Modern mobile devices are connected to so many location-based technologies, including beacons, GPS and Wi-Fi, that the opportunities for brands and businesses to engage their customers, often as they shop, are greater than they have ever been before. However, there are many challenges that brands face if they want to ensure their efforts actually engage potential customers.
Key amongst these is the need for the tech used by such companies to keep up with the ever-changing locations of customers by recognising the differences between beacons and Wi-Fi connectivity in order to deliver a desirable user experience. While making use of demographical data and browsing histories can help in this regard, it is the challenge presented by deciphering the data received from beacons and similar sensors that often causes the most trouble. This issue is compounded by the sheer number of proximity data technologies that are currently available, which number in the 350 region, each having their own data structures, APIs and SDKs.
Many companies try to make use of branded apps to get around this problem, as they allow for the gathering of fresh data to strengthen algorithms while also allowing for more focused marketing. However, no app exists that offers a comprehensive solution when it comes to engaging potential customers based on their location as there are so many variables involved in regards to why users may be in particular locations that the task is practically insurmountable.
However, many brands are embracing the challenges of creating platforms that offer better location-based engagement opportunities, often approaching the design process using a modular mindset that allows for platforms to be scaled and customised as needed. Such tech is finding its way into entertainment venues, shopping centres and even healthcare facilities in a number of ways.
Brands are looking to engage potential customers before, during and after the live events that they attend and they are leveraging a number of useful data sources to do so. By combining demographical data, celebrity and proximity data, entertainment brands are able to inform fans of major events that are coming to venues near to them and can offer useful information, such as guides and maps, which can help them to get from their homes to their seats. The most advanced solutions also take things like the locations of concessions stands into account, while others allow for viewing replays of the performances they are watching right on their handheld devices.
This all allows users to stay connected to the brands at all points during live events, ensuring increased engagement and customer retention, which in turn extends the opportunity to monetise such events far beyond the actual the live experience itself.
Shopping Malls and Retail Centres
Branded apps are also becoming a key part of the service experience offered in retail outlets, with many using location-based tech to provide information to customers about the stores they want to shop at and their locations, such as by using GPS to provide exact directions.
Many apps can extend beyond this to provide users with information about special offers and other events at various stores, often by making use of online browsing history to find data about previous -interactions with stores.
This results in the creation of in-context promotions on mobile devices that are often activated as users walk past various stores. Furthermore, brands can also use such technology to survey users on the go to find out more about how they can improve their end products.
Patient satisfaction and providing quality care are two key concerns in the healthcare industry and location-based tech is coming to the fore again in this regard.
Many now offer apps that provide users with hospital layouts, directories and appointment reminders. Such apps can also be used to provide important notices, particularly to regular visitors, and additional information, such as articles on condition management, diet and other useful information.
Such apps can also be used commercially, especially in regards to tracking staff movements and discerning the most efficient ways to create hospital layouts. The location-based tech behind them can also be used to monitor patient movement, which is useful for improving service delivery in waiting rooms and determining how well patients are recovering from surgery.
The Final Word
As location-based tech improves it is likely that we will see more brands and organisations make use of it. While such tech has obvious commercial uses, the most interesting thing that we are likely to see in the future is non-traditional industries, such as education and healthcare, discover ways to use the tech to provide superior services to users.
The idea that all companies would eventually need to become software companies was first posited in Marc Andreessen’s famous “Why Software is Eating The World” and in the modern market it appears that the idea is more relevant now than it has ever been. However, it is not always practical for companies that operate in non-tech industries to adopt this line of thinking, which is perhaps why it is common for people to think of start-ups when considering the concept of software eating the world.
For traditional companies making the transition, focus and timing are often key.
Timing The Transition
The first step towards the transition into a software company is considering what is currently available and how this can be used to offer something innovative to users.
The evolution of Netflix is interesting in this case. The company started out as essentially an internet-based DVD renter, delivering films to people’s homes after they had rented then online. For some companies this may have seemed like enough as it offered something that traditional video rental companies could not in terms of convenience.
However, the ever-changing technological marketplace resulted in the evolution of the company in-line with faster internet connections, resulting in the movie streaming model that has not only resulted in even more success, but can be considered a primary factor in the dissolution of traditional video rental stores, like Blockbuster, which realised too late that the market had evolved beyond what they were offering.
Netflix essentially looked at what was available to them and considered how they could leverage this into providing an innovative service to users that filled a market need, much like in the case of Uber, which we will examine later on. Perhaps most importantly, the company has continued to innovate, particularly in regards to its fairly recent switch to content creator, as well as provider. None of this would have been possible were it not for the expert-timing that they demonstrated in bringing their software to market, coupled with the failure to recognise a changing market by more traditional suppliers.
Staying Focused on the Business Core
As mentioned, the transition is often most difficult for more traditional companies, as it often requires hiring many new people in all areas of the organisation, in addition to restructuring the economics of the business and establishing new infrastructure for customers and partners to interact with.
Even those that have healthy revenue streams need to understand the need for speed and comprehensive testing in this endeavour, which means they need to focus to make the transition as effectively as possible.
By focusing on the core of your business and its offering it becomes easier to work out how becoming a software company can benefit your end-users. This is seen in the evolution of Uber, which filled a gap in the market for the provision of accessible and affordable transport. The company identified that both riders and drivers essentially have access to a computer in their pockets thanks to the popularity of smartphones and they used this as a platform that would allow their service to bring drivers together with riders, essentially forming the core of their business upon which sub-cores could be utilised.
The fact that the company doesn’t own the cars that people book through the service allows Uber to place its focus squarely on its software and ensuring that it offers users what they need. In doing so, the company has fulfilled a market need through becoming a software company.
Such platforms also create boosts within their wider ecosystems because they allow for innovation, which companies like Uber can develop further from. For example, the use of the payments stack from Braintree within their core service allows Uber to benefit from the innovations of Braintree, in addition to any new innovations they themselves bring to markets. The ability to swap services within a software and whether a new service introduced will provide an experience improvement for customers must also be considered.
In essence, by focusing on your core in regards to software it becomes easier to focus on customers and their needs, allowing for greater utilisation of current and emerging technology.
The Final Word
The question now is how will traditional companies go about making the transition? The examples of Netflix and Uber show how important it is to stay aware of the developing technology around your business and how to leverage this to the company’s advantage. This is exceptionally difficult and many companies fail to accomplish this task, but it is one that is becoming increasingly important in a progressively more software-driven world.