The location-based nose on your face

Look! Can’t you see it? It’s as plain as the nose on your face.
No? OK. Try this angle. Still no?
While many of my techie friends are going completely bat guano nutso about some current forms of location-based marketing, I remain skeptical for its near future. Give it five years or so, and maybe we’ll be there. Now, eh, not so much.
The current adoption rates are dismal at best, according to Forrester.
But, I see a potential inroad that’s just so simple. I have my sisters of Ohio State University Pi Beta Phi to thank for it.
While many of my sisters have the newest smartphones available, they don’t really use them for more than taking photos and videos and maybe playing games. Sometimes texting and calling, too.
And Twitter mobile app for these gals, let alone Gowalla or Foursquare? Um, no.
They are not so good with the Facebook mobile app either, frankly. So, that rules out Facebook’s places.
QR codes? Oh boy. I don’t think I could find a one that even knows what those are. Right now a lot of companies are using QR codes for a leap from the real world to digital information that could potentially check a customer in.
The codes are more easily read by a smartphone than a barcode because a barcode’s lines are too smooshed together for a phone to easily and accurately nab the information.
But, there’s that whole thing of checking in again. Not gonna happen for the bulk of people.
So, I thought, what about using an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip of some sort? After opting in, you walk into the store and it checks you in, pushing the information to Facebook and Twitter. Easy-peasy no smartphone even needed.
Pretty cost prohibitive given the outlay, according to Columbus entrepreneurial luminary T.W. Starr. Starr, one of the managing partners of the SBB, graciously agreed to indulge me in a discussion about location-based marketing. He along with my fellow TweetMyTime managing partners Bryan Huber and Matt Hornsby had lunch with me recently and I made them talk in exchange for food.
TweetMyTime uses RFID chips issued to runners to track their progress in realtime and hands-free. It pushes the information gathered from RFID readers along the race to social media channels.
It seems Starr looked into RFID as well. The chips themselves are relatively inexpensive at about 90 cents a pop, Starr said. His network of small businesses really can’t afford the roughly $1,000 RFID readers that would need to be installed, though. That and they can be intrusive and can’t be mounted on a ceiling and still read well, he said.
I foresee a day when smartphones will have these incorporated into them and the reader cost will go waaaay down. That day is not today.
Another dead end.
You know what all my sisters have? You know what YOU have? A rewards fob. Look at your key ring. If you’re like me, you have enough on your keychain that it’s really more of a “fobchain.”
It’s not just your local grocery store that has these anymore. It’s big retail chains that use these to track your purchases and push information to you.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
In addition to getting discounts with your rewards card, retailers could up the ante further and offer even more if people allow Twitter and Facebook to check them in each time they run the card.
Win-win for everybody. My Pi Phi buddies get a bigger discount and can share their shopping passion with their friends. The retailer gets a staunch brand advocate.
Hornsby was sitting around our offices one day and saw a picture of a marathon runner texting or Tweeting on his phone. “That’s crazy,” he said. And, the idea of TweetMyTime was born.
Similar vein here. I thought, wait, all the big retailers must be pushing to social media through reward cards. But, no. Kind of like TweetMyTime. It’s one of those, “Oh, of course” dealies.
Starr said right now the SBB rewards cards are used by his network of small businesses on a mostly sight-based system. In other words, you show your SBB card and the business offers a discount. Barcode readers and the programs to compile the information into a usable format are still somewhat out of reach cost-wise for the majority of small businesses in the SBB network.
But it’s not for a big company. Is there a big retail chain doing this? Let me know if you find one, because I sure couldn’t.
Why not? Is there something I’m not seeing?
UPDATE: Some recently-released studies are backing up my observations about this particular market. I agree with a lot of the results, but, I’m skeptical about a 30 percent mobile use:
UPDATE: Apple announced a near field communication chip (a type of RFID) will likely be incorporated into future phones:



4 responses to “The location-based nose on your face

  1. Hmmmm. Fob for thought. Why stop with mobile devices? I’m waiting for the day when a chip is inserted into my index finger so all I have to carry is a mobile phone. Leave the purse behind as I go out into a world where I press my print on a screen to make purchases, board a subway, go to the movies, start my car, etc. xoM

    • Maddie,
      Your dry sense of humor brings to light a very good point. I, too, am concerned with privacy issues.
      I think we could allay many fears and encourage further interaction with people by posting the Facebook or Twitter blurb on a delayed basis.
      For example, “I just shopped at LightbulbsRUs” would spark more further conversation than “I’m at LightbulbsRUs.”
      A response to the delayed one may be, “Oh! I love them. What did you buy?” for a response.
      Plus, I practically passed out when I got my ears pierced. I don’t think I’d fare well getting a chip put in!

  2. 4sq I *think*was predicated on a basic coupon. Check in and you get the prize, much like your apt analogy to the supermarket card we carry around. But, why do you think these applications will be more popular in time, ca five years?

    • Hi Dave,
      Foursquare and Gowalla may have started out of the gate as coupon services, but they ended up largely being used as more of a game-type and location-tweeting application. You check-in and you eventually get the “Mayorship.” They rolled out some coupon use but not much really. Not sure If either of those two will eventually win out over Facebook’s Places. That’s a 500-pound gorilla that’s now additionally offering discounts. Fousquare’s new “Trophy” feature that showcases your earned badges isn’t much of a response, frankly. I think Places will eventually rise with the tide of more and more smartphone adoption and adoption of the additional features a smartphone offers.
      My idea of using the fobs would be more immediately adopted by the bulk of the household purchasing decision maker, because they already familiar with the purpose. I don’t think most would sign up for Twitter postings but would opt for Facebook since they are already on there.

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