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Check-ins have given consumers a glimpse of the power of location and the deals they unlock. But there’s another world awaiting as mobile users learn to appreciate the era of “persistent location,” in which a user’s location is passively used to deliver relevant information. That’s the term used by Xtify CEO Josh Rochlin, whose company has built a geo-messaging platform that allows companies and brands to target their customers with location-specific messages.
Xtify is on the cutting edge, along with Placecast and others, in using geo-fences, a digitally drawn radius around a place to create a landscape in which our movements trigger offers, coupons and messages from companies we have relationships with. That may sound a little stalkerish, or at the very least, potentially overwhelming if marketing offers greet us every few blocks. But the building blocks are falling into place to make this reality not only possible but pleasant. A lot of it comes down to the execution. Companies are eager to leverage persistent location, but will need to show some restraint, said Rochlin.
“There is going to be growing comfort with passively derived location that will be an asset to consumers, but brands will need to figure out how to take advantage of location without becoming a nuisance,” he said. “Brands will have to decide what is the proper cadence to message users.”
If brands can find that balance and use some common sense, there’s a lot of potential in persistent location. Instead of waiting for a user to fire up an app like Groupon or check-in for a special on Foursquare, the deals can come automatically. That’s generally what people want when they think of location-based services. Xtify is starting to show some of the technology’s promise with early examples from Sam’s Club (s wmt), Daily Candy (s cmcsa) and Playboy (s pla), which recently launched a nightlife app called Scout. Consumers who download the respective apps on Android (s goog) or iPhone (s aapl) can agree to have messages pushed to them. In some cases, the messages aren’t geo-relevant, but in the case of Daily Candy’s Stylish Alerts app on Android, featured deals are pushed out to users when they pass within a short distance from a business or location.
Xtify, which is backed by Acadia Woods Partners and SeventySix Capital, enables this through GPS and tapping the background notifications process on Android and iOS. (Full BlackBerry (s rimm) support is in the works). By leveraging push notifications and building the feature right into the apps through an SDK, brands can reach out to consumers without having them open their app. That can be good for companies that want to create flash sales to move overstocked inventory, or it can be helpful in prompting users to do an action, like viewing a video, or responding to a poll or just updating their app.
Companies of all stripes will be looking at doing this in some way or another, but Rochlin believes that brands will appreciate platforms like Xtify because of the work and intelligence that has gone into the product. The platform provides fully anonymized user data (no emails or cell phone numbers stored), easy implementation, light battery usage and user analytics, and it incorporates a number of ways to target consumers. Brands don’t have to just hit up users when they travel within a mile of a store; they can select the times or even the weather conditions that make sense for pushing out a message. Xtify can also calculate the “dwell time” of a user in one location, for example, to establish a user is at a ball game and would be ripe for an offer from a nearby vendor. Location also gives companies the ability to get creative. They can erect a geo-fence around a competitor’s location to push an offer to a consumer when they’re checking out a rival’s goods. Or a restaurant can sense when tourists are near a sightseeing location and push out an offer for dinner later that night.
Again, all of this can sound a bit much, and Rochlin agrees that companies will need to cap the number of daily messages sent, which most companies are doing. He said all apps also need to include an easy way for users to unsubscribe. Xtify is building in future filtering features so users can weed out messages that they don’t like.
This concept of persistent location is still evolving, and consumers will have to get used to the idea. Implementations such as Xtify’s are also limited to certain smartphone users unlike Placecast, which is working on geo-fences enabled through carrier networks that can target all phones. But make no mistake, brands are interested in location-based technology and would love to have a very personal and direct channel to reach their users. Though Om speculated that 2010 was the year of location, the best years are still to come if the industry can get persistent location right.
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