips, and for those who like such a thing, keeping track of your friends/family. I’ve “played” Foursquare consistently for a year now and dabbled in the others – Gowalla, Yelp, Loopt, SCVNGR. There’s interesting potential with this sort of technology, particularly when integrated with placed-based signage. But as I’ve wandered over the last year, I’m left wondering if these technologies will stick and ultimately reach the average consumer. And more than that, what it will take for them to reach that point? Here are my chronicles.
I checked into my train station the other night. It was my 100th check-in and as a result, I received a “Century Club” badge. I also received a customized message – something to the effect, “they should put your name up on the wall for frequenting so often.” Or something.
First thought: cool, I got another badge.
Second thought: ugh, I don’t get anything other than this message.
Then, I got sour.
The badge wasn’t enough. I wanted a free 30-day pass. A free ride. Some sort of discount, at least. I’d even take my name scrolling across the digital ticker at the station.
But then, that would get old, and I’d want something else, something of value.
The fact that these technologies fit into our regular, everyday life is one barrier that they don’t have to overcome. The check-in couldn’t be easier. But the big barrier lies in the value. As with any emerging technology, there’s a novelty period where it can get by on the technology alone. But there quickly comes a point to where it loses the novel factor, and in order for it to become sustainable and gain scale, it has to create some sort of value.
And this is what I’m feeling right now. Little to no value.
It’s interesting because my expectations have changed in a very short amount of time. And if mine – an early adopter/user, not the “average” consumer – have changed, what will it take to reach the average consumer? And become part of their daily lives?
The digital signage industry, and the places and things around us, can certainly help to create a sense of value. Stephen Randall and LocaModa have made a living targeting this very combination. Stephen’s specific take on this is that the value lies in the 3 Fs: Fun, fame, and fortune. These are the keys that motivate consumers to interact with LBS, and digital signage is a perfect platform to maximize their effect. Everyone likes to see their name “in lights” (fame) and by nature, most of these technologies are game-like and fun.
The key is “fortune.” Value. Is virtual currency enough, even when you see yourself in the middle of a Times Square billboard? I was willing to accept my name scrolling on the train station ticker. But I’m still left empty.
I want more.