If you haven’t seen the flurry of conversations the past two days, let me be the one to tell you that Forrester has just released a very insightful report on the use of Location-based Services (LBS). Specifically, the use of applications such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Loopt as a means for companies to engage and interact with consumers. LBS applications, as an emerging technology, has a lot of consumers (of the people surveyed 84% had never even heard of Foursquare, Gowalla, or Loopt) and brands wondering if it is technology that is all hype — not surprising since any new technology has a period of adoption while users determine it’s stickiness.
The report contains a lot of insightful information regarding the current fragmentation of the LBS application market — currently, consumers are having to choose between Foursquare, Gowalla and Loopt — where even someone like me, who considers herself a hard-core user of LBS applications has a hard time knowing what each application offers that’s unique from the other. And we haven’t even seen the impact that Google could / will have on LBS applications.
LBS Seeks Internet-Savvy Professional Male
But the takeaway that struck me the most interesting was how Forrester’s study shows that men, not women, are the majority users of LBS applications and suggests that male-oriented brands have the potential to have the largest impact.
And based on this information, Forrester’s report makes two recommendations:
- That gaming, consumer electronics and sportswear marketers should lead the way with testing these apps; and
- While these male-oriented brands forge the way, other marketers should hang back until these apps gain a larger, more diverse audience.
This data is actually surprising and a little disappointing to me since, in my own personal use of Foursquare, I know more women who use location-based apps than men. Personally, I believe the power of LBS apps is its ability to further drive social sharing… to socialize brand awareness, specials and discounts through the sharing of check-ins on Twitter, Facebook etc., thereby increasing traffic online as well as offline. And who are more social than women? And most women I know consider themselves, like me, chicks who are early adopters of new technology. But then, mom always did say I was in a “special” category all of my own.
Do Location-based Services Underestimate the Influence of Women?
And according to Newsweek, my mom knows what she’s talking about — chicks ARE special. In fact, Newsweek recently discussed how “the women in this country are responsible for 83 percent of all consumer purchases.” And this influence isn’t just for “girlie” consumer products such as cosmetics or clothing, but women are “a major force” for products such as cars and electronics.
The article focuses around a conversation that Newsweek conducted with reknowned consumer researcher Paco Underhill, where he discusses his new book, What Women Want, and explains what makes a product, place, or service female-friendly—and why the marketplace better listen up.
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
If consumer brands take a more passive approach to using LBS, they are allowing competitors to define and perfect a marketing channel that they could be leading. And to be perfectly honest, at the pace that technology is changing today, they also run the risk of being left behind. That is, there’s no time for major brands to play catchup.
Even though current data indicates that more men are using location-based services than women at this time, this demographic will rapidly soon change and, therefore, any brand can and SHOULD venture into location-based services whether they focus more towards male or female consumers as long as using this technology makes sense for them. And let’s not forget that brands who offer consumer services, not just products, have a tremendous opportunity to leverage location-based services — the hospitality, retail and restaurant industries are seeing significant reach with both female and male audiences.
As I always like to say: nothing ventured, nothing gained. If a brand thinks that they can socialize or target its products and / or services better to either male or female consumers, then I think they should absolutely explore the use of LBS applications. Otherwise, as Paco Underhill said: if businesses don’t learn to recognize women’s growing influence, they’ll [be] confined to the dusty heap of history.