4 Reasons why Marketers Need to Earn Trust with LBS Apps or They'll Push Users Away

On February 14, 2013

Do you ever get that feeling when your phone is giving you a strange look?

Social media has exploded and it’s still going and going and it’s not stopping anytime soon. Geotags are on everyone’s lips. 2013 is ripe for the taking for those in the mobile business adventure. Marketers say more ad spending. Developers are shouting for better cross-platform tools. Smartphones are getting smarter and the Star Trek series still sucks without Patrick Stewart. But we digress.

According to ABI Research, location based apps sported a revenue of some $4bn in 2012. Naturally coupled with in-app ads and in-app gamification strategies, sounds like a good and profitable opportunity for marketers and developers in 2013.

Yet, LBS apps face a multitude of serious challenges and that’s why monetizing them, adopting them and providing user satisfaction is a tough nut to crack. And marketers have to take user apprehension into consideration when they plan their strategies in regards to mobile LBS apps.

mosource: whitehorse.com 

#1 Primary concern: Privacy and security

From privacy advocates joking and warning us about the next SkyNet learning everything about us in a couple of minutes to people who simply say: ,,It’s just an app, what’s it gonna do, steal my pizza recipes from Facebook?”, LBS apps have spawned a flurry of privacy issues and debates.

Criticism addressed at Apple’s data protection problems or the feedback from Facebook’s new user location app is just deepening user skepticism and mistrust towards location based apps.

LB apps like the very useful Google maps for example use cell tower based identification, wi-fi triangulation, GPS and user provided info to pinpoint your location and see where you are. That’s fine and I’m pretty sure most people are okay with using triangulation to help you navigate the world and save time.

But some apps, like Highlight, which is integrated with social networks like Facebook, uses info from your profile and alerts you when friends or persons of similar interest are near you on the street.

While this can be very nice for a lot of people and allows to lead to that intense feeling of social serendipity, it still poses some risks.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, interviewed Paul Davison, the young CEO of Highlight, and she was quick to ask him about the creepiness factor. He answered O’Brien’s questions about privacy.  The first and most effective privacy safeguard that Davison cited was that “Highlight is entirely opt-in.” According to Ira Winkler,  president of Internet Security Advisors Group: ,,To me, this sounds like an admission that the only real way to protect your privacy when it comes to Highlight is to not install it on your phone in the first place.” Now don’t get us wrong, we aren’t bashing Highlight or anything, but there’s something important here that can’t be overlooked. The lack of privacy protection descriptions and features.

If LBS apps want to advance to become efficient software and even social networking tools or appendages, they need to be mature enough to protect user data.

#2 Barely any incentive to use location based apps

Though mobile applications like Foursquare enjoy a lot of attention, the gamification aspect is still a serious hurdle. Earning badges, ranks, promotions aren’t the best motivation to keep retention at good levels.

LBS apps should offer more than just virtual carrots to entice users. Perhaps, besides social integration, a feature that would be very interesting to see in location based apps would be push-notifications with random but interesting info snippets when you walk down the street.

Seeing something on my screen that says “You’re exactly in the spot where Albert Einstein bought his first ice-cream when he came to the US. It was peppermint.” would actually endear me a lot towards the app.

 #3 Age and gender play a role in awareness about LB apps

It may sound cliché but let’s face it, young people tend to adopt tech faster than mature adults. It’s not surprising to see that, according to a market study by White Horse Digital Futures, awareness about location based apps was over 50% from people in their twenties.

Additional insight also showed that non-users tend to be female (65%), women taking privacy concerns more seriously about personal info. Seeing as women are emerging as a bigger economic force stronger than men and influence 64% of global purchases of pretty much everything, both in terms of consuming products and content, location apps should take some steps to earn the trust of the fair sex.

#4 Ad monetization strategies in LBS apps are skating on thin ice

Ads are a multi-billion market everywhere you look. But there’s a lot of ways to do it wrong. One of the greatest advantages ads on mobile devices have, is the fact that they aren’t as intrusive and they can be much more personalized than the spray-and-pray ads on desktops.

Users like tailored ads to their preferences and relevant content, however, too many ads on mobile devices make users quickly uninstall any app. If a pop-up of push notification appears each time a user passes a coffee shop or a bookstore, he’s most likely to think twice about keeping the app if it’s too distracting. Correlating all these arguments with poor privacy protection, lack of incentive and low awareness. mobile ads on LBS apps can kill those kind of applications.

Like someone once said, it takes a couple of minutes to install an app, but it takes just 3 seconds to tap that ,,x” button and delete it.

Another addition would be that location based apps drain a lot, bucket loads of power from your phone. And if you have more than one running in the background, your phone will be depleted in a quarter of a day. And keeping your phone constantly plugged into a power source kinda defeats the purpose of a mobile device.

Unless marketers find a way to build trust, let’s say through privacy settings tutorials or video vignettes that show how that app is used, LBS won’t encounter strong adoption in 2013.

The primary goal for marketers who want to take a shot at location based apps should be securing goodwill from customers and users. Trust is earned and no matter how many rich opportunities location based apps can provide, if marketers will do it wrong, LBS apps will most likely be shortened to just BS apps.

So what’s your take on location based apps, creepy factor, usefulness? Will they see growth or stagnation in 2013?

This is a guest post by Adrian Tudor of Appscend – the all-in-one cross-mobile performance based application platform, offers its customers the fastest cross platform development technology available on the market today together with a complete list of backend technologies that ensure application & user management, a powerful push platform as well as app analytics.