Geolocation is a Two-Way Street Where Businesses Meet Consumers

UPDATE: Watch video of the panel below.

For both businesses and consumers, geolocation apps and services are a dime a dozen these days. But many of these apps and tools serve to benefit both when used consistently and correctly. Much like social media itself, geolocation is a two-way entity.

“Geolocation makes it easier for consumers to get the services they want nearby and for local businesses to reach the consumers in their area,” Eli Portnoy, CEO of Culver City-based mobile marketing startup Thinknear told me matter-of-factly.

As consumers become increasingly engaged with smartphones and other mobile devices, geolocation will have a growing influence on commerce. For most businesses and services, location — and circumstance — means everything. More than one-third of U.S. adults (35 percent) are smartphone users according to a July 2011 Pew Internet report. Consumers are always on the hunt for quality goods and services at reasonable prices. As consumers grow accustomed to the “smart” aspect of always-connected, GPS-enabled mobile devices, the bargains appear at their fingertips and it only becomes a matter of convenience. As consumers discover the power of smartphones beyond texts, emails and phone calls, shopping habits change.

In the same Pew survey, 25 percent of smartphone owners indicated a preference for using the internet on their phone rather than their computer. This is likely not just a matter of convenience, it’s based on better circumstantial results. The top search results for “yogurt” on a home or office computer likely yield the Wikipedia entry, and links to the Dannon and Yoplait websites. But the same search from a smartphone directs the user to the nearest fro-yo shop. Geolocation is a win-win: consumers can find what they want and need at their fingertips while businesses can acquire new regulars by dangling their goods and services right in front of the smartphone user around the corner.

Geoloco & Business:

Do you see a map and a location listing for your business when you search Google? If not, you can list all physical locations on Google for free:

GowallaFoursquareYPYelp…. Help!?! Forget about your business for a minute and try out each of these services via their mobile apps as a consumer. There are many tools, including these, which make it easier for consumers to get what they want. Search for your business on these applications? Is it there? Is the listing accurate? Not everything in the world is automated (yet) and so it’s never a surprise when new stores replace old ones but the old listing remains.

Your business (if it relies on a physical location) may only have one physical location but by making sure it’s populated and using any and all geolocation services at its disposal, you are doing the best you can to bring your offering to potential consumers on their terms. Foursquare may have more users than Gowalla but your next customer might discover you through Gowalla. Either way, these serendipitous, location-based discoveries often lead users to return and more importantly to share their experience with others via social media and word of mouth.

I was honored to be a panelist at this month’s Social Media Club Los Angeles event on geolocation, a topic I’ve been obsessed with for quite some time (it’s the subject of my Master’s Thesis). I wrote this post in advance of the July 26 SMCLA event.

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