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Carrabba’s exec: Use LBS to recognize, reward and create relationships

April 6, 2011

Food for thought: Carrabba's Italian Grill

There has been quite a lot of buzz around the advent of location-based services such as foursquare, with the most notable benefit being the ability to draw consumers in-store.

Merchants are able to utilize LBS, as the costs associated with marketing via platforms such as foursquare are reasonable. Additionally, it takes little time to jump-start an LBS campaign, since the platforms pretty much take care of everything from measurement to deployment of the message.

“I think LBS can be a powerful tool in meeting a brand’s goals and objectives,” said Jamie Miller, marketing manager at Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Tampa, FL. “For Carrabba’s, we use it in an effort to recognize, reward and create relationships with our silent, but regular customers.

“LBS have been a great tool for our managing partners to acknowledge these guests in a fun, engaging manner while providing them with an offer,” he said. “Far too often I’ve seen brands jump on new technology and force fit that technology to accomplishing their goals/objectives.

“When, in fact, their methodology should be the other way around. Goals/objectives should be established then implement new technologies to accomplish them.”

Relevant offers
Jake Furst, manager of business development at foursquare, New York, said foursquare is a great tool because it allows businesses to reach and engage their customers when it is most relevant.

Knowing that customers are either close by or already inside a venue is very useful knowledge and being able to tailor offers based on that is a great tool for marketers.

“We know that every business is unique and has different objectives, strategies and areas of growth and we design our merchant platform with that in mind,” Mr. Furst said. “We create a spectrum of different tools and allow local businesses to utilize the ones that works best for them.

“For some, discounts on certain items or at certain times is a good game plan,” he said. “For others, discounting is never part of their business, and they have had success creating unique experiences for foursquare users, such as exclusive menu items, premier parking spots or VIP treatment.”

Targeting youth
Younger audiences are obviously early-adopters of technology in general and have jumped on foursquare in a big way.

But, everyone replaces their phones every couple years – young or old – and as mobile phone hardware improves, so does the LBS experience.

Foursquare and other LBS platforms can provide tools for businesses to reach their customers whoever they might be: young or old, regulars or new visitors, male or female.

“Providing offers allow us to make it fun for our customers as well as motivate them for an incremental visit,” Carrabba’s Mr. Miller said. “For Carrabba’s, we have tested various offers depending on what component of our business we wanted to build.

“When executed properly, LBS can be a powerful lever to increase sales by day part, product mix and day of the week,” he said. “Users are already engaged with LBS.

“The question that begs to be answered is, how can I insert my brand into the fray and motivate or empower them to take action to accomplish my brand’s goals?”

LBS is mainstream
The LBS space is exploding. Big companies such as Facebook and Google are focusing on location-based products.

One year ago foursquare had 1 million users. Today it has more than 8 million.

As LBS becomes mainstream, the businesses using these tools are getting smarter and more creative.

“I think any company with physical locations where goods are sold needs to understand that smartphones are location-enabled and, as such, the power of location can drive traffic into their places of business,” said Wilson Kerr, founder of Location Based Strategy LLC, Boston.

“Checking their location placement in mapping platforms is an obvious way for business to harness the power of LBS,” he said. “All should claim their listings and add/update information, if it is inaccurate or was populated by someone else.

“They should do this for mapping platforms such as Google, Bing and Yahoo, and top check-in platforms such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places, and top near me now apps like Where, Poynt, and others,” he said.

“Businesses should also check their locations in popular personal navigation device platforms such as Garmin and TomTom, since many of these companies now have live, online mechanisms to submit corrections.”

Marketers need to ask themselves whether their target demographic is using LBS.

If they have a smartphone, they are and businesses need to cater to this by being sure their information is accurate, and considering special offers, coupons, or deals for nearby consumers.

Location is ubiquitous. As smartphone penetration passes 50 percent in 2011, even the term “LBS” will fade from popularity, since most devices and the apps running on them will employ location automatically, to deliver relevant messaging to consumers, Mr. Kerr said.

“Businesses should work to understand what their customers are using to find them and, at the very least, make sure the right information is out there,” he said. “Once done, they can start experimenting with special offers and deals to increase racked foot traffic.”

Rimma Kats reported for this article

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Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor at Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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