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Is Location a Vital Data Point in Mobile Targeting?

By Aug 06, 2014

By Kurt Hawks

In real estate, location is the end all, be all. But lately it appears that some mobile marketers are applying that same principle to their campaigns. Which begs the question: should location really be at the center of your mobile targeting and media delivery strategy?

I don’t mean to suggest that location isn’t extremely valuable. Smartphone adoption shows no signs of slowing down, and location-based targeting and delivery are being hailed as the holy grail of marketing. Some have called it the missing link between the online and offline worlds.

It always worries me when we as an industry focus on a single attribute for marketing and media targeting. This collective myopia can lead to programs that over-emphasize “hot” features at the expense of tried-and-true (but perhaps less “sizzling”) tactics.

Location means a lot more in real estate than in digital. ”Sutton Place” might be the clincher for a house sale. But it’s a 360 consumer view that’s most valuable for mobile advertising.

Here are three things to consider as you define the right role for location in your mobile campaigns.

1.    Put the Person-First

Ultimately, marketers are charged with putting the consumer at the center of our efforts. Rich consumer profiles that reveal individual insights about each person are critical to this initiative. We’ve found that there are six sides of a person – six types of data – that can be leveraged to drive better results. In consumer language:

  1. Who and where I am
  2. What I care about
  3. What devices I use
  4. What I buy
  5. What I share
  6. My brand relationship

Information from each of the above categories plays a role in creating a superior consumer understanding. The type of understanding that drives performance in both mobile and cross-device programs.

Deeper consumer insights are what enable brands to really add value to the consumer experience. This understanding is what ultimately creates the meaningful and lasting connections that brands seek to establish with consumers.

2.    Category Interest and Purchases

A consumer’s purchase history and interests are the best predictors of future shopping behavior, not their location alone. Think about it. A vegan is probably not the best target for a butcher shop no matter how close that person is to the meat-slicer. Purchase and interest data give advertisers the critical insights necessary to use location data intelligently. So they can find the committed carnivores in the appropriate proximity around the store instead of the herbivores leaning against the window.

Additionally, since most purchases still occur in brick-and-mortar storefronts, it is best to draw on user profiles that incorporate both online and offline purchase information. You can do that by integrating your first party data into your targeting models.

 3.    Understand the Strengths (and Limits) of Location Data

Data from across campaigns I have analyzed have demonstrated the value of precise location as a component of effective media targeting and delivery. With so many of us relying on our smartphones for bottom-of-the-funnel decision making, it’s not surprising that location-based ads show strong response rates.

Yet there’s a common misperception mobile location programs are more precise than they actually are. Brands may think they’re buying millions of impressions against people 25 feet from their stores. But the reality is that they are often purchasing a campaign that includes a variety of different location tactics such as:

  • IP location detection
  • Cell tower triangulation
  • GPS coordinates
  • Check-ins

The end result is a cocktail of tactics that ultimately provide proximity-based targeting, which may be a lot broader – like zip code targeting or targeting consumers within an “x-mile radius” of the desired location. It’s the classic tradeoff. The more precise you get, the less scale is available. That doesn’t make precise geolocation a bad thing, just a small thing.

The future of location-based marketing is extremely promising, but you must remember that it is not the “be all, end all” of mobile programs. By all means use location to get better results. But use it in the context of a larger, more comprehensive targeting program based on the entire individual. Instead of “location, location, location” think “consumer, consumer, consumer!”

Kurt Hawks is general manager of Conversant Mobile.