Look back on the year’s major web-based success stories and you'll see one sector that has grown probably more than all the others combined: location-based services.
A lot has been written about check-in applications such as foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places, but there has been little advice on how small businesses can really capitalise on this growing trend.
Here are my top three ideas to help businesses take advantage of location-based services:
1. Create an environment of competition Why on earth would anyone want to become the foursquare 'mayor' of your hardware store or review your service on Google Places? Well, while that idea might seem alien, a concept that is familiar to all of us is the spirit of competition.
I have seen a few interesting ideas in this area. The pizza chain Domino's offers free pizzas once a week to the Foursquare mayor. My local Wetherspoons offers a free round of drinks to the person with the most check-ins. Whatever your business I am sure there is an angle.
2. Online offers, in store fulfilment Google recently added a neat feature to its Places application: coupons. If you have already claimed your business via Google Places and your details are turning up on Google Maps, then the next step is to advertise your special offers. By using this service your customers can print the offers out and bring them into your store or business. They even appear next to your map listing.
3. Time sensitive deals Continuing the coupon theme, take a look at Groupon. Groupon is a deal-of-the-day website that provides its subscribers with deals for a limited time. These deals can be in store or online purchases. Groupon reports that over 90% of users go on to make subsequent purchases with the participating merchant.
The service is highly targeted; you log in, set a location and it delivers the deals to your inbox.
Local search is clearly big business. Google estimates over 20% of internet searches are related to location. My own browsing habits are fairly typical of this - I use the internet to uncover everything from my local takeaway menu to the number for a local plumber.
Small businesses, especially those with a physical presence, need to wise up to the potential, before your competition does.
Ben Dyer is the Director of product development at SellerDeck