The Location Based Services Knowledge Gap

Sometimes I get so frustrated I could scream. Of course I don’t I’m a guy and as a songwriter I need my voice. I’ve given this blog the title of Location Based Services but this really applies to a lot of things. Basically what frustrates me is I see so many people missing out on business revenue and profit because they are so busy working in their business that they can’t see amazing opportunities staring them in the face.

I’m presenting at the Mobile Marketing Forum in Auckland next month. My topic is Using location-based mobile apps, you can read more on the link above. As part of the research I’ve been doing for my presentation I’ve been talking to a lot of people. I don’t really go for canned presentations, I want to be learning as well as sharing what I’ve learned.

Mobile Marketing Forum

So fundamentally here’s what I’ve learned, over and over again for more years than I care to admit. When it comes to technology there are people in the industry who take it for granted and people who have no idea what it is all about. The latter being the ones that actually need it.

Over the years I’ve made other people a lot of money buy showing them things about their business that were obvious to me, but needed to be explained in their terms of reference. I’ve done that in many industries over the years because most of my roles have been problem solving roles in one form or another, whether self employed or otherwise.

It all started when I was at primary school and was told that by the time I reached my 40’s my problem would be what to do with my spare time, because technology would do all the work for us and based on Maslow and Herzberg et al, I would be focusing on higher things like the arts. Well here’s some news, I don’t have spare time, hence the recent blog-fade.


This is going to become a series, so if I haven’t bored you already and you are in business, you might find a few little gems here that can help you earn an unfair share of income for your business.

Many bricks and mortar business, locations that people go to aren’t doing so well. I’m talking about bookstores, music stores, furniture stores, cafes and restaurants, tourism activities, the list goes on and covers most industries. This isn’t limited to small businesses which typically turn over every 18 months of so due to cash flow problems, or finding that its just too hard to make a living, I’m also talking about big business like Whitcoulls and Borders.

The biggest problem these companies have isn’t their industry, it isn’t the internet, its that they just swim with the tide, doing what they’ve always done and complain when they get the same result. In the case of Borders, in New Zealand they didn’t even do what Borders did in their heyday in the USA.

There have always been competitors and new kids on the block competing with them on price. That could be a McDonalds starting up next door to a Wendy’s or a local fish and chip shop. Whitcoulls and Borders will complain that the problem is Amazon and other Internet stores. The music shop will blame iTunes.

I blame the education system for not teaching people to have fun thinking outside of the square and I blame the retailers for not looking outside of the square. I blame the accountants for being bean counters and not giving good guidance. I blame the business mentors who in my own personal experience just told me about the business basics that I already knew and that I was doing all the right things. They added no value.

It looks like Borders might cease to exist in the near future after they have thrown out the trash in their big garage sales. It doesn’t have to be like that. I can see lots of things they can do to make those awesome stores thrive. But of course they don’t know me and don’t ask me. Why would they? At the very least because I am a big customer. Do they ask their customers what they want? I have a large library even after donating around 1,000 books to charity a year ago. I wonder who they do ask? If they did ask me I would have a pretty big list of simple things they could do that could not only turn them a profit again, but could see them become a highly popular destination. Anyway, that probably won’t happen and isn’t the topic of this blog.

Many web developers and marketers are becoming like TV stations. Another industry following the radio stations and the record companies like lemmings off a water slide. They get a few goes at it but they keep repeating those goes in the same way. Like reality TV, once someone made money out of a concept, lets repeat it all over the world with lots of different versions, like runway models, fat people, survival, cooking shows. Boring and lack of imagination means less advertising revenue, means lets try to make even cheaper shows.

Web developers are racing each other to make one day sale applications. In New Zealand there are already at least 100 sites. There is room in the market for maybe 10 in my humble opinion. The others will go broke, sorry but unless you have a unique USP, nobody is going to buy your web site, you will just throw money and time at it and once your suppliers have dumped their distressed inventory, they don’t need you any more. They actually will be wanting people back in their stores where they can use them as loss leaders and marketing tools.

When I studied the Advanced Certificate in Retail, attended training at Arthur Anderson in Chicago and lectures in New York at the National Retail Merchants Association conferences, they still said the number one thing in retail is Location, Location, Location. Some things don’t change and that is that people like to shop, this is more so for women, but if it is the right product men will equally enjoy a bit of retail therapy.

Location Based Marketing tools for mobile phones are one way that can get people into your store or destination. One of the applications I will be talking about at the  Mobile Marketing Forum is Foursquare. I will be talking about my experiences when I went to retailers, showed them they were already on Foursquare (which they thought was the local Foodstuffs C-Store), told them they could run promotions on it for free and get new business, complete with analytics.

They were amazed to see that people were using Foursquare to check in to their business, getting badges, becoming Mayor and they had no idea at all what it meant. They have a gift on a platter which is invisible to them. They think it is a joke, a game, they don’t get it and therefore they don’t get the profit that could come with it. The people using Foursquare on their mobiles wonder why there aren’t more deals available, but enjoy the tips and consumer advocacy that helps them make their buying decisions.

For example:


  • There are several hotels in Auckland offering free WiFi for half an hour for people who pop in for a coffee even if they are not guests of the hotel.
  • There are fast food outlets offering free drinks and if you are the Mayor, free burgers as well.
  • I’m told if you go to some Wendy’s stores, the tips say “Always check your order before you go to your car because this store always gets it wrong”.
  • There are tips for stores like Giapo saying, “you have to go here, the gelato is to die for, the best in the world!”

The user of Foursquare (just one of the many location based apps available) gets prompted when they check in, in the locality of these places and gets told that there are deals available. The reality is that currently in New Zealand there are not that many people offering deals, so this is a brilliant opportunity for destination locations to shine, oh and did I tell you its free?

The main benefit currently to users besides winning points and badges, is they can get consumer advocacy and learn from their peers where to go and where not to go. They can meet friends and associates that they know in person or have met through social media applications. If retail businesses took advantage of these solutions and did it well, they could see huge turn around in their business for a small amount of effort, mostly in downtime.

They need to ask some questions, feel free to ask me questions. What would you like in your business?

  • New customers that you can treat special and turn into repeat customers?
  • Customers who want to rave about how great your store and product is?
  • Higher stock turns and less aged stock?
  • Higher table turns?
  • More bums on seats?
  • More people enjoying your attractions?
  • People telling other people to visit your business because its great?
  • To sell your business to whoever will take it and make your staff redundant?
All of these are possible and there for the taking. It’s not rocket science. You don’t stop doing the basics (although some of you have), you move with the times, swim upstream with the salmon, have lots of fun, share your passion and watch the money roll in.
And I will stop pulling my hair out.
What do you reckon? Subscribe to the blog, pass it on, pick up the RSS feed and leave a comment? I like helping people and seeing their dreams fulfilled.

2 thoughts on “The Location Based Services Knowledge Gap

  1. Thanks Kevin, it seems that most destination businesses are so focused on working on the business instead of in the business that they don’t realize what’s going on around, other than that it is perhaps taking business off them. When I spoke to several people (which I continue to do) they tend to say they don’t have time, but I wonder whether a lot of them simply don’t understand. It doesn’t fit their mindset, wherein of course lies a great oportunity:)

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