KEY POINTS

  • Mobile location technologies are smartphone-enabled tools that track a person's location and generate data that can be used to better target them with offers and promotions. Marketers and retailers can leverage them to increase engagement, deepen loyalty, and grow sales. 
  • A combination of technological and social developments have greatly increased the availability of location data in recent years, clearing the way for the rapid growth of location-based services. These include the ubiquity of smartphones in developed economies and their rapid proliferation in emerging markets, the falling price and increasing sophistication of these devices and the software that runs on them, and consumers' rising comfort levels with sharing where they are.
  • The ecosystem of mobile location technologies is multifaceted. It's made up of networking and communication technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, hardware like smartphones and beacons, and tracking and mapping tools using GPS and cell tower signals.
  • There are three main varieties of mobile location data available for marketers, retailers and service providers to leverage. Each has unique strengths and weaknesses.
    • Publisher data taken from apps is the most commonly used mobile location technology but can be rife with quality issues. If standards are put in place to ensure a minimum level of accuracy, it could surge in value and adoption.
    • User-submitted data is gathered from social-media apps like Facebook and Foursquare that allow users to "check in" at stores, restaurants, event venues, and other locations. This data tends to be very accurate, and the platforms that gather it are working to build tools on top of it to make it even more actionable for businesses.
    • Beacon data comes from low-cost devices that communicate with smartphone apps indoors. Beacons are typically placed strategically around the inside of a venue or store, where they constantly monitor for smartphones with Bluetooth turned on and an app or other service running the corresponding beacon API. 
  • Mobile marketing, retail and IoT-enabled smart cities are potential areas in which mobile-location technologies could have a disruptive impact. The extent to which location-based services transform these areas will depend on further improvements in mobile technology and consumers' continued willingness to share their locations.

Introduction

Mobile devices have made it simple for people to interact with brands online. Thanks to the emergence of mobile location technologies, they're increasingly affecting how marketers and retailers connect with consumers in [...]