Location based services give similar insights to website analytics. If someone comes to a site, you know they are visiting, if they've been before, how long they stay and what they view.
But you don't know anything about them as an individual. However, if they create an account, you instantly get a more rounded picture of them.
Using WiFi in physical venues is the same. If a device enters, it's picked up, we know if it has been before because of its unique MAC address, but we know nothing about the person to whom it is registered. If the user joins the WiFi and opts-in, then suddenly much more information lights up.
When a user opts-in, the full potential of LBS is brought to life – and both the vendor and consumer can experience another level of benefit.
Opting-in enables vendors to build a detailed picture of their customer, including their name, age, gender, likes and interests. They gain opportunities to market to customers directly through features such as Facebook demographic reporting, zoning reporting and vouchering.
This is something that the retail industry is embracing. Traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers are getting smarter about interacting with their customers while they are in-store. They have identified this as a means to leading customers back to the High Street, enabling more effective competition with online retailers.
Geo-fencing, the process of drawing invisible lines around particular sales areas or locations, helps retailers track the customer’s journey around the store and adjust product displays accordingly. In turn, this allows business management to gauge which products the customer is receptive to buying, as their dwell time increases in store. At any time during this journey, the business can send product information or offers to customers on their mobile devices to stimulate sales.
From a customer’s perspective, location based tracking means that they can access offers delivered direct to their device, tailored to their specific location. These real-time promotions have immediate relevance and value.
This is coming into play in a variety of sectors. In restaurants and cafés, for instance, customers can receive personalised offers at the right time and place to be of use. Who wouldn’t like to receive a discount coupon just as they are passing their favourite coffee shop on the way to work?
Other examples of timely and helpful location based interactions include alerts to nearby flash sales, or pub happy hours. Rather than searching online for voucher codes, you can receive offers precisely when and where they are needed.
Despite its benefits to vendors and consumers, the idea of location-based tracking awakens scepticism in some. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that location based services are not new and have been positively contributing to our lives for years.
Examples include proximity based social networking; GPS systems in cars; tracking devices to monitor the whereabouts of violent offenders; drones to locate missing people; and apps for travellers to find amenities in unfamiliar towns.
For anyone concerned about privacy, it should be reassuring to know that the customer reserves the right to opt-in to location based tracking via Wi-Fi. If you do not opt-in, your personal data cannot be accessed.
Provided that individuals stay in control, and businesses handle data responsibly, location based tracking offers positives for both businesses and consumers.
Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of Purple WiFi