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Geo-tagging and Location are Unique Mobile Marketing Capabilities

The problem with any new technology is that it always is looked at through the lens of the past. That’s why cars were called “horseless carriages,” or why refrigerators were once called “iceboxes.”

So among the biggest adjustments marketers will have to make, as geo-tagging and location capabilities develop, is to see the new features as “new,” and not fall back on seeing them as a more efficient way to do things we already do.

Though there will be a tendency to want to push coupons to consumers strolling the aisles of a local grocery store, and though there is nothing wrong with that, the more likely source of value will be the richer information environment. Knowing where “I am” has value. Knowing where other people are, right now, has additional value.

Those of you who have been at large trade shows immediately will sense the potential. You are meeting people you’ve never seen before, at locations that might have to be adjusted, and at least one of you is running late.

More often, people might simply want to know what is around them. What tourist has no accidentally walked by an attraction they would have stopped to explore, had they known it was in front of them? What tourist has not wondered what something is, as they passed by?

Google has launched “What’s Nearby,” a location-based search that’s part of Google Maps on Android and will soon be more widely available. The service allows consumers to simply access a list of the ten closest places of interest near their physical location via their mobiles.

Google Latitude allows users to share their locations with friends and view their friends activities on a map; Facebook has rewritten its privacy policy, foreshadowing its entrance into location-based services; and Twitter has rolled out its Geotagging API, which will allow popular Twitter apps like Tweetie and Tweetdeck to display the location from where a tweet was posted.

Foursquare and Gowalla provide game-like location-based services, such as the fact that a person is “checking in” at a bar or restaurant. How many of you have gotten a text message “are you here yet”?

“Foursquare for Business” enables retailers to provide offers to their users and track the success of location-based campaigns.

Yelp provides an application called “Monocle,” available for the iPhone, which allows users to look through the phone’s camera to see an overlay of local business information for wherever they may be standing. From there it is easy to see why retailers might want to offer enriched information.

The Starbucks “myStarbucks” iPhone application allows a person to broadcast which Starbucks location he or she is at, using Facebook or Twitter. A store locator allows users to choose a location based on Wi-Fi availability, hot food items and more.

So perhaps, at some point, when the volume of searches is large enough, Starbucks will be able to dynamically create price promotions at locations that currently are not busy. Maybe a user gets an alert, while dwelling on a particular location, that the wait is more than five minutes, but that a location around the corner has no wait.

Yowza for the iPhone allows users to opt in to having promotional offers and coupons pushed to them based on their immediate location. REI, Crate & Barrel, Guitar Center and CB2 are customers.

Yipit looks for sales, restaurant deals, newspapers and other offers for users who have opted in to get such information.

SimpleGeo offers hosted services like a context engine that allows developers to access geo-tagged content fromTwitter, Flickr and Brightkite.

It won’t be much longer until digital experiences start reacting to users based on their coordinates.

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