Tracing the Links Between Location Based Mobile Marketing and Direct Mail

In the latest trend to hit direct and digital marketing, location based campaigns using smartphone technology are being utilised by brands to bring relevant promotions to consumers based on their location. But are there any parallels between the current trend for all things mobile and offline direct mail campaigns, and is there a still a place for mailings in geographically targeted consumer marketing?

Every day people are constantly using their mobile devices and smartphones not only to talk to each but to text, chat, be entertained, research, compare and find useful information. Brands are likewise embracing the new found ability to target promotions and advertising to consumers based on their current geographic location, identified through their mobile phone.

Location-based adverts have so far been the preserve of niche specialists such as Foursquare, a website which rewards users who "check in" at various geographic physical locations using a smart phone app by offering them virtual badges for their profile as well as discounts or special offers.

Whilst it still has huge potential if it can break through into the mass market, some predict that Foursquare may well be superceded by the recently launched Facebook Places. Thispluginfor mobile Facebook users enables consumers to check in at a list of local places or add their own. In the future brands will have the potential to then target offers based on the user's location.

Mobile providers have also moved into the field of mobile marketing. For example 02 More has grown in the last two years to include one million users. O2 More is an opt-in mobile marketing service that offers advertisers personalised campaigns which allow businesses to target ads based on location of the phone user. This form of "proximity marketing", so named because adverts are triggered when the user is in close proximity to specific locations, has already been used by brands including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, Starbucks and Tesco.

Another mobile telecoms provider, Orange, is also aiming to launch its own geo-targeted marketing solution, with an extension for mobile commerce. Consumers who opt in to receive ads will be encouraged to redeem offers in stores by paying via theirmobile handsets.

But in the rush to embrace mobile technology, it's easy to forget that geographically targeted campaigns are nothing new. They may not have been targeting consumers on the move, but direct marketing experts have been geographically segmenting and targeting for decades using database marketing.

Intelligent targeting in this way has even seen the emergence of location based direct mail packages like Recently Moved from Selectabase. This marketing service identifies recent home movers in the senders chosen postcode area so that they can be targeted by businesses such as retailers, home improvements, electrical goods and financial services.

Even more ingenious is the Birthday Mailings service which identifies consumers in a specific geographic area who are about to celebrate a key milestone birthday such as 21st or a 40th. This then triggers mailings from local subscribers who send offers and promotions to the recipients; a unique matching of geographic and lifestage consumer data.

Today, geographically targeted direct mail continues to hold great appeal, especially amongst small businesses who are less likely to be early adopters of the latest mobile marketing techniques.

Furthermore mobile technology may still only be a tool for reaching specific target segments; those who can afford smartphones in the first place and who are willing to embrace the newmobile applicationswithout concerns over revealing their location to brands and organizations. For the rest of the mass market, the unique features of location mobile marketing may in fact prove to be obstacles to adoption.

Until such obstacles are overcome, the vast majority of consumers may still be best reached through intelligently targeted location based direct marketing.