Last week I was invited by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) to attend a webinar called Leveraging Location Based Marketing.
HSMAI is combination think tank, marketing organization and university with a strong travel industry and on-line presence.
While location based marketing or “proximity marketing” didn’t just happen overnight, judging from the reactions and comments, (or lack of) the applications and concepts of location based services still make the mind spin, even among the travel and hospitality professionals participating in the webinar.
Regardless, the reality is that there is a 35% increase in traffic going directly to geo-based, social networking sites since last year; a whopping 91% of all traffic to these sites come from mobile devices, vs 78% from desk top computers.
While sending targeted messages to nearby people (texting) is not new, these geo- social services, with an opt-in, is a newer, better way to connect.
What this means is an improved, faster more direct way to connect with hotel guests, increase foot traffic to a destination, build customer brand loyalty by providing “timed” deals, discounts and offers to mobile device users.
Who are the players in this game-changing technology?
• Obviously, Facebook with its newly released Places and Deals dominates the venue with its 500 million users, 2 hundred million of which are on Mobile devices
• Foursquare, only a few years young, boasts 4 million users
* Gowalla and MyTown have .5 million and 3 million users respectively
What we can expect to see, said the presenters, is a “battle of the brands” as big LBS’s consume smaller ones, and smaller ones consolidate to become bigger.
Welcome to the dynamics of the World Wide Web.
But LBS observer, Eric Leist says that what’s more important than potential consolidation, is the reality of seeing “location” as a feature that runs through everything in mobile. “Every mobile app will leverage location capabilities”, Leist says, “we won’t just have a ‘big 3′ of Foursquare, Gowalla and SCVNGR”.
One major point in the webinar is how far the opportunities extend to beyond one-off deals or “badges.”
The potential for “partnerships is generating much of the buzz:
• Foursquare teaming up with Zagats and Starbucks
* Gowalla partnering with National Geographic
* Facebook deals displayed to Facebook mobile users now allow vendor deals to apply to individuals, friends and loyalty programs.
* Starbucks via Foursquare already offers a buck off a Frappuccino to Starbucks’ “mayors.”
• Chicago/Foursquare created an opportunity to win a badge if visitors visited all the scenes from the hit movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
There are already some signs of “check in fatigue,” so expect the mechanics to improve and, as we said, big brands to gobble up smaller ones.