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Mobile experiences today not taking advantage of location, says Forrester exec

NEW YORK ? A Forrester Research executive at Forrester?s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East said that location is still a relatively untapped opportunity in mobile, but has great potential for marketers to better understand their customers.

The ?Build Engaging Experiences with Location Data? session presented a look at how some marketers are embracing mobile and location analytics for better insight into how their customers are transitioning between online and in-store. Additionally, the Forrester executive gave attendees a few tips on how to implement location into their own initiatives.

?Today location has really been confined to outdoors,? said Tony Costa, senior analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA.

?You?re only going to use it in locations where you get GPS signal, but the fact is that people spend 87-90 percent of their time indoors where GPS signals can?t be read, and that is a key problem,? he said.

?The vast majority of our activity cannot take advantage of this.?

Location, location, location
More than half of smartphone owners use their devices to engage with maps or search, according to data that Mr. Costa presented.

However, the potential for location goes beyond simple mapping and searching and includes elevating the indoors experience for consumers.

Location can be used to both personalize service and augment the experience.

Take analytics, for example.

According to Mr. Costa, retailers are using location-based analytics to capture consumer data on traffic, the amount of time spent inside a store, visit frequency and where specifically consumers are in a particular store.

All of this information is being used to create patterns and enhance customer models.

The point here is that retailers are already tracking all of this data online, but most retailers never accomplish the same level of data collection in the real world.

Location data is being applied to four areas inside a company, per Mr. Costa.

The first is through merchandising and being able to accomplish real-time A/B testing with floor sets.

Secondly, retailers are optimizing staffing levels based on the data. For example, marketers can determine in which parts of stores consumers are spending most of their time so that employees can better assist shoppers.

One big-box retailer for instance found that 70 percent of the company?s traffic was concentrated in 30 percent of the store by using location data. Seventy percent of the store space was basically wasted.

For marketing, retailers are measuring the offer to sale ratio, to measure which consumers saw an offer, and who brought it into a store and later redeemed it.

Location data is also affecting retailer?s overall strategy. For example, one company found that by opening up outlet stores, the company was exposing themselves to more consumers and was not cannibalizing their existent stores, which was one of the company's initial concerns.

?The real thing that location is enabling people to do is bring the power of Web analytics to the real world,? Mr. Costa said.

?You can kind of think about this in terms of a cookie and anything that you can do online with a cookie, you can do with location in the physical environment,? he said.

Where to start
Mr. Costa also presented a few tips for marketers just looking to tap into location data.

For marketers with a physical location, now is the time to get started with using location.

Location should not only be used to build on a marketer?s strengths, but also solve problems.

Neiman Marcus, for example uses location to connect consumers with in-store associates since the company has a particularly strong focus on clienteling.

Marketers without a physical presence can utilize location, too.

?The first thing you should think about doing is enhancing your mobile apps with location-based features and services,? Mr. Costa said.

?The other thing you can do is work with intermediaries such as Red Laser and other companies to connect with customers directly,? he said. ?There are a lot of people that don?t have your apps out there, but there are a lot of people who have apps that customers have that you can use to get access to them.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York