What came first? The geolocation business or geolocation customer?

I love geolocation. I love Foursquare and I’m trying to love SCVNGR. The promised land for these sites is great with location based offers providing a great opportunity for brands to attract passing footfall, drive loyalty and trial.

However, the reality is still far from that. The problem is, other than competing with friends for points and trying to get Mayorships, I’m getting nothing from these sites.

I know the technology is there but the shop/brand adoption is not.  Whilst I cannot be certain of what that is I would offer the following theories:

  1. Reach of these sites is not yet wide enough for big brands to adopt – As a result the shops/brand people use on a regular basis are not offering the deals the technology promises and can deliver
  2. Lack of small business adopting it means that from a brand/retailer perspective, the technology is still in the early adopter phase – the technology is still a long way off reaching the tipping point and that means that the interactions people can have with brands, the sites and each other is still very limited. Widespread adoption by small business is what will start to drive that forward and once it does then user base size will rapidly increase in size
  3. Go to market strategy was wrong – because this type of interaction and possibility was so new simply launching it as a game (as much fun and as useful as gamification is) limited it’s appeal to people beyond gamers and those who really needed to be involved (i.e. retailers).  

Personally I think these sites will have a big future in commerce, but they need to do a major recruitment drive to get adoption with 2-3 country specific big, nationwide retailers that people use everyday (coffee houses, supermarkets, petrol companies) and lots of smaller businesses that will help provide case studies for even bigger recruitment drives.

A clear case of  chicken and egg.  Customers won’t come if there are no retailers, retailers won’t play if a user base isn’t there.

How do you feel about the adoption of geolocation by businesses and consumers? Are you Foursquare-d up? If so, befriend me.

[UPDATE] Just released was this infographic from Mashable


2 thoughts on “What came first? The geolocation business or geolocation customer?

  1. I am not foursquare-d up, because I don’t have a smart phone. While the majority of people are on cell phones now a days, only half of those actually have smart phones, that means you automatically cut down the amount of people that can use foursquare down, and take into consideration the small percentage of those that use their smart phones to use the geolocation stuff. These companies need to figure out how they can do this without smart phones. SCVNGR does have a text messaging option, but that just isn’t as fun.

    So what are they to do? I think they just need to wait for people using it to build up.

    The Green Guerilla

  2. I believe in it, I just think that to be truly useful FS, FBPlaces, etc need to start building the ‘Why should I bother?’ argument – beyond beating someone to a mayorship (the graphic below shows everyone’s primary motivation is a deal). I’ve been to my local coffee shop about 100 times and not once have they said ‘Hey, have one on the house for being so good.’ That’s the kind of thing that builds loyalty and WOM. The tech is there, but the business argument is sadly lagging behind – once that catches up then the people who have smartphones and checking in will increase.
    Eventually, in about 2-3yrs all mobiles are likely to be what we now deem smartphones so the audience size will grow, but currently the percentage of people using smartphones that use it on a regular basis is still quite small.
    PS: it’s time to smartphone-up :)! get on that train!

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