Location data: More than just a real-time tool

Tej Rek

Tej Rekhi, AVP Mobile Sales at Sizmek

A mobile world. A smartphone society. A connected generation. However you describe it we’re a nation addicted to our devices.

Over 70% of UK smartphone users check their mobile device within 15 minutes of waking, while almost as many look at it during the 15 minutes prior to going to bed. We use smartphones on public transport, at work, while shopping and eating out, while socialising with friends and family, and even while crossing the road.

Never before have consumers been so reliant on a pocket-sized device – taking it everywhere they go and treating it as an integral part of themselves – and this provides an invaluable source of consumer data for marketers. But many are failing to make full use of this information, seeing mobile location technology as nothing more than a real-time tool.

So how are marketers currently using mobile location data and how can its use be expanded to leverage its full potential?

Location data is often viewed as a means of reaching consumers who are in a particular geographic location at a specific time, and it is certainly useful for this purpose. Using mobile location tracking, marketers can target consumers located in the same street as a retail store or restaurant, incentivising them to pay a visit using discount vouchers or special offers. To expand this rather restricted audience – not everyone will have location services turned on after all – marketers could potentially incorporate latitude and longitude data gleaned from IP addresses where mobile devices are connecting to WiFi, and target consumers located within a radius of up to a mile who are actively engaging with their smartphones.

This type of real-time consumer targeting certainly has its uses, but it overlooks the fact that just because a mobile user is in a particular location it doesn’t mean they fall within a business’ target audience, or are likely to make a purchase. Targeting consumers in a certain locale is all very well, but marketers need to ensure they are the right consumers. To make full use of location data, smart marketers are leveraging it to better understand their customers over time, adding a layer of intelligence that can be combined with other advertising tactics such as programmatic to deliver relevant, engaging messaging.

Because consumers take their mobile devices with them wherever they go, location data can be used to build a detailed profile of customer habits. Marketers can understand not just where customers are now but where they’ve been, and how often they’ve been there. They can understand where consumers live, work, eat, and shop. They know how far they travel to certain places and how much time they spend there. By delivering this level of detail, mobile location data can be used in the same way behavioural data is used in desktop advertising, but to far greater effect.

Through mobile location data, marketers can create highly detailed audience profiles based on common locations and behaviours. They might – for example – segment audiences into new customers, frequent customers, or past customers who haven’t been in-store for more than six months. Each segment can be targeted with the ads most likely to resonate with their profile – ideally using dynamic creative to automatically select the most effective messaging.

In addition to gaining a far deeper understanding of their own audiences, marketers can use location data to build a detailed picture of their competitors’ customers. By understanding the behaviour of smartphone users who visit a competitor store or location, brands can establish key patterns or characteristics that can subsequently be used to target those audiences.

Mobile location data also has a further benefit for marketers in validating ad impressions, ensuring they are served to real users. Because mobile signals come from actual consumers using real smartphones, they should be originating from genuine locations. Where a mass of signals are coming from a sparsely populated area, or a user appears to be located in the middle of the sea, these are sure signs of fraudulent activity than can easily be recognised.

Far from just a real-time tool that allows marketers to serve messaging to consumers in a specific location, mobile location data also provides a reliable and detailed source of consumer insight to ensure those ads reach the right individuals. As our smartphone addiction continues unabated, our ever-present pocket-sized companions provide precious granular data that marketers can use in the long term to deliver persuasive, engaging ad campaigns to the right consumer, not just the right location.

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