Push, pull, poke… the new approach to location, mobile, and the delighted consumer

Location has long been the Holy Grail in most marketers’ minds. Looking back to the days of ValPak coupons, newspaper inserts, hyper-local TV ads, and even the people you see spinning signs in front of furniture and fast food stores on the corners, you’ve seen how the approach has worked but the execution has been poor. Often times the engagement tactic does not work or does not appeal to the consumer in a way that is contextually right for them. That was the approach we originally saw with mobile, apps and location. We aimed not to replicate it but instead chart the course in a whole new way. We are thinking about location aware combined with contextual relevance as opposed to the “YOU ARE HERE”.

The notion of “geo-fencing” (wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geo-fence), although early and not generally welcomed by the majority of consumers, was akin to this old approach of just throwing stuff at you when you were in reach. You might as well have taken a look at your store from above, drawn a circle around it and then placed someone with a coupon, sign, ad, etc at every possible point of intersection. Sure the block-and-tackle approach worked early-on for some pioneers in the space, but with mobile being such a personal and intent driven ecosystem, we saw the interactions shrink and the feedback become soured. The last thing we wanted as a mobile solutions software provider would be to go out early and not take the time to think through a solution that would empower our customers and developers to align for success.

On my afternoon walk with a co-worker yesterday I explained it as we navigated the streets on our way to caffeine. This is not simple geo-fencing. In that vein I would have circled a zip code or city block and painted in what I wanted the imposed action to be. For example, you have my coffee app and I want to sell you iced coffee. Instead, using advanced data points gives us deeper more desirable alerts to the actual app user and supports the goals of the brand.

Using defined locations and past behaviors (store has three locations in a zip code, user typically enters X store) and using the weather (it’s 92 degrees) then send them an opportunity to get an iced coffee at the most directionally relevant store. It is as much about you as it is about the weather. Each is variable and each drives an appropriate action. He got it, but I also used lots of arm gestures, frantic pointing, and no white board… it was close.

So we spent the past six months having conversations with customers, app developers, consumers, and technology partners getting down to the basics of what was needed and what would allow people to use geo location with context and purpose in a way that provided value. Our goal is to always do business with the best, so of course we turned to our friends at SimpleGeo. After some face-to-face ideation on both sides, and finally a shared vision we are now ready to provide a set of building blocks that will allow both Urban Airship and SimpleGeo customers alike to harness the awesome strengths of both systems combined.

What you will get:

•    Access to all the data in SimpleGeo Context on an app by app basis (zip code, county, city, country, weather, state and federal political data).

•    Enhanced Tag system by automatically tagging devices at the platform level with location information provided by SimpleGeo Context.

•    Added Boolean Tag functionality which lets you address you audience with complex AND, OR, and wildcard functionality.

•    Enhanced Urban Airship Reports over time to expose views of your audience by location when adding geographic context to our system.

Just like the invention of Oreos and Milk, Butter and Popcorn, or my favorite, Gin and Tonic, we are combining the goodness of both to make something that becomes better. What really has me excited is that this solution allows our teams to focus on roadmaps and massive system growth, but folds in the brains of two amazing teams who spend each day thinking and interacting with people actually using each system. Really could you ask for more than that?

You should note we are not going to release the end-all be-all solution. Instead our teams have decided to approach it as a three-phased project that will add complexity to the products as we believe the market is maturing. On top of that, having two companies and product roadmaps, we have found that some of our coming releases can be leveraged against each other as well as the behaviors we’ve seen from Urban Airship’s 200 million app installs. Yes, some monstrous Big Data brewing for mobile devices, engagement, context and now location.

I’m not sure about you, but as someone whose phone is never farther than arm’s reach, the ability to have notifications that provide greater functionality to me, based on what I want and my relationship with a brand/app is huge. I am looking forward to the my next Foodspotting alert that drives me into not just the locally raised, ergonomically fed, hand-washed, organic chicken taco cart… but the one that I am most likely to be walking towards, that my friends have rated that you know I will like. Or the happy hour alert I get based on weather data, offering me a cooling Penicillin at Teardrop lounge or a buttery Basil Hayden (neat) when the weather cools. Ah geo, context, and push are already sounding as tasty as an Oreo and Milk mashup.