LBS and Retail: Big Brands vs. Small Merchants

Share this:

Big brands and small businesses see value in location-based technology differently — but both are competing for the same mobile consumer. That was a key takeaway from a panel about location-based services on day two of the Street Fight Summit, moderated by Doug Stephens, president of Retail Prophet. Panelists included Placecast CEO Alistair Goodman; Retailigence CEO Jeremy Geiger; and Jonathan Bellinger, digital strategy director at JWT New York.

Mobile phones have become part of the purchase funnel, making the consumer on the go very valuable. Goodman said Placecast is seeing as many as 65 percent of consumers regularly make purchases on their location-based mobile marketing platform. “Location and time are far more predictive of intent than any other past behavior,” he said.

A person doing a product search on their mobile phone could potentially be captured by a local merchant or a big brand. “We’re fast approaching a time where you’re going to be able to bid on a user on a street corner at a particular point in time in real time,” Goodman said. He predicts this is coming in a matter of months.

But big brands and small businesses see LBS differently. Small companies care more about the conversion metrics and are likely to offer deals and coupons leading to direct purchase. Bigger companies are more focused on large-scale branding, noted Bellinger.

Deals might have taken off as a common way companies are using LBS, but panelists noted it’s time for more innovation. Coupons and deals are one hook, but can’t be the only driver, Bellinger said.

Geiger agreed that retailers need to go beyond deals in order to make LBS worthwhile. For example, Retailigence powers a service that tells consumers where to find products. Geiger said that before they want a deal, users want to know if the product is available to try on before they buy them.

Could offering more utilities make more consumers interested in checking in and using location technology? Interestingly, Bellinger noted that companies are way more on the bandwagon with LBS than consumers.

But companies are largely treating it as experimental and not investing much in it yet, he said. He predicts it will take one innovator with a killer app in order to push consumer adoption over the edge, particularly among demographics like women, where adoption is especially low. And it will likely come from a big brand, rather than a small company offering coupons. “A big step forward will be a company that has nothing left to lose in the space,” he said.