Mobile Marketing and Location Based Services Adoption

Yesterday I was down in Santa Clara visiting a company to participate in a usability study for a new UI. On my way down, it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen a close friend for a while that lives in the south bay. Since I was going to be down there, I figured I could just work from a hot spot for the afternoon after the study and then meet her for dinner. Upon completing the study in Santa Clara I started heading north up to Sunnyvale where she lives so that I would be in the neighborhood when she got off work. After arriving to the downtown area that was very quiet I decided I wanted to be some place a little more busy to people watch (while I work of course). I then remembered that I had a gift card for Starbucks from Christmas burning a hole in my pocket. The challenge is that I don’t know my way around this part of the bay area and had no idea where the nearest Starbucks is. Doh! Could it be?! Could I really be in that strange moment where suddenly location based services and mobile marketing collide to rescue me from my dispel? Unfortunately, I do not have a GPS enabled handset nor one that even supports location based services at this time. But, I do have a Blackberry with mobile Google Maps installed so I wasn’t completely lost. So, I opened Google Maps and went to “Find a business” and entered “Starbucks”. Of course it found nine within the surrounding area and one that was very close to where I was ironically. Now, here’s where the challenges to location based services became completely apparent to me.
First let’s pause for a moment to think about the various use case for mobile marketing and location based services. When would you actually use this stuff? Well, I think there are three ways you would access such a service. The first is the most traditional use almost every web surfer employees today. This is the scenario where you are at home or in an office sitting in front of a computer with a full keyboard and large display. In this scenario it’s very easy to interact with something like Yahoo! Local, tell it you want to find all the Starbucks around a certain address and then get directions to and from where you are and where that double, non-fat, light whip, extra hot, latte is awaiting. The second use of such services would be when you’re literally mobile and on foot walking around. In this case, hopefully you have a cool mobile phone that has all these capabilities and can show you where that latte is, where you are and how you can get to it. The third, and most likely widely used scenario, is when you’re in your car. This is where today’s mobile phone options fall down fast. As I was cruising out of the parking spot I was in and heading onto one of the main roads, I struggled to key in all these inputs and view the map. I wanted to be able to just speak to my phone and say, “find me a Starbucks close by and tell me how to get there.” Now, I realize that many of the GPS navigators in cars these days have this capability, but this is a separate system and not connected to your mobile phone.
While everyone, including myself, is very excited about location based services becoming a reality, I think we’ve got a ways to go before we have a device that makes the user experience such that they would get really excited about engaging this technology. But, who knows, it could be right around the corner.

One thought on “Mobile Marketing and Location Based Services Adoption”

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