Right Time, Right Place
One of the first lessons any marketer learns is the importance of the four ‘P’s - namely price, promotion, place and product. In the world of mobile marketing, place arguably transcends the other three headings as the very thing that defines the mobile medium. Yet whilst much has been discussed of the potential of location-based advertising, there have, to date, been few well-documented examples of successful campaigns, and the technology has been considered immature.
Now, however, the market is on the verge of exploding. Not only has the technology come of age, but it is also clear that the potential for location-based marketing goes well beyond pure advertising, and offers mobile operators in particular, the opportunity to earn substantial new revenue streams, and help them fend off the offensive from the internet giants, mobile device manufacturers and content owners for the hearts and minds of the mobile user.
The recent launch of Weve (previously Project Oscar) is a classic example of this phenomenon in action. The UK mobile operators, Everything Everywhere, O2 and Vodafone, are collaborating to offer marketers a single entity that offers location-based advertising and mobile payment services to all their opt-in subscribers.
It’s the first initiative of its kind in Europe, and possibly the world, but one whose success will be closely watched by the mobile industry, as an example of mobile operators working collectively to simultaneously offer a valuable service to brand owners and consumers, and to monetise their assets in an intelligent way.
A ubiquitous approach
Let’s first look at the example of location-based advertising. What is of paramount importance is the accuracy of the technology, and its ability to target users within a particular geography, ensuring that the user receives the marketing communications when they are in a particular location, rendering the value of the communications highly relevant for both consumer and advertiser.
Another vital element is that it has to be simple and easy for the opt-in subscriber to receive relevant offers, without themselves having to take any action. The technology should be able to reach not just a subset of the population owning a smart device for example, but the whole mobile device subscriber base. It should also be able to accurately identify all users within a specific geographical area in real time. Only if all of these elements are present will the marketer be able to realise the true contextual advantage of place in the marketing mix.
Working your assets
Mobile operators are in a unique position to capitalise on the fact that they have a unique ability to capture the users’ key network events, like turning their phone or tablet on or off, moving between different cells, or changing their device altogether. However, with this ‘trusted partner’ status comes a responsibility not to abuse this privilege, hence the importance of gaining the consumer’s opt-in permission for location-based advertising as well as finding out the regularity and subject areas around which they are interested in receiving promotions.
Our own experience in working closely with one of the leading French mobile operators, SFR, in a location-based advertising campaign amongst 3m opt-in subscribers, has shown us that if this trust isn’t abused, then all parties benefit from the relationship: the operator in gaining a new revenue stream from commercialising its assets, the advertiser in benefiting from a marketing technique that has proven itself to be at least four times more effective than normal direct marketing alternatives, and the consumer in benefiting from receiving relevant and timely promotional messages, offering them special discounts or offers at the time when they are most likely to be interested in them.
Geolocation, a revolution in the making...
However, the scope and influence of location-based technology extends beyond mobile advertising. One of our operator customers has also found additional innovative ways of using the technology to gain valuable customer knowledge, whilst still respecting the subscriber’s need for anonymity. By monitoring the mobile phone events across all users, it is possible to glean highly-valuable marketing intelligence about the customer’s behaviour.
On a marketing level, this anonymous information has, for example, been used by a hypermarket to find out where its customers travelled from to visit their shop, simply by mapping the location of the phones between 2 and 3 in the morning, when the users were asleep in bed. Other actual examples include the case of a tourist operator that was able to identify the provenance of visitors to a certain tourist area, and used a heat map of visitors travelling to the region gleaned from their mobile phones, to see that the optimal point to offer promotions lay in motorway petrol stations.
Other marketing uses for geo-locational information include the ability to gain valuable customer or population insight and knowledge; either for commercial or public services, or for safety. SFR used geo-locational services to anonymously track visitors to the French sporting arena, the Stade de France. The movement of football supporters was plotted on a heat map over the course of several hours after they left the ground to help the French public transportation agency identify where new shuttles and additional train lines needed to be laid on to cope with the wave of spectators leaving the games.
What’s absolutely clear is that location-based services offer massive potential for new services; both commercial and non-commercial, for the public, brand owners and government organisations. Today, we are only witnessing the beginning of a new emerging technology that has immense potential for use in a huge range of situations, from mHealth, to public communications in disaster situations, to M2M (machine-to-machine) transactions for the enterprise. The mobile operator sits at the heart of this new eco-system and, provided they respect the privacy of the individual and use the knowledge both wisely and ethically, operators hold the key to unlocking a veritable treasure trove of new services, giving them vital new revenue streams, while at the same time offering the subscriber access to exciting new benefits.
Yann Chevalier is CEO of Intersec