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Location-based services and the changing customer experience


Now that 99.6% of smartphones run either Android or iOS, app development has skyrocketed. One of the latest innovations pushing the capabilities of your smartphone is location-based services (LBS). LBS-enabled apps use a content provider to supply the end user with geo-specific information relevant to their exact location. The hugely popular Pokémon Go is perhaps the best example from recent years, turning a basic premise into a worldwide phenomenon.

But the real draw of LBS is its amplification of, and assistance with, consumer habits. Google Maps, for example, can now suggest restaurants and bars based on a user’s specific location. From there, they can check out customer reviews, view the establishment’s opening, closing times, the menu and when its likely to be busiest… all before getting directions there.

On the business side, LBS enables companies to understand where their customers are in real-time, and market to them based on their location. This not only provides a more captive audience of interested buyers, but can improve the accuracy of other factors like customer preference, habits and other indicators of a ‘readiness-to-buy’.

Advantages to marketing and client-customer communications like these do come with their setbacks, however. Location-based services are creating challenges for businesses when it comes to the customer experience. We spoke to Peter Lavers, director of WCL Customer Management (B2C focused) and Customer Attuned (dedicated to B2B), who is a top influencer in customer experience (CX), to get his insight on LBS’ impact on the customer and what businesses can do to prevent location-based services overwhelming their audience.

LBS and CX

Organizations are now trying to compete with a service that is not only always-on, but ‘always-attached’ to the user, acting almost as a virtual assistant able to help you when shopping or dining. That is making it harder for them to retain customer relationships and find new customers, as Peter explains:

“People don’t ‘go’ online anymore, they’re always online. This has led the traditional sales funnel to become outdated. Users have begun to rely on content coming to them, whether that is information on social media or suggestions for where to eat. For this type of consumer spend, location (as in, “how close is it to me?”) often plays a larger role than quality and even cost.”

Of the 7.5bn people on the planet, there are over 3.7 billion internet users and almost 5bn unique mobile users. The vast majority of us now have internet access, and we are all data-indulgent. Every minute in 2016, 29 million WhatsApp messages were sent, along with 3.3 million Facebook posts; we made 3.8 million Google searches and uploaded 500 hours of video to YouTube. This has led to higher expectations from consumers, as Peter again explains:

“There are higher expectations regarding the accessing of information than ever. Information is everywhere, and the customer can access it at any time from wherever they are. Similarly, tools like instant chat have created this expectancy for near-instant communication. Companies that can’t meet these expectations risk losing customers.”

The search for scarcity in the modern enterprise

Rapid technological advancements and widescale data generation have created this near-constant consumer hunt for the latest features and functionality. And as tech advances, new opportunities will open. In terms of LBS, it may be a case of less equalling more: “Companies need to figure out what’s ‘scarce’ today regarding the customer experience” says Peter. “Enabling real-time and personalised location-based marketing to these niches will provide distinct value to the customer, providing you can find the right balance.”

  • Relevance

Internet cookies allow ads to be targeted based on the browsing habits of users. In theory, this should make for an easier sale, but invasive or overly-aggressive advertising can have the opposite effect. The same is the case for LBS: “Too many messages or product offers are being pushed to consumers based solely on location. More focus needs to be on consumer relevance, or the audience will become uninterested.”

  • Human experience

The rise of self-service has made person-to-person interactions less frequent and therefore more important to get right; a memorable impression on the customer is therefore critical.

  • Personalisation is time-sensitive

Consumers don’t want to feel they are just one among a sea of other customers. Personalisation can prevent this feeling, increasing relevance and engagement and helping customers know they are being listened to. When combined with location-based services, the user feels even more involved, but time becomes a crucial factor.  An LBS recommendation that arrives late risks resentment if the consumer’s attention has moved on.”

Keep CX relevant to you and your customers

Every business is different, and location-based services may be much further a reach for some over others. But Peter believes LBS has the potential to be the future of marketing and omnichannel:

“Location-based marketing can serve a real purpose, providing you can avoid overwhelming the consumer. If you’re able to harness scarcity in your targeting of LBS, and ensure an unwavering focus on managing the customer experience, then you can expect to find a real competitive edge.”

The customer experience is set to transform in 2018. Check out Dimension Data’s top IT trends in 2018 on CX to see how you can stay ahead of the competition.

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