Fine-Tuning Interactive Maps
Location-based services help travelers look before they leap.
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Vicinity Corp. released its Vicinity Location Server 3.0 late last year with the promise of bringing the value of location-based services beyond merely a map and directions.

"Seventy-five percent of today's brick-and-mortar Internet sites have a store finder. In two years, all of them will have store-finder capabilities," says Ken Cassar, senior retail analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix, based in New York. "The most commonly used location-based service is a store locator combined with directions. However, an important trend in multichannel retail is increasing integration of multichannel services," Cassar says.

Vicinity is contributing to that trend. In October the company bolstered its VLS 3.0 with several additional features, according to Dan Shapero, vice president of marketing at Vicinity. Version 3.0 combines customer data from a variety of inputs, including Web, wireless and speech-enabled technologies, into one database, he says. By funneling all customer data into one repository, companies can manage and respond to customer and employee location inquiries faster, Shapero says.

Version 3.0 includes a Smart Locator to automatically identify a user's location and a Vicinity Location Analyzer to analyze multiple input locations against existing corporate location assets. An example of that technology in use might be a truck driver calling a gas company to determine which gas station rest stops have showers and sells supplies, according to Shapero.

Moving beyond store locators, there is potential to get even more granular with multichannel services, adds Jupiter's Cassar. "You have to wonder whether the logical evolution is finding a particular product online, perhaps a particular shirt that Old Navy stocks, which you could then order from your computer and go to the store to pick it up," he says.

While it may be a long way off before Cassar's suggestions become a reality that holds a strong balance sheet, Vicinity executives are preparing to be around for the long term--regardless of the current technology-spending drought. "We have $95 million in the bank. And over the past five months we've dropped our [cash] burn rate to $2.5 million per quarter," Shapero says. "So that leaves us eight to nine years before we need to worry."

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