Singapore's high mobile penetration and familiarity with location-based services (LBS) mean consumers are prepared for location-based marketing, but more work needs to be done for the necessary supporting infrastructure to catch up.
The country's mobile space is coming into its own with a high level of smartphone adoption and rapidly-developing local app ecosystem, said Rohit Dadwal, managing director of Mobile Marketing Association Asia-Pacific.
Gerald Smith, managing director for Asia at mobile advertising firm Out There Media, agreed, adding: "Smartphone penetration is over the roof in Singapore and consumers are already utilizing LBS for various things such as checking in on social networks, getting bus schedules, booking taxis, and getting information on deals and promotions nearby."
Figures from regulator Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) revealed Singapore's mobile population penetration rate reached 150.5 percent, with the number of post- and prepaid 3G subscription totaling 6,384,200 as of November 2012.
With the high number of mobile-savvy consumers, Dadwal said organizations here display a healthy understanding of the value mobile can yield. For example, many local banks offer mobile banking apps for customers to transact on their smartphones. Some polytechnics also developed apps which offer interactive campus maps, mobile access to campus services, and library information.
More LBS marketing apps needed
But while brands are experimenting with LBS, Smith said Singapore still lacks the infrastructure to bolster LBS to greater heights in the city-state.
Lalin Michael Jinasena, CEO of location-based retail mobile app developer Elephanti, added that Singapore is still in the early stages of tapping LBS for marketing and advertising initiatives, with few apps today offering a comprehensive suite of functions necessary for retailers to fully integrate location-based marketing into their business.
"Singapore's current mobile infrastructure [for LBS] may be young but with the uptake of LBS among companies, we believe we will begin to see great improvements to the infrastructure," Jinasena said.
However, Smith pointed out that IDA's next-generation national infocomm infrastructure (NGNII) will likely see more service providers rolling out location-based and context-driven services catering to both consumers and businesses.
"Where technology and solution vendors are already driving innovation in this area, there is a need for the infrastructure to be built to enable the service to finally take off in this market," he said. The NGNII comprises the Wireless@SG public Wi-Fi network and national broadband network.
Dadwal believes Singapore's infrastructure is sufficiently robust to deliver a high level of mobile connectivity, which he noted is essential for LBS. "The ongoing rollout of [LTE] services will make this even better, as faster and more stable connections will encourage the use of LBS," he said.
Location-based marketing to get serious in 2013
Smith stressed that LBS was "not particularly new" to the Singapore market as IDA had issued a call for collaboration for LBS in 2003.
Local telco, StarHub, in April 2008 launched a nationwide location-based mobile advertising service. Mock Pak Lum, CTO at StarHub, said the service aimed to help advertisers achieve a higher response rate by pushing specific and relevant informational or promotional SMS messages to mobile customers, when they are in the proximity of a pre-defined zone such as at a hotel, restaurant, or shopping mall.
Smith said LBS marketing will attract more attention in the country after Location Based Marketing Association (LBMA) launched its Singapore chapter in November last year.
Jinasena added: "With the launch of the Singapore chapter, companies can look forward to more research, education, and collaborative innovation in the field of location-based marketing.
"Businesses are beginning to change in their outlook of LBS and location-based marketing by viewing it as an additional cost-effective marketing tool on top of their traditional marketing efforts, as opposed to the end of traditional marketing and advertising," he said.
Smith believes 2013 will be the year LBS marketing materializes in Singapore. "For one, we expect the local operators to jump onboard to deploy infrastructural support to enhance the state of LBS here," he said.
According to Mock, StarHub is looking to refresh and enhance its existing location-based mobile advertising platform this year to better serve its customers.