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The double-edged sword of location-based technologies

Location-based technologies like personalization are yielding valuable consumer data, but companies need to be careful stewards of the information.

As analytics becomes the currency of business today, companies are turning to new ways to gather information about customers.

Over the past year and a half, new technologies like geolocation, personalization and beacons have emerged. While beacons are hardware devices that sense where consumers are in a physical store, other geolocation technologies can send personalized offers or messages to consumers via email or text on their phones. These new methods are giving companies vast insight into customer demographics and behavior, but they can present clear dangers in terms of customer data privacy.

"[Geolocation-based methods have] been one of the most dynamic aspects of customer engagement over the past 12 months," said Brent Leary, a principal at CRM Essentials. Leary talked with SearchCRM about how trends like beacons and personalization have changed the nature of communication with customers by enabling greater personalization and a contextually aware dialogue with them. Historically, an email recipient, for example, could open an email and look at an offer that had already elapsed. New, contextually aware email messaging can update the contents of email to adapt to date, time, location and other customer details.

But these new methods also present new challenges in terms of responsible handling of customer data. Leary talked about expectations that customers now have about companies' handling of their personal information.

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How is your company handling location-based technologies in 2015, and what do you see as the pros and cons?
We're mainly digital, so location-based technology doesn't come up very often. I can see the advantages, though - imagine walking into a store, tapping a button on your phone, and getting an instant list of special offers. I know people who would use that.

My only real concern is using location-based tracking in an attempt to maximize employee productivity - honestly, if you can't trust employees to be in the right place, you should've hired better employees.