No address available – so where is it?

In emerging markets very marginal portion of the population is using location based services. But according to Mobile Life Research the highest latent demand for these services is in emerging countries. 

What are the location related applications that people would like to use in emerging countries? TNS Global's research ranks the following location service applications based on demand:

Source: TNS Global, Mobile Life Research, May 2012 (Sample 48,000 people in 58 countries)

It is pretty clear that above interest levels represent more the point of view of developed markets. However, above applications could also be greatly enhanced for emerging countries by assimilating how people think about the location or how locations are currently communicated by local people. Billions navigate based on landmarks, that would greatly enhance user experience across different location based applications.

In navigation applications, one traditionally uses a specific address as a destination. This is unlikely to work in emerging markets, as large majority is not willing or able to use exact addresses. Therefore landmark based guidance is needed for the destination and on the way to find the best route. A combination of street view and landmarks are likely to provide the optimal approach for the part of the population that can afford devices that are needed for precise navigation. But landmarks can also support navigation on more basic phones.

Similarly finding a restaurant or other point of interest becomes much more understandable if it is communicated with the closest landmark. This logic also applies to Friend Finder, special offers, transportation service applications etc. that can all offer understandable landmark location so that location applications become relevant in emerging markets. 

Device capability limitations and people’s ability and interest to use more advanced applications limit the usage of turn-by-turn guidance based on street names. Landmark based guidance is available in text format supporting any device that has capability for messaging. It is only a matter of finding the right logic that provides sufficient user experience to meet the needs to the mass market.

Landmark based guidance and location could be the most practical solution, for example for the following location based services and applications in emerging markets:

  • Various chat and messaging services
  • Mobile social networks
  • Asset and personal tracking services and devices
  • SMS with location in text messaging
  • Complementing existing forms of geographical data sets and applications that are used now for maps and address based location references 

Landmarks present a more adaptive and humane approach. They do not require that the user can interpret insufficient and complicated maps. Landmarks do not include unnecessary information and are available even for the places where no traditional maps are available. And due to the conceptual simplicity, landmarks work well even on very small screens, even a plain text display is enough.

This is what customers in emerging markets need and want – now!