Mobile

Push + place: Urban Airship unveils Location Messaging Service

After making a name for itself as a leading push messaging provider, Urban Airship is today unveiling its new Location Messaging Service, which will add another layer of information for the company’s push platform to target.

It’s a particularly enticing play for marketers, since it means they’ll have access to current locations and location histories from consumers. And for the consumer, the Location Messaging Service will make push alerts even more relevant — for example, you could see deals from sports venues while they’re attending a game, or receive targeted alerts when they’re near a favorite retailer.

“Our tagline [for this announcement], ‘turning location into loyalty,’ is really kind of a synopsis,” Urban Airship chief marketing officer Brent Heiggelke told VentureBeat in an interview earlier this month. “We don’t view this as a brute force customer acquisition initiative, but rather how do you take location and use it to build a relationship.”

Heiggelke pointed out that apps are becoming the center for marketing initiatives from many brands. And at the same time, they’re becoming increasingly popular with consumers who not only want useful functionality from their favorite brands, but also want to show off their brands they’re loyal to. Ultimately, adding location capabilities is yet another way for Urban Airship to avoid “appathy,” the company’s cute term for when consumers stop using apps.

Proving that Urban Airship continues to grow in popularity, Heiggelke revealed that the company has powered 30 billion push notifications through all of its platforms, up from 20 billion in May. That’s a particularly impressive figure, since it took the company two and a half years to reach 10 billion notifications, and it hit the 20 billion mark just four months later.

It was only a matter of time before Urban Airship jumped into location capabilities — the company acquired the location platform maker SimpleGeo last fall (whose technology powers the new location service), and we’re also seeing increased excitement over companies that can take advantage of consumer’s location data. Just look at the location analytics company Placed, which ended up winning the top mobile service prize at our MobileBeat conference this year.

Heiggelke is particularly proud of the accuracy in the new location service. Instead of having its users create geofences on their own, which are generally wide circular areas that can’t accurately cover real world locations, Urban Airship has created 2.5 million geofence locations across the globe that are specific to locations. For example, with traditional geofencing methods you’d have to create several small geofence areas to cover a location like Central Park — but Urban Airship’s solution has a single “Central Park” geofence that covers its entire length. Ultimately, that means easier setup for marketers, and more accurate push messages for consumers.

The geofences range in size from individual buildings and neighborhoods, to entire continents. Urban Airship’s location data is powered by Maponics, Nielsen DMA, and OpenStreetMap. That means the company shouldn’t have to worry about any of Apple’s iOS 6 Maps gaffes.

Urban Airship revealed this week that its Location Messaging Service was heavily used by the London 2012 Olympics to send more than 10 million location-powered push messages through the Olympics mobile app. According to statistics from the London Olympics, around 60 percent of its mobile app users enabled location-sharing and location-based push messages had 60 percent clickthroughs.

Urban Airship is based in Portland, Oregon and has offices in San Francisco. It has raised around $22 million so far from True Ventures, Foundry Group, Verizon, Salesforce, and others.

Map pins photo via Shutterstock


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