7 Top Location Technology Trends that Defined 2017

- 14th Dec 2017

2017 was an interesting year for the tech world: Amazon made a shift to brick and mortar by acquiring Whole Foods, bitcoin finally moved from the dark web to ordinary people’s wallets, while Saudi Arabia for some weird reason granted citizenship to a robot. While there were a few curveballs, a lot of things happened as expected. AI, IoT and location technology continued to evolve.


Location technology, in particular, gained broader market acceptance following the ‘retail apocalypse,’ making huge strides both in terms of what it’s capable of and how it’s applied. For those of you who find it hard to keep up with the leaps, here’s a high-level analysis of the most significant location tech trends we saw in 2017.

1. Company Usage of Location Based Marketing is on the Rise

If you follow the money, it’s clear that both large and smaller enterprises are finding location-based marketing a worthwhile use of their available funds. In fact, a recent report from the LBMA shows 500 C-level managers and marketing directors worldwide now allocate 25% or more of their marketing budgets to location technologies. According to those polled, the ability to effectively target individual consumers and boost impulse purchases are some of the most useful results obtained.

Between 2016 and 2017, location-based marketing increased 5% in the U.S, 7% in the United Kingdom and 6% in Canada . Strangely, this market grew by only 3% in tech-savvy Singapore and actually declined by 3% in Germany. The most reasonable explanation of the latter outlier centers on the inadequate security and privacy protections some location technology platforms offer, as well as impending legislation regarding the same.

2. The Vendor Landscape of Location Analytics Platforms is Fragmented

The vendor landscape of location technology market is fragmented, where most vendors in the market offer point solutions. In many cases, location technology vendors are only capable of addressing one particular business case, heat maps being a bad example. This is obviously not the best approach to providing real value. If you need two separate solutions to address two related problems, something is really wrong. There are plenty of location analytics platforms available that offer interoperability with other systems or even end-to-end functionality, yet uninformed buyers continue to tackle the issue in a piecemeal fashion.

There’s also the surprisingly common issue of delegating all computer technology to IT. It’s not useful if you don’t know how to capitalize on your investments. This means getting your team together and actually writing down requirements, goals and so forth. If this means multiple technology partners, fine, but don’t go down the road that leads to being stuck with a system with no forward or lateral compatibility. Open standards are really the only way to invest.

3. WiFi Location Tech Gains Precedence Over Beacons

When shopping malls, retail stores, stadiums and other public facilities first introduced beacons, adoption metrics spiked. Unfortunately, as the wow factor any novel technology carries with it faded, consumers realized that downloading an app for every location they visit didn’t make sense.

BLE beacons are part of a previous technological cycle. If you’ve already got them, fine, they still do what was expected of them, and they’re compatible with more modern systems. If planning a new implementation, though, WiFi based location tech has proven to be much better than beacons in terms of flexibility, scalability, management and accuracy. Plus, you can leverage existing WiFi access points.

More significantly, WiFi based location technology doesn’t require casual visitors to do any actual work in order to improve their experience. Using BLE beacons implies a minimum of two things for a user to participate at all: their Bluetooth has to be switched on and the store app has to be installed. Not many people are willing to go through the trouble, which is clearly reflected in the relatively anemic adoption rates BLE systems suffer from.

4. North America is the Leading Provider and Adopter of Location Tech

In North America, the retail sector faces some unusual challenges, including a high level of consumer volatility, large and obvious competition and the emerging challenge of multiple fulfillment channels. When the implications of this are examined, it makes sense that the U.S.A. is a technology leader in terms of providing and adopting location tech.

Europe is getting big too, and Asia won’t be far behind. More use cases are being developed and tested, with asset tracking and logistics applications showing nearly as much promise as customer engagement. Watch this space, because companies with a location technology infrastructure have an advantage to their competitors.

5. Less Aggregate Data and Heat Maps, More Granular and Personalized Information

Heat maps are fine for what they’re intended to do – unfortunately, this is not that much to begin with. More specific and actionable data, including verifying a customer’s identity, improves the effectiveness of location-based solutions across the board. It’s nice to know that 30,000 people came to your stadium today, but it’s not immediately useful. Knowing that James Smith turned up and linking this to his previous interactions is useful. Over repeated visits and transactions, you’ll get a much clearer picture of J. Smith and his desires, which can be seamlessly integrated with systems like CRM and customer loyalty programs.

6. A Change in Emphasis Towards Increasing Advertising ROI

More and more data is becoming available about consumer behavior, including footfall patterns. Used extensively by companies like Google and Facebook, physical location coupled with device network IDs are now playing the same role browser cookies did in previous years. This means that positioning data can be used as to target advertising more effectively, but also allows physical retailers to get an accurate picture of how much and what kinds of advertising actually lead to store visits and purchases. At present, being able to measure these KPIs still relies on working with ad publishers and networks who’re able to provide the necessary data.

The latter will increasingly have to demonstrate their worth by offering real-world attribution instead of counting clicks and views. We’re rapidly moving closer to a model where web-only metrics and purely digital quantification (transaction conversion rates, traffic, newsletter circulation, etc.) isn’t going to cut it. As the Amazon-Whole Foods deal shows, some people who are pretty familiar with the e-commerce world are thinking in terms of an online/physical convergence, and actually 92% of transactions still happen in stores with real walls.

If you can link an ad seen on the internet to someone walking through your doors, you’re much better placed to reinforce campaigns that work and drop those that aren’t. These kinds of attribution tools have become much more popular in 2017, and also offer the possibility of gaining deeper insights into how online and in-store behavior relate to one another.

7. Location Technology Supports New Use Cases

Anybody who knows anything about location technology will be familiar with the potential it has in terms of compiling shopper personas and generating context-aware messages. This is just the surface layer of the business-operable aspect of available technology, though. Location technology has extended into the workplace and into ordinary offices where managers need better methods for space optimization and employee monitoring.

Once an employee has established his identity (in security protocol terms), much more than knowing where they happen to be becomes possible. Do you still need a metal key to get into your office, or in fact the stationary cupboard? Does booking a conference room require filling out a form? And where is Wally, the only engineer qualified to take on a particular task? Location technology – intelligently applied – makes short work of all of these tasks.

Location Technology is the Name of the Game

You can spend your available marketing dollars on signage (meh), radio spots (meh) or customer comment cards (double meh). Effective marketing in the 21st century requires a little more, namely addressing each customer in the way that they’re most responsive to. A lot of marketing managers still seem oblivious to this fact. In the real world you hopefully live in, grabbing your customer’s attention and keeping it means talking to them as individuals with their own desires, fears and aspirations. We’re not saying that location technology will show you how to build the entire jigsaw puzzle, but adding it to the mix in a considered fashion will at least give you the most important corner pieces.

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