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Limitations of GPS, boon for LBS

US: Inability of indoor tracking, one of the limitations of GPS, is proving a boon for location-based services (LBS) as more and more organisations are now offering alternative solutions. In the US, most museums have created a mobile application (app) which works like a guide. In the last few months, free apps were released by the Museum of Modern Art and the American Museum of Natural History, in New York; the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The New York Times reported.

Similarly in the retail business, the decision by the largest regional mall owner in the US to embrace a smartphone application marked a new stage in the rapidly unfolding evolution of mall marketing, according to a report published by Penton Media. Earlier, Geospatial World has shared a story on how satellite imagery can determine the earning of a company. Now, LBS app is in news for its innovative applications in retail sector.

According to the report by Penton Media, in mid-August 2010, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group joined retailers Macy’s, Best Buy, American Eagle Outfitters and Sports Authority in endorsing an application called Shopkick developed by Palo Alto, California-based developer Shopkick Inc. Simon rolled out the app at 25 of its centres. By the holiday shopping season, Simon plans to have Shopkick available at 100 centres nationwide.

The location-based app goes a step further than what existed before. When a person carrying a smartphone with the app installed crosses a physical threshold, it scans bar codes inside stores or malls and help retailers and mall owners know about their prospective customers which theymay want to incentivise. In return, users of the app receive “kickbucks”—points in the customer’s account that can be redeemed for rewards. The app currently works solely on Apple iPhones, but a Droid version is in development.

Simon’s move upped the ante considerably in the race among owners to provide tools to consumers that enhance the in-mall shopping experience. Its announcement was followed quickly by Chattanooga, Tennessee-based CBL & Associates Properties Inc. divulging that it too was in the process of developing an enhanced smartphone app. The company has partnered with Slicker Interactive LLC, a Charleston, S.C.-based technology firm, to develop mallMerlin, an app that would give its shoppers access to special promotions, high-definition video and mall navigation tools based on their location within a CBL center. The app is designed to mimic the natural way people shop, said a CBL spokesperson.

In part, it is also recognition of the increasing number of consumers who use smartphones. Overall, approximately 26 percent of US mobile subscribers use their mobile devices for Web browsing, according to Synovate, a market research firm.

Role of social networking sites
Mall owners are also increasing their presence on social networking sites and learning how to use those sites to drive sales. A recent study by Alexander Babbage Inc., an Atlanta-based research firm, found that out of more than 1,800 US retail centres larger than 300,000 square feet that it observed, 608 have Facebook pages and 557 have Twitter feeds. Babbage and Madison Marquette also formed the Center Social site that is aimed at providing research and data on the use of social media by shopping centres.

Source: The New York Times & Retail Traffic