We’re at SXSW Interactive in Austin this weekend exploring 1,400 panels, and everyone this year is searching for the next big technology. It ain’t here. Last year it was Foursquare and location-based services, and a few years before it was Twitter; this time, nothing new has risen (except for me-too startups flaunting cloud-based web editing, Groupon coupon knockoffs, etc.).
So a suggestion: What about a service that uses consumer location and mobile to influence buyers right at the moment of decision? If you want to see a rare example of this last untapped land of marketing influence, check out mGive, an innovative mobile service that helps consumers give money instantly with a text-this-to-that on their cell phones. Many orgs raising funds for the devastation in Japan use it (you can find a list of reputable aid groups for Japan here.) What’s fascinating is the simple dynamic steers consumers to a close based on a snap judgment, a dynamic most marketers can’t achieve.
Think of the opportunity: A man in a wine store, confused over labels, about to approach the checkout. A woman buying soccer cleats for her daughter, looking at the rack of 100 Nike and Adidas models on the wall. Today there is no way to touch those people just as they reach for their wallets. To pull off a signal consumers might respond to would require vast integration — of LBS, store inventory, customer preference data, observation of consumer modality (“the woman is approaching the Nike shoe wall…”), push notification, pre-staged marketing offers or price framing, and perhaps even near field communication that turns mobile handsets into faux credit cards. But if you did that, you could personalize an offer just as Sally Smith reaches for the sneakers. Advertising could become truly relevant, helping a buyer nearing commitment make her confusing decision. We might raise even more money for Japan.