SXSW 2014: Mobile Saturday – Location-Based Marketing

Last week I participated in the Mobile Saturday event at SXSW, which Urban Airship has been putting on for the past few years. I lead a panel discussion titled “Location-Based Marketing: Beyond Advertising,” where we explored a number of interesting topics.

As would be expected, the mobile sessions were some of the most crowded sessions of the week (other than the parties and really big-name speakers). More and more marketers are clearly looking to think a bit differently about mobile and how to better push their brands and serve their audiences.

The speed at which mobile is evolving as well as consumer expectations rising has lead to a number of interesting opportunities for brands and marketers. But more and more this doesn’t mean advertising via mobile but rather providing value to consumers to enhance an experience around a brand, product, or location.

There were a number of interesting things discussed through the session that I wanted to share:

  • Relevancy: The power of location-based marketing is all about relevancy. Adding location to what we know about an individual allows for smart brands to engage with their audience in more relevant and authentic ways.
  • What Is Holding Location-Based Marketing Back?: The general feeling was that consumers are willing to change faster than the brands. And technology is no longer holding progress back; the reason more brands are not leveraging is based on a strong strategy, understanding of the power, and the people that can put it to work.
  • Must Think Beyond Advertising: There is a natural tendency to think of it as an extension of today’s advertising. But we need to try not to think about location as an ad unit or impression; think in terms of integrated experiences. 
  • Technology: There were a number of conversations about all of the different technologies including iBeacons, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and other unique methods that can help understand where people are within a given location. 
  • Privacy: Everyone on the panel was sensitive to privacy and talked about the importance of transparency of privacy policies and letting consumers easily control what they share and do not share. But ultimately the view of privacy is that it comes down to trust and relevancy for consumers. If there is value to consumers and they trust the brand, they are going to be more likely to be comfortable sharing.

I thought that @McAtoms summarized the session well in saying the following on Twitter:

Common theme of this session: Respect users. Their time, preferences and trust. Be relevant to them. #SXSW #mobilesat

In many ways relevancy is the Holy Grail for marketers. If we can better understand what is relevant to our audiences, we can better tailor messages and experiences to them through customization and personalization. But trust and value are a key part in delivering that relevant information.

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