location as a customer service

Earlier this month, brands, retailers, and technologists descended on the East Bank Club in Chicago for Retail Loco, hosted by the Location Based Marketing Association. The event that featured a combination of panel discussions, case study breakdowns, and interactive “fireside chats” was designed to highlight creative and successful use cases for engagement with location. Listening to the brands discuss their forays into location based services, it was impossible to not be excited by the growth of adoption within the retail sector, but more exciting than the adoption itself was the emergence of a new conversation: location as a customer service.

At Bluedot, we lead the location based services market in accuracy, battery optimization, and scalability but most importantly, we lead the field in our focus on the customer. As we began offering our SDK in U.S. markets earlier this year, we were quick to recognize the evolution of customer behavior around sharing their location. For some time now, customers have become more lax with their location data, but more demanding with their expectations for what they receive for that data. The value of location ultimately lands at the company level but the provisioning of real value to the customer exponentially increases the value of the data for the company. In other words, yes, data that is derived from a mediocre customer experience is still valuable data, but location data that includes a value add for the customer drives dual value to the company or brand.

However, companies who traditionally innovate in the location space have been slow to react to this trend. Several companies at Retail Loco however broke through the well-worn conversations on beacons and user acquisition and championed location as a customer service. They broke down step by step how they’re using location data to not just retarget, resegment, and acquire new users, but how they’re using it to better their customer experience— which in turn produces more loyal, more active and entirely more valuable customers.

United Airlines: Leveraging IoT to Remove the Stress from Traveling

Jacob Guerra, Director of Retail Systems and Customer Portfolio at United Airlines, who sat on the Big Brand panel moderated by LBMA founder Asif Kahn, is clearly a man who has spent a lot of time thinking about location. And how could he not? Location is a hot topic in the airline industry and for good reason— location based engagement has the capability to transform the air travel experience, grow revenue, and streamline operations.

While there are certainly ways that location can directly benefit the bottom line of airline organizations, the primary use of location as Guerra saw it, is in adding value to the airline by adding value to the customer, think things like eliminating bottlenecks for boarding passes, providing advanced and accurate way finding (no more struggling to find your gate), asset tracking (including human assets- (i.e. knowing exactly how far from the gate that person is who made it to the airport just a bit too late), and of course increasing engagement and brand loyalty through loyalty points, offers and advertising.

While noting that 67% of frequent travelers have at least one airline application on their mobile device, Guerra drew a connection between the ability of a mobile and IoT combination to completely transfer operational efficiency and offer increased personalization. Building on comments made by other airline executives in recent months, Guerra postulated that this experience could go beyond a ground experience to the in-air experience, imagine intelligent cabins that have sensors built into seats to monitor tiredness, hydration levels, temperature and automatically adjust to the customer’s preferred settings. Regardless of where the connectivity takes the airline industry, any innovation at United will but the customer’s experience front and center.

Chicago Bulls: Taking the Stress out of Traveling

Dan Moriarty, the digital director for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, didn’t mince words when he said, “It’s completely crazy not to be focused on social and location. It’s where our eyes and our thumbs are.” And he’s right, but more to the point: the intersection of social and location is not just where our eyes and thumbs are… it’s where the customers are. From selling last-minute tickets to nearby fans during home games at United Center to understanding what kinds of promotions appeal to fans in remote areas, location data and social media chatter are the key elements of optimizing fan engagement.

Moriarty dismissed the “creepiness factor” of location targeting quickly by circling the conversation back to customer value. “The next generation has indicated that they are comfortable sharing their [real time] location data as long as there’s some value in the form of entertainment or a discount,” he stated. “Determining which is the right appeal is something we’re constantly refining.”

Connecting with the fan is absolutely crucial to filling seats and driving revenue, making entertainment and sports companies particularly motivated to truly understand and tailor the customer experience. When asked about traditional targeting after the conference by GeoMarketing magazine, Moriarty again spoke decisively noting that “beacons on their own are useless; [brands] need to figure out the app side of things.”

Moriarty, during his conversation with other panelists, drove home the value of the application in really getting into the value add of the customer experience, noting that applications are experiences that customers are choosing to be a part of, and the motivation to make that in app experience as contextual as possible can’t be underestimated.

Overall, the event brought to light the important trends and issues that are driving the location based services market forward, including innovations in IoT and changes being driven by the sharing economy. Important discussions that will affect the industry including how to measure how to attribute location based ads and how to bridge the indoor outdoor gap were discussed and considered during panels lead by VistarMedia and Redbox and by Waze and PlaceIQ. It was an event that shed light on the opportunity that exists for a disruptive technology like Bluedot’s to transform the way retailers use location solutions to evolve the retail space and location as a customer service.

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