Monday, June 20, 2011

Mobile Monday - Pros and Cons of LBS Auto Check In

On the last week's Beancast Marketing Podcast which I highly recommend you subscribe to and listen to every Monday there was a great discussion about location based services (LBS) and checking in as a barrier to stores communicating with people who are inside or nearby. My friend Aaron Strout who was a panelist and writing LBS for Dummies discussed why he felt the 'Passive Check In' is the future which is when we don't check in, the system knows we are there and checks us in. He gives a really good example of WiFi and how we set up our devices to access WiFi just by walking into our home or work. BUT this is Opt In up front and the passive after set up.

Friday night I went to the minor league Class A baseball game where 4500 tickets were sold (It was sold out). The game was at 7pm. At 6:49pm I parked and checked in on both Foursquare and Gowalla. The total check ins combined was 11 (including my two). Based on the numbers of Smart Phone penetration at least 500 people had smart phones there taking into account many kids were there. Obviously almost everyone (Divide 10/500 see simple Math. Then Divide 10 by 4500!) found zero value in checking in even for fun like I did.

I have very strong feelings Pro and Con and since Sky Pulse Media's mission is to help Brands break through clutter I see this eventually being like email in one of two ways. If we are allowed to Opt In we will slowly accumulate so many that they all become white noise. If  the system exposes us to all stores it is even worse. Imagine driving down a service road and every business contacting your phone.

I put this in a letter to him and thought it would be great for a Mobile Monday Blogpost:


1] Obviously no need to check in. Won't forget to check in. (but satellite is still gameable)

2] Should be consumer based not network based. Meaning I don't want a network seeing where I am and allowing any stores to contact me that I did not opt in for. But if there is a great interface allowing me to opt in and control I am all for it.

3] System should be covert. Meaning an App or something on my phone I can access on my own to view the contact from the stores I want to see specials or anything. I don't want clutter.

4] If this can be connected with a history of my purchases through an identifier for customized deals that would be huge.

5] If this can be connected with a loyalty program this could be huge.


1] Satellite Based: my opinion this all fails because of the issues with being indoors. But this really applies just to Malls. THOUGH if I am not inside I could get checked in falsely to a store. I prefer network based vs satellite.

2] Any alerts that buzz or make a noise I do not want. Flashing light is ok. Shopkick I disabled because it buzzed me. I can see a mild manner Dad going bonkers from his phone buzzing and going postal and blowing up his local Hallmark Store.

3] Without connection to unique store purchasing behavior by me it becomes a drone no different from Sunday circulars. Why have this if you aren't custom tailoring this to me.

4] The more stores I sign up for the more this becomes clutter. How do brands stand out. For example Macy's: wouldn't Macy's and every brand they sell want to know I am in the store? If I go to the Mall and only want Macy's deals and 30 stores are on the list and I have to go access that list is this much different than going to Macy's and checking in?        

5] Is this any different than email except for mobile? I have used email as an example since I switched to a new gmail account 18 months ago and signed up for opt in contact from sites and brands and now I mass delete 99% of it every time I log in. I see this having similar potential. Even if I sign up for one at a time. I could be in REI and say hey I love REI I will sign up. etc etc. But once I get to say 20 or 40 stores....

6] As with email if I already get sales fliers and other advertising via email, TV and print if it is the same stuff the value is reduced so brands have to be canny. But if they all are canny does that then dilute everything. Could this become a huge margin reducer for many businesses if done wrong. 

7] Can this network be hijacked in anyway stealing information? Security is important.

8] What if there are many competing networks? I already have some competers as Apps like ShopKick. Obviously it will be similar to FourSquare and Gowalla. There will not be just one network or technology. People will have choice and Brands must then set this up across all options.

9] What if it exposes me to a broader network? It should not be tied in with anything Social ever. If a message pops up asking me if I want to share that is fine. But as we all now don't trust Apple for mapping IPhone users movements, do we want just anyone seeing where we are at all times without our consent?

I think as long as people find value it can work. I stopped using Foursquare much because I never see deals where I check in. Gowalla I use a bit more because no one who is not a friend is in my network.

But it needs to be 100% Opt In for each store, it must be respectful, it must bring me value, and it must be different than other forms of contact I am already getting from the Brands I love. Otherwise I do not want passive check in.

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