Location is (Still) Everything: A book review by Bob Morris

Location:EverythingLocation is (Still) Everything: The Surprising Influence of the Real World on How We Search, Shop, and Sell in the Virtual One
David R. Bell
New Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2014)

The power and perils of becoming actively engaged with the GRAVITY framework

Many years ago while completing several assignments for American Airlines, I had the opportunity to spend some time at its training center and was intrigued by the flight simulator. Of course, the design and capabilities must be based on the real-world experiences it replicates. I recalled that visit as I began to read this book.

According to David Bell, the relationships that exist between our physical-world locations and our virtual-world behaviors can be – and usually are — robust. “They’ll be pretty stable and quite predictable. Indeed, the very idea that your experiences in the physical world shape your behavior in the virtual world may seem rather obvious after you’ve seen the reasons why. (Good and lasting ideas always seem intuitive once you have the means to appreciate them.)” Quite true.

Bell suggests that gravitational pull is the reason he’d be better off taking the elevator in his apartment building rather than a “shortcut” to the street by jumping from the window. Yes, that is a simple example but its implications are anything but simple. The characters played by George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in the film Gravity can flow in space but not when approaching the space shuttle before the next flight. They and we live in two worlds: where we are located physically when purchasing a copy of Bell’s book, and, where information as well as our thoughts and feelings about it exist. We have a physical location when using the Internet to complete the purchase but it makes no difference where and when we do so.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Bell’s coverage:

o The Real World and the Virtual World (Pages 3-5)
o Adventures in the Real and Virtual World (9-13)
o GRAVITY: How the Real World Influences the Virtual One (16-17)
o The Force of Location On Offline Behavior (29-36)
o Real-World Frictions, and, More Frictions: The Tyranny of Geography (51-55)
o Gravity and “Cross-Border” Trade in Goods and Information (65-72)
o Communication Among Adjacent Individuals (75-83)
o Observation Among Adjacent Individuals (84-86)
o The Mechanics of Adjacency (86-91)
o Ties That Bind: Physical Distance, Social Distance, and the Spatial Long Tail (105-117)
o Drivers and Elements of Preference Isolation (132-143)
o People Populating the Real-World/Virtual World Landscape (154-161)
o Information the Real-World/Virtual World Landscape (167-176)
o Product in the Real-World/Virtual World Landscape (176-183)
o A Story of Friendship and Vision — in the Real and Virtual Worlds (187-195)
o Ahead to the Future (196-197)

Readers will greatly appreciate the skillful way that Bell reconnects the most important “dots” when explaining how and why location is (still) everything. He reviews the separate but interdependent components of the GRAVITY Framework: geography, resistance, adjacency, vicinity, isolation, and topography. He reiterates three key ideas:

1. “Always keep in mind that the benefits of shopping, selling, and searching online cannot be separated from the4 locations where customers in the real world.”

2. “Your virtual-world business, whether selling goods, services, or information, must quickly create a [begin italics] sufficient density [end italics] — often by connecting and aggregating individuals from disparate locations.”

3. Finally, “Remember that the tactics and strategies required for gaining followers, disseminating content, or selling products online need to be customized for different locations.”

Those who read this book will be well-prepared to challenge all of their previous assumptions about what the success of their business initiatives require of them, especially now when the global marketplace changes faster and with greater frequency that at any prior time that I can recall. Better yet, David Bell will help them to formulate strategies and tactics as well as a game plan to achieve and then sustain an appropriate (that’s a key word) balance of doing business in two worlds. The challenge is to use the GRAVITY framework to pull some customers to a physical location, pull others to a website, and pull still others to both. How? Read and then re-read this book.

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