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Location offers businesses of all sizes a real opportunity to streamline and improve their entire customer experience, fully integrating web and print offers with simple, convenient payment and collection options. Coupons are a good start, but it remains to be seen which companies will make the most of location.

Starbucks coffee line

After several rounds of complex negotiations and on-again off-again deals, location based gaming service Foursquare has acquired another $20m in venture funding - largely courtesy of Silicon Valley doyen Andreessen Horowitz - giving the company a $95m pre-money value and placing it on a much firmer footing in the race for location dominance with rivals Gowalla and Twitter’s new geolocation API.

Andreessen Horowitz had previously been in close negotiations with the company, but called off talks citing "excessive hype".

Like Twitter, Foursquare has faced some struggles in forming a viable business plan, but with big business increasingly involving itself in social media, the service has attracted several large brands including Starbucks, HBO, Warner and Pepsi, primarily being used as an offers-based marketing service.

While the cash injection has put the company on a more even keel, there are questions worth asking about how businesses utilise location services. With Facebook and Yahoo both initially keen to acquire Foursquare –and now hard at work on their own services – it seems geotagging is the next big thing, and while special offers and digital coupons are great for providing added value and encouraging repeat business, there are still endless pathways that companies considering location services need to think about.

Location tags offer companies the ability to track customers in real time, improving their customer service and experience. What can they keep an eye on? Preferred outlets, times of interaction, and buying habits can all be mapped in intricate detail. Rewarding repeat customers is a smart, solid start, but marketers now need to be thinking about the next steps, and the knowledge that a customer buys the same item three times a week from the same outlet offers a huge opportunity to improve and streamline their customer experience.

Several music festivals have already been trialling cash-free systems, with fans loading credit onto their festival wristbands in advance instead of carrying large amounts of cash around. This marks a huge increase in security and convenience, eliminating the dreaded long queues at the bar that could easily be applied to retail situations. Larger supermarkets have had reward card systems in place for a long time, but by integrating Foursquare or Gowalla, businesses of any size can offer a simple, hands-free added value service.

If you’re already tracking your customer’s check-ins, then it’s a natural step to allow them to preload their location account with credit and provide simple one touch (or one check-in) payment options, while chains can easily offer preordering services, reducing time and hassle further for the customer. It’s a common phenomenon for potential customers at busier coffee outlets to simply walk away rather than face that early morning line, but if they know that their item will be ready and paid for whenever it’s required, the line will quickly disappear, while the customers won’t.

Location offers businesses of all sizes a real opportunity to streamline and improve their entire customer experience, fully integrating web and print offers with simple, convenient payment and collection options. Coupons are starting point but there's much more to come.

So what are you doing about location?

Matt Owen

Published 1 July, 2010 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

203 more posts from this author

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