Hotpot was released yesterday, a new location based application from Google. There are quite a few location based application available now, including Foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla, etc. Google has apparently had the need to improve their Google Places product, and get a little more “socially” involved.
The question is – what is this for? Why would anyone use location based application, and for what purpose? This is how this works, from different perspectives.
We all have an opinion, about just about everything. Some of us like to voice their opinions more then others, which the web 2.0 tools available now enabling it to a great extent. Only a few years ago, if I had an experience, good or bad, I would have likely to have shared it with the people close to me – physically around me, or mentioning the experience on the phone. This was likely to take place in a one-on-one (or even one-to-few) situation. For example, if I went to the local florist, to get a nice bunch of flowers for my wife. At the store, I was greeted with a fresh scent of flowers, clean floor, smiley and attentive staff, I would feel pleased with my shopping experience. This is pretty much what I would expect. I’m likely to come back to the shop, next time I need a bunch of flowers.
If, on top of that experience, I was offered a cold glass of water, a magazine to read while I wait, and free wrapping, this would be the WOW factor, which will encourage me to tell my close circle about my exceptional experience.
However, if I had a really bad experience in that situation, I would feel disgruntled, and “bag” that shop to anyone who would listen, right?
We all have the tendency to talk about our experiences. Combining this tendency with a mobile phone, allows us to share instantly with someone. Having a mobile application, allows us to share with many people, close to us, or even not so close..
Foursquare and Gowalla, are two great games, from a user’s perspective, which allows us to tell our friends where we are and what we’re doing. By “checking in” to different places, real or made up, we collect mayorships badges, and rewards. From a business perspective, the business owner can encourage these applications users to visit their place of business more often, by offering specials to the “Mayor”, or even to people who check in frequently (I recently covered an initiative by Portuguese chicken franchise group- Oporto on their use of Foursquare specials).
As a business owner, you’d need to understand this:
Before people can “Check in” a location, there is a list of nearby places where others have checked in. If your place of business is mentioned on that list, it will give you some free exposure, wouldn’t it? All you need to do to get on that list, is just to register (free) on this directory, by “adding a venue”. If you a retail business, you can offer specials to the most frequent visitors, and so on, but this is the same principal of a customer loyalty program, which I’m sure you already have in your business, Don’t you?
From the marketers’ perspective, other than using these tools for pushing advertising, which is so Old Skool, we learn learn a lot about the demographics of the users:
We know that they
- …have a smart phone.
- …early adopters of technology
- …have a tendency to share, and we can assume they have a bigger-than-average circle of influence,
and so forth
As a marketer, these tools are also great for brand Management, and keeping the finger on the pulse – understanding what make our customers tick, what they are pleased about, or unsatisfied with. This information allows us to suggest improvements in products, delivery, and staff training and hiring practices.
Google Hotpot and Facebook Places aren’t games, but a way to share information not only with random people who happen to be in the area, but also with our existing network of friends. Foursquare is a standalone social network, as oppose to Facebook Places and Google Hotpot which is an additional service utilising your existing network.
Google Hotpot gives the ability to make a comment about a place of business or experience in two ways – rate then (with 1-5 star system) and then add a comment.
The comments on these applications, although they can be linked to Twitter, can be longer than 140 characters, to people can (if they feel the need) really write a review on the place. This review will be better regarded by our friends, more than a Press release, or journalistic review, because it comes from our friends, who we trust!
What’s the point of all of this? Who would benefit from location based apps? The simple answer is: All of us! The more we comment good things on good businesses, the more they thrive. The more negative comments other businesses will get, it will force them to lift their game, or vanish. It is as simple as that. Word of mouth is, and always has been the best way to generate business, and sustain a business. Location based apps are a simple enabler for local word of mouth, for better or worse.