Exclusive by Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY: Australia’s GPS penetration rate is only 12 per cent – an incredibly low figure for a nation so reliant on cars. The suppliers think the products aren’t the problem, so how do retailers maximise this opportunity?

Whereas GPS penetration rates in comparable European countries is above 40 per cent, internal supplier figures show that only around 12 per cent of cars in Australia are being guided by a GPS unit. The key to improving this, according to TomTom marketing manager Chris Kearney, is focusing on benefits, rather than technology.

“There aren’t many devices out there, so we’re looking at first time buyers and focusing on the benefits rather than the technology: these devices will tell you a better way to go,” he said.

The theory is that many people have their routes and favourite shortcuts, but are unaware that there could be faster ways to arrive at their destination. The technology supporting GPS, with the complex mapping and navigational programs, could be overwhelming for these motorists, so retailers need to concentrate their sales pitch directly on the perceived benefits.

Kearney said that with TomTom’s continuous updating of data, both from Sensis and from users of their Mapshare facility, the maps installed in units and available for download will prove to be more efficient, over time, than alternates, such as printed road directories and a driver’s memory.

“GPS is not a huge priority for retailers, but let’s take advantage of foot traffic to sell something people don’t have, then they can upsell them through the range,” he said.

As for when GPS uptake will begin to mirror Europe, Kearney sees similarities between the device’s penetration rates and that of digital cameras. When these were first introduced, they were expensive and considered a luxury item for the well-to-do. Over the last 10 years, however, they’ve become ubiquitous. That’s the goal for the various in car navigation suppliers.

Meanwhile, TomTom is currently promoting its IQ Routes service. Using data collected from participating consumers, TomTom is able to determine an average speed along roads. This provides a more accurate impression of driving times, as compared to speed limits.

To use Kearney’s example, imagine the speed limit on Parramatta Road in Sydney is 100km/hour. In peak hour, however, the cars travel at only 60km/h. Once this data is aggregated, the GPS device can map a route avoiding this road if faster options are available.