ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Top Opportunities (and Misconceptions) for Location-Based Services.
By Josiah Mackenzie
Thursday, 17th February 2011
Recently I caught up with Gowalla director of business development Andy Ellwood, who will be presenting at EyeforTravel's Social Media Strategies for Travel 2011 in San Francisco next month.

What's the most common misconception about location-based services (LBS)?

The interesting part for us is understanding all the different ways people use our service. So the most common misconception is probably that every user of Gowalla is the same. We're starting to see a lot of differentiation in how people are using it – people use it for a lot of different reasons. Moms keeping up with kids, businesses using it as a way to tell their brand story around the locations their customers go to, and content providers creating material around places.

We give the ability to provide up-to-the moment information for where people are standing at the moment.

What are the biggest opportunities you see for hotels and travel in this area?

The way I think about the check-in from the users perspective is: this location is a part of my story.

Gowalla was originally founded around the concept of your mobile phone being a passport – and using it to tell a story about the places that you go. Each time I check into a spot, it's because I'm viewing that as part of my story.

When I travel, I'm telling an even more interesting story.

So the big play for hotels is to take part in these stories?

Correct. I think an important way more and more businesses are thinking about it is: when someone checks into their location – whether it's the coffeeshop on the corner or the W Hotel in downtown New York – they're essentially putting their endorsement on that location. By saying "I am here" I'm broadcasting that out to my network. I feel attracted to the business enough that I'll spend time and money here. I'm not just walking down the street and connecting with every store I pass.

So it's building up the entire experience around the places people go, rather than just the narcissistic "I'm here and you should care."

How can LBS be used to deliver remarkable customer service?

Just being conscious of who is at your location. There's a pub that near me in New York that prides themselves in knowing who has checked in and on location. Most people have their photo avatar up, and the owner will match that to faces there. The other piece of it is if you're connected – friends – on Gowalla, you're able to engage with them on the places they go.

A great example is Red Bull. They gave the Gowalla account to their social media guy, and he would check in to places that were associated with their brand. So extreme sports, live concerts – people should be drinking a Red Bull. So he got a huge following of people wanting to live the "Red Bull lifestyle."

On the flipside, The Four Seasons Hotels in California last fall created some content-curated trips that are like a playlist of spots. "10 places you need to see in San Francisco." They worked directly with the concierge, asking them what the top places in the city that people should associate with the Four Seasons Experience. So now anyone who follows Four Seasons on Gowalla has access to concierge-level expertise.

Two questions for all brands considering location-based services

1.What is the experience you want to create?
2.Where are the locations you want that experience to exist?

When someone checks in on property, you obviously want to be a part of that. But where are the other locations in your region and around the world where you brand should be top of mind?

Thanks, Andy!


About the author
This blog is written by Josiah Mackenzie, who enjoys exploring the relationship between emerging technology and the hospitality industry. 

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