Guest post by John Andrews, Founder/CEO Collective Bias. Originally posted at CollectiveBias blog

Almost four years ago, I was attending SXSW with the Walmart Elevenmoms group.  I was learning about social media from the people that were doing it by immersing myself in the culture.  Having spent the previous 14 years of my life as a brand and retail marketer, this was all new to me and I believed I was looking at the future of marketing.  Of all the new platforms and technology I saw, none had an impact on me as profound as Location Based Services (LBS).

Foursquare, Gowalla and Whrrl were all the buzz at the event.  At the “All Hat, No Cattle” party, I was introduced to John Kim, one of the leaders of Whrrl and spent some time understanding how the platform worked.  It occurred to me that the implications for retailers and brands were profound.  It seemed logical that Shopper Marketing, the branch of marketing that focuses on consumers along the path to purchase, would be well suited to integrate LBS to provide insights, ideas and inspiration for shoppers.

A few months later, Amy Callahan and I started Collective Bias with an investment from Ken Barnett, CEO of shopper marketing firm Mars Advertising, and the first technology partnership we built was with Whrrl.  We believe that LBS will be a critical part of how social comes alive for shoppers both inside and outside the retail environment. We watched with interest as the category developed and new marketing models began to develop.  Foursquare became the category leader, Whrrl was purchased by Groupon and Gowalla was just purchased by Facebook (after its own efforts with Facebook places met with disappointing results).  More recently, Kevin Rose of Digg launched Oink Builder, a great LBS app that highlights local discovery in food and culture.

As with any new technology, the key to understanding is usage.  For example, I use Foursquare daily to understand what is possible with the platform but more importantly, how would I use it as a consumer.  There is a ton of great new shiny technology, but if it ultimately does not provide utility, consumers won’t use it.  I would argue that QR codes have the potential to fall into this category unless they can offer more than a simple connection to a website or other content.  Google is rapidly developing technology that mimics its mapping service and works inside a retail environment that will turn the entire store into a QR code.

LBS has multiple benefits in the Shopper Marketing arena including Path to Purchase insights, content generation and syndication.  I don’t know of another technology that can provide real time shopper insights the way location services can.  By aggregating location information from check-ins marketers not only get demographic information but much more valuable behavioral input as well.  As passive check-in like Foursquare Radar begins to become more mainstream, consumer engagement nearer to the point of purchase will evolve in new and different ways.  Consumers will rapidly increase their usage as they discover beneficial outcomes.

So… Is LBS Ready for Prime Time?  Relevance for Consumers Lies in Delivering Value.


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