WiFi is no longer a commodity. It’s an asset. When your business offers guest WiFi, you’re covering your space with a powerful communications channel that can be used to better understand your visitors – and ultimately, deliver unique location-based marketing experiences to help drive conversions.

Gabriel Bedoya leads consumer insights and strategy at The Insights Co. In this episode he walks us through the kinds of data WiFi enables businesses to capture, and how they can leverage that data to create targeted experiences for their visitors.

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John Rougeux: Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of People in Places. I’m John Rougeux, VP of Marketing here at Skyfii and your host for today’s episode. I’m joined today by Gabriel Bedoya who leads consumer insights and strategy at the insights co. Gabriel, how are you doing today?

Gabriel Bedoya: Thank you, John, for having me, I’m fine. Thank you very much.

John Rougeux: Yeah, sure thing Gabriel. Thanks for being on the show. Really excited to hear your thoughts today on location-based analytics, location-based marketing and how all that works. But before we dive into that, Gabriel, I would love it if you could take a moment and just tell our audience about yourself and what you guys are up to at the insights co.

Gabriel Bedoya: Thank you very much. I don’t like to show my pedigree too much sometimes. I don’t think that is fair, but I’m a kind of a strange guy because I’m a rare combination between engineer and anthropologist. I’m an anthropologist, and also, I’m a civil engineer, and also, I have a Master’s in Science and Innovation. So, that creates kind of very rare profile. I found the insights co in 2009 as a design thinking agency and we moved slowly from design thinking to location-based marketing and services. We are an agency that helps our clients monetize their networks. Our focus is conversion, and so, how we can convert all the information they gather with their technology even if if it has a Wi-Fi or other sources and we bring that data into the table and we transform them into profit. That’s what we do at the insights co. We like to say that we are a company that we like to find problems and transform problems into opportunities.

John Rougeux: That’s awesome. I have not heard anymore claim engineering and anthropology in their background, that’s pretty impressive. I think you’re the first person I’ve met with that unique combination, so that’s pretty cool to hear.

Gabriel Bedoya: Yeah.

John Rougeux: But look, there’s so much changing in location-based marketing, location-based analytics and perhaps those are terms our audience has heard of but maybe not everyone is familiar with what those mean. So, maybe we could kick things off today by having you give us just some background on what those terms mean and how they fit into the larger marketing picture.

Gabriel Bedoya: Absolutely. It’s a kind of trend word now but it’s not that new. Many people think that location-based marketing, location-based services or location-based analytics are something new, but it’s not. We’ve been doing location-based marketing since 15,000 years ago when we paint the walls of [colors 00:02:58], we draw winds in petroglyphs. We are telling people what the local hunting mean there and that’s a location information. Since those times, very ancestral times, we start doing location-based things. We are promoting what kind of animals are and the hunting prey and stuff like that.

Gabriel Bedoya: So, the difference between those practices in the past and today is that we have technology, that’s the only difference. Now, we have digital technology and we add to that initiative digital technology. So, location-based marketing, location-based services is just the use or the application of technology into location marketing techniques. So, it’s kind of new because probably over the last 15 years, we’ve been developing new technologies and digital technologies to the world, but we’ve been doing marketing since the Egyptians, or even in the past, even in the ancestral times. So, location-based marketing, as I mentioned before, is the application of technology into the marketing activities.

John Rougeux: Yeah. That’s really interesting. I never thought about location-based services going back to prehistoric times and identifying animals and hunting territories and things like that. I think that’s a really interesting way of looking at it. Maybe a more recent evolution you could walk us through is, I remember Foursquare back in the day, at least for me personally, that was my first exposure to something that was location-based. That was kind of a novel way of using my smartphone to identify where I was and interact with some brands in that context. Can you talk us through how something like that that came out several years ago has evolved and what kind of technologies are supporting and informing location-based analytics today?

Gabriel Bedoya: Absolutely. You know, if we make a timeline, if we build a timeline, in prehistorical times, we do face painting, that’s a kind of a location-based, if we can say … allow me to say, so services. Again, we move in time, and if you allow me to do it, I’m going to create kind of a timeline, things in the past, like prehistorical times, on pre-[inaudible 00:05:29]times just to recreate what location-based is.

John Rougeux: Yeah, great.

Gabriel Bedoya: Mainly Egyptians start with hieroglyphs, they are starting sculpting walls and telling people what happens, exactly what it’s about. The Roman empire and the Greek empire, as well as the Chinese empires, they start using flags, and with these banners and flags, they are reporting who they are, where they came from and why they came to those territories. Then, we have, in eastern, the first appearance of … location-based information appears in Europe when King George ordered the taverns to use signs, explaining people we have inside the tavern, if they have hotel services or what kind of food they serve. That was a mandatory and obligation for the owners of taverns to publish that kind of information.

Gabriel Bedoya: And then, in the last century, we start using the radio. The first radio ad stating location-based things or promotions we’re doing in New York especially in Jackson Heights to tell people what is around these new buildings. Then, we have the advent of TV. TV start popping up, and the first location-based information appears on TV in a play between the Yankees and the … I think it was the Dodgers but I’m not sure right in 1930, something like that. And they tell them … it was a Bulova, the famous watch company, their stores. When the internet appeared … emerged the internet, we moved the location services into the west environment, and it creates a big development and the mobile has revolutionized the entire industry of location-based marketing and services.

Gabriel Bedoya: So, to resume, location-based marketing is the application of the marketing techniques into our new technology, if I could say, new platforms like mobile that enhance the power and the reach of media into consumers. So, the mobile revolution creates the right environment to promote location on marketing services.

John Rougeux: Some of those initial uses of location-based services, from what I understand, they were using things like geolocation on your phone, but now, a lot of that has evolved into some other technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth specifically. Can you tell us how Wi-Fi and Bluetooth fit into the location-based marketing equation?

Gabriel Bedoya: Absolutely. Absolutely. Before I abort theme on Wi-Fi, I want to call the attention on the three major virtual players in the world. Three major virtual players are Google, Facebook and Amazon, and we need to understand how they made money. How do Amazon made money. They made money with our shopping behaviors. So, once we go to Amazon and we go to the web and explore something that we would like to buy, they are watching our behaviors and they build profiles, the [parking zone 00:09:04] from our buying behaviors. What happens with Google? When you go to Google and you navigate the web, Google is watching our navigation behaviors. So once again, they’re watching our navigation behaviors, Amazon is watching our buying behaviors and Facebook do exactly the same thing. They’re watching our social behaviors.

Gabriel Bedoya: So, they convert, and I want to use the word conversion, our behaviors into wealth or into money. So, why it’s important, Wi-Fi technologies? Because once we connect with Wi-Fi technologies, we have all the three main sources of conversion that is driving the virtual economy today. We can discover people navigation behaviors. We can discover their social behaviors and we can discover their buying behaviors. We have the three key elements that are driving the virtual economy. So now, Wi-Fi, if you have your Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi is not anymore a commodity. In the millennial’s economy, if you want to participate and you want to be part of the millennial’s economy, you need to keep in mind that for millennials, if there is no Wi-Fi, it’s going to be no business for them. So, no Wi-Fi, no business. They’re not interested on participate or go to places that are disconnected. And for many organizations, they connect their facilities, what I call their expedience spaces with Wi-Fi just to bring customers, but Wi-Fi is not anymore a tool to bring customer. Wi-Fi is the new distribution channel for organizations if they de-commoditize their Wi-Fi.

Gabriel Bedoya: So, I’m trying to explain with this that Wi-Fi is a tool for conversion, and we can convert the same way that Google converts, that Amazon converts, as well as Facebook converts if we know how do we utilize and do we use the information that we can gather through our Wi-Fi networks.

John Rougeux: That all sounds really powerful, combining some of the aspects of what Amazon, Google, Facebook can provide. I think that’s probably something interesting to someone who’s operating a physical space, but can you walk us through what are a few tactical applications of that. What does that look like in practice for business using Wi-Fi and trying to compare that or compare with location-based marketing?

Gabriel Bedoya: Absolutely. Absolutely. But before I explain some tactical applications of Wi-Fi or location-based marketing, I want to call your attention over venues, because venue is a commodity word. In the Wi-Fi innovation economy or in the location-based marketing economy, we don’t talk anymore about venues. We talk about experience spaces because that is the space where you’re going to recreate the experience for your visitors. So, when we talk about experiences, we talk about all possibilities, we talk about gamification. We talk about buying or shopping experiences, and we talk about social experiences.

Gabriel Bedoya: When we talk about gamifications, we can add to our Wi-Fi or to our venue, if you allow me to say it in the way of experiences-based, we can add tools for gaming for people. For example, you can build a virtual museum. What about we’re on a shopping center and I want to build a virtual museum? What do I need to do there? You just need to start creating or recreating this virtuality with the help of virtual reality, or as well, you can use your capabilities on your Wi-Fi to track your people inside your experience space. Or for example, you want to create an event and you want the people inside the event to socialize, you can use your Wi-Fi to do that, to send in messages or to recreate campaigns. As well, you can use your Wi-Fi network. And then, I’m going to talk a bit about the atmosphere concept. That is something that it goes far beyond the Wi-Fi, but let me finish before I abort that term.

John Rougeux: Yeah.

Gabriel Bedoya: From the shopping experience, we can add to our visitors, we can add coupons, rebates, we can send them messages. We can send them opportunities. We can call them to visit new facilities into the venue. So, imagination got no limits. Everything that can be made on the real world of marketing, you can do it on the virtual and in the location-based marketing world.

John Rougeux: Yes. I think you hit a couple of really key touchpoints there. So, one is you talked about this idea of experiences and I think what’s really important for people in the retail space to realize, most of them have realized it already, but you can’t just have a space that’s focused on transactions. I think you used the term experiences space, but you have to use your venue to offer some unique utility or experience that people can easily replicate in the virtual world.

John Rougeux: And as you mentioned, having a Wi-Fi is one way that businesses can deliver on that experience. And I think the other piece to that is the fact that without a technology like Wi-Fi or another location-based marketing tool, you really don’t have a way to connect with visitors in your space. It sounds like what you’re saying is things like Wi-Fi provide that conduit to really connect with and build a relationship with those people who are within your space at that time.

Gabriel Bedoya: Yeah. In the past, Wi-Fi was seen as a commodity, just as a single device that allow people to connect. But I want to bring the attention into a term that we start using in our agency that we call atmospheres. What is an atmosphere? I want you to imagine guys, I know sci-fi movies, but if I did that in sci-fi movies, that you are in a remote planet and there is no atmosphere in the planet, and there’s small [fitting] there and there is a kind of shield that covers these TVs that creates an app, creating the atmosphere for people. Okay, today, we are doing exactly the same thing with Wi-Fi technologies. We are covering venues with a communication shield.

Gabriel Bedoya: If you allow me to compare, to express that that way, we call it communications atmosphere. How can we create a communication atmosphere over an experience space and we create a whole experience for our visitors. Wi-Fi is not anymore the device that we use to allow people connect to the networks. Wi-Fi today is the vehicle, is the channel that allows to open the conversation with the visitors, create interactivity to our conversations. Sending information and receive information from them. It’s a new channel of communications. So, it’s a new distribution channel. We are entering in this new momentum of creating communications atmospheres to allow people get better experiences.

John Rougeux: Yeah, I like that. So, it’s this idea of creating this kind of atmosphere of connectivity in your space. It’s a really cool way to think about it. What do you think, Gabriel, location-based marketing technology is going to head in the next three to five years?

Gabriel Bedoya: Oh, that’s a very good question. I think the range of these technologies are going to speed up, is going to break the limits. My perception is that every single place is going to be connected even though if that place is not a regular venue. For example, location-based marketing, many people think it’s exclusively made for indoors environment, and I don’t think that is correct. I just came from Bahamas, from Nassau, and these people in Nassau, they are creating an atmosphere network, a communications network open doors, in the streets to allow visitors connect to the networks. So, my take on this is, I believe in the next five years, many, many, many, many places, many cities, even urban open air places are going to be connected by this kind of atmospheres.

John Rougeux: So, not just indoor spaces but outdoor spaces as well?

Gabriel Bedoya: Absolutely. Absolutely.

John Rougeux: Yeah. Cool. Cool. Just one question to end things for today. You talked a lot about how businesses can use location-based marketing to connect with their visitors and communicate with them and build that relationship, another theme we’ve heard a lot about in the news recently is the study of privacy and how businesses need to be respectful of varying consumer appetites for sharing information or for being tracked or for just connecting with a business or a physical space in general. So, what’s your advice for someone who’s in a position to use location-based marketing? How should they approach the concerns about consumer privacy, and just make sure that they’re delivering the right experience for their visitors with that in mind?

Gabriel Bedoya: I think the main principle of this is if you want to be respected, you must respect. And consumers today, we want to be respected. That’s the reason why in our agency, we are complying with GDPR Principles. And I think if you want to be successful in developing your strategy, you need to keep in mind that. You need to be respectful with your visitors, as well as your clients and customers. Respect is the base on location-based marketing. You got a certain way, a privilege information that you need to understand that you are responsible on how to manage that information … are able to give the information if you respect them. So, for me, that’s the main principle on location-based marketing, you need to respect your visitors.

John Rougeux: Oh, I get it. If you want to be respected, then, you have to respect your visitors in turn. Gabriel, that sounds like a great point to end today’s episode with. It’s been a real pleasure having you on the show today. So many great insights on location-based marketing and how to use it wisely. If one of our listeners wants to get in touch with you, ask a question or stay connected, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Gabriel Bedoya: They can reach me on my email or follow our social media channels. I can be reached at gabriel@theinsightsco.com or at #theinsightsco, they can find us there.

John Rougeux: Good deal. Okay, Gabriel, thanks for being on the show today, glad you could be with us. Thanks again.

Gabriel Bedoya: Thank you, John, for having me, and I hope we can talk once again soon.

John Rougeux: All right. Take care.

People in Places is a podcast dedicated to helping today’s shopping centers, retail outlets, airports, museums, universities, and other physical locations optimize the experience of their visitors. Get in-touch: podcast@skyfii.com. See all current episodes on our website here.

Show Notes:

  1. You can reach Gabriel by emailing him at gabriel@theinsightsco.com.
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