Social location marketing has the ability to impact the purchase decision cycle at all points—brand awareness, brand elevation, brand consideration and purchase. The concept of the purchase decision cycle is best defined as the continuous loop through which customers become aware, consider, select and finally reconsider purchases.
In the pre-social media market place, the purchase decision cycle involved much less influence from strangers. Purchasers were influenced by a closer network of people. Purchasers were also unable to take part in the level of comparison shopping that they are able to do now. With the advent of the internet the travel requirement declined but it still took time to visit all the websites and make notes on which product had which features and which site was offering the best prices.
Price comparison sites quickly became popular with members posting coupon codes and special offers as they became aware of them. Social media took all of this to the next level. Twitter and Facebook users can post a question and receive hundreds of responses about the best deals, perhaps even getting responses directly from brands themselves.
What differentiates social location sharing from much of the rest of social media marketing is that it is specific to allocation. It happens as someone becomes or is in the process of becoming a customer,visitor, or user. When users check in at a specific location, they are publicly declaring an affinity with that location. Wittingly or unwittingly, they are making the statement that they use this location as part of their lives. Whether it is a grocery store, a clothing shop, a restaurant, or a hair salon, the effect is the same. They are telling the people in their networks, all of whom they have selected to share with, that this is a place they go to.
Perhaps at times they want to promote a local business because of the great service they have received from them. They believe that by announcing this location and its great service, they are helping to promote and prolong the business. All of these motivators can be leveraged by marketers and all have their place within the purchase decision cycle.
Brand Awareness: Making the target audience aware of the existence of the brand. This is traditionally something that is associated with advertising, but in the current environment of a society that is more “word of mouth aware,” getting existing customers to be your advertisers/advocates is a much more common effort. Social location sharing tools are
most definitely achieving that. These tools broadcast the fact that the user is not only grocery shopping but is shopping at a specific grocery store.
Brand Elevation: Making the target audience aware of a brand is not usually enough to trigger a purchase. Rather, having made the target audience aware of the brand, the next step is to move the brand into the consideration stage of the purchase decision cycle. To do that, the brand needs to position itself as a better choice than its competitors. Again,
social location sharing tools play their part here. Having an advocate in the form of a social location sharer share her decision to make a purchase at a location immediately aids that business in providing a reason why it is different from its competitors.
Consideration: This stage can be immediately before purchase or can be several months, even years ahead of purchase. Much of this depends on the immediate need of the purchaser, the price point of the product or service, and the amount of information available. A customer looking to buy a pair of jeans is unlikely to spend the same amount of time in the consideration phase as a customer buying a new car or even a home. However, social location sharing tools can and do play a part in all these decisions. Users checking in at the Apple store, for example, are stating a preference for a particular brand, but they are also stating a preference for a particular type of technology.
Purchase: Checking in at the time of purchase, and announcing that a purchase has been made, is obviously the most powerful use of these tools. Each of the tools allows for this in different ways, but at the most basic users can tag their check-in and in doing so start a conversation on other platforms such as Twitter.