If you own a smartphone -- and more and more people buy them each month -- then your iPhone, Droid, or (coming soon) Windows7 mobile device has changed your life. The smartphone is now the lens through which we see everything, linking our physical world to a layer of data and interactivity that changes what we think, where we go, and who we talk with once we get there.
This new data layer defines the third wave of the internet's evolution. The first wave was the birth of the web itself, and the second wave was the birth of two-way social media. Both waves took place in a flabby cyberspace that had no connection with the tactile landscape of our daily lives. To go online was like plunging down a rabbit hole into Wonderland, or through a wardrobe into Narnia. The third wave injects actual geography into cyberspace and vice versa. Today, when you check in on Foursquare, Gowalla, or Whrrl, you're both logging into a database and walking through a physical door.
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However, a lot of the time even after you check into your real space location, you still communicate with people through the handset rather than directly. How many times have you sat in a coffee shop and seen everybody hunched over a phone, silent but for clicking, with no spoken conversations to be heard?
Today's article concerns an unexploited opportunity in the current exciting wave of location-based services revolutionizing customer behavior. This is territory that we're covering extensively in the Geo-Loco track next week at ad:tech New York -- the biggest show in the interactive marketing industry. Both in the Geo-Loco sessions and on the Expo floor in our Mobile Pavilion and App Exchange, we'll explore the technologies and companies on the sharpest edge of this new kind of advertising and marketing.
While canny marketers are jumping into location-based technologies with both feet, the current approach can fail to channel these new customer behaviors in ways that benefit merchants in real space -- largely because the merchants themselves don't recognize their own need to change.
So I want to share a retail daydream. If my daydream were to become a reality -- and it wouldn't take much -- this brave new world would also open up new opportunities for marketers fueled by the most powerful force in our lives: face-to-face interaction.
The most exciting shopper marketing apps encourage lots of interaction with products and with stores. Shopkick for example, like Foursquare, competes for the check in, rewarding shoppers simply for arriving at the store. Scvngr CEO Seth Priebatsch (who is also speaking at ad:tech New York) has created an interactive "game layer on top of the world" in which companies create interactive challenges for users to take in a variety of locations. With augmented reality, Ben & Jerry's put "Moo Vision" 3D images onto their ice cream cartons that viewers could get via their iPhones -- work developed by the Circ.us Agency. These are all exciting and engaging technologies. Going forward, I believe that these technologies will also work to create more robust face-to-face experiences with people -- the original sort of interactivity.