THE BLOG
01/08/2013 03:40 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2013

Yes, It's True: Location and Consumer Privacy Can Co-Exist

The Social-Local-Mobile, or SoLoMo, landscape continues to evolve for marketers looking to harness its potential to engage existing or potential customers. With four out of five smartphone users using their device to shop, according to comScore, it's impossible for marketers to miss the opportunities in front of them to engage, convert and extend their relationships with today's consumers through mobile devices.

As this trend continues to evolve and more options (and apps) become available, the ability to curate and personalize content to make it relevant becomes even more important for marketers to get consumers' attention. One of the ways to create relevancy is through location. Knowing where someone visits and when they are at the location allows marketers to reach them when it matters most.

According to a study from eMarketer, the number of businesses using location-based apps is expected to grow from 10 percent in 2011 to 19 percent in 2012. In order to make them truly relevant, though, we need to move beyond the 'check-in' to connect with the real-time emotions and sentiment of individual consumers at these places.

Critical to marketers using location properly is paying attention to the privacy requirements of their audiences and respecting how to connect with them in a way that is welcomed and non-intrusive. Nielsen reported in 2011 that over half of mobile users reported having privacy concerns with location-based services apps. This means that many people feel threatened by the idea that they are being "followed" or that their location would be revealed to strangers or even friends that could compromise this information.

Given the importance consumers place on privacy, here are four key things marketers should consider in evaluating a location-based solution as a part of a marketing strategy:

1. Let the user initiate when they are location-verified.

Consumers should be able to decide when they are comfortable sharing their whereabouts with brands. Giving them control to initiate engagement avoids the trap of sending unexpected (and unwelcome) push notifications while they walk by your store.

2. Create content that is relevant to time of day and the place itself.

A user is much more willing to embrace the concept of giving up their location if the corresponding reward or communication is relevant at that moment. For the person finishing up dinner at a nice restaurant, a user-initiated real-time reward for a free dessert may be more appealing than a standard discount or coupon on their next visit.

3. Let the consumer opt out of push notifications and "pull" them when they choose.

Consider solutions that incorporate "pull" functionality where the consumer has the choice of 'pulling' information rather than having it pushed to them. The business can still create broader communications that are geo-relevant but give the consumer choice as to when and how they are informed about a spontaneous promotion or event. This allows the more protective consumer to still be engaged when nearby, but on their own terms.

4. Give the consumer options to be anonymous.

Consumers have opinions and want to be heard, yet sometimes they'd prefer to be anonymous in sharing these opinions or their whereabouts. With location verification, it's possible to give a person privacy and still consider their insight credible and worthy.

Location-based technologies are allowing businesses to create more meaningful engagement with consumers. If used properly, there are some revolutionary ways to deepen the relationship that will benefit both groups without compromising the important privacy requirements of consumers. It's important that businesses begin to consider how location can be utilized for more than just check-in and social sharing benefit. Assuming the privacy requirements of consumers can be met, there is an opportunity to deliver more relevant information where location can become a valuable filter to more effectively market to consumers.