Marketplaces 2010: Location, Location, Location

Marketplaces2010

“People still underestimate what is happening,” Loopt CEO Sam Altman said of developments in mobile local search. His big message was that mobile is becoming far more infused into consumer behavior than the desktop Internet ever was, with location awareness and usage ubiquity being critical drivers of this rapid shift.

Altman gave a mini-keynote address to kick off this afternoon’s Mobile Vertical SuperForum. He offered a view on the “state of mobile” and shared some recent developments at Loopt.

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Loopt is a popular social mapping service with more than 3 million mobile users. They are partners with all the major U.S. mobile carriers, plus a number of smaller ones. Loopt gets 2 million minutes of use per day on its iPhone app.

Altman supported his assertion with the following facts:

  • The mobile Internet is being adopted much faster than earlier adoption paths (notably desktop Internet).
  • In five years, more people will access the Internet via mobile than the desktop Internet.

Altman also revealed the results of a poll of 100 of his friends at a recent party that illustrates in a fun way just how ingrained mobile has become in our lifestyles, particularly among younger people. According to his poll:

  • 100 percent would choose their phone over their computer.
  • 61 percent have experienced anxiety when their phone battery died.
  • 29 percent have answered a call/text during an “intimate moment.”

Location awareness and ubiquity are what makes mobile special to consumers and valuable to advertisers. And these are factors that drive the faster pace of adoption for the mobile Web.

“A GPS chip is now the No. 1 requested phone feature,” Altman said, noting that GPS has surpassed the camera in popularity.

Location data are incredibly valuable, Altman said. They are much better than clickstreams or demographic data for discerning a consumers’ intent.

Altman said there are a lot of services that benefit from location awareness. He mentioned Loopt Mix, which can show people in your location who match your profile.

Most users don’t like push advertising, Altman said. They will uninstall your app if they get it. Most don’t care about privacy, however. Incentive based ads are fine. They work 10 times better than more generic ads.

Lessons Learned

Altman wrapped up with a summary of the key lessons he and his colleagues have learned as they’ve built Loopt into the popular service it is today.

  • Interoperability among your target users matters. Your service must work across cheap feature phones and high-end smartphones.
  • Use Facebook Connect — the social graph is very important.
  • Apple (iPhone) still rules.
  • Apps still dominate the space over the mobile browser, and Altman expects apps to rule for some time to come.
  • Smartphone penetration is the key indicator of success in any given market.

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