Don't Target Consumers Out At Sea: A Guide to Successful Location Targeting

One of the most valuable tools advancements in tech have offered marketers is the ability to pinpoint consumers’ real-time locations via their mobile phones. Recent IAB research revealed that 66% of marketers believe location-based advertising is the most exciting mobile opportunity this year. And you can see why, when the illusive, holy grail of advertising – right person, right place, right time – can easily be realised through effective location targeting. So, why are so many marketers still getting it wrong? Tej Rekhi, AVP, global mobile product sales and David Bräuninger, head of programmatic partnerships and business development, Sizmek tell ExchangeWire how the technologies available to track location make it an incredibly powerful tool, but that you must consider the limitations of location data.

It comes down to knowing how to use location targeting to the best effect. In this article, we will explain that to succeed at location-based marketing, marketers need to adopt the most accurate location services, delve deeper into the habits of users, build beautiful creative, and remain vigilant against fraud.

Which location tech is right for your campaign?

GPS is an inherent component of all smartphones and uses signals from at least three different space satellites to form a longitude/latitude reference. It is widely considered the best outdoor location tech and has global range. There are drawbacks to GPS however – it is unreliable when it comes to tracking users indoors – meaning you can’t tell if a customer has just stepped into a branch.

Mobiles can be tracked via their IP address whenever they connect to the internet and can therefore be located as they join Wi-Fi hotspots on the go. This is good news for the Wi-Fi provider, who can gain access to a user’s location, and save the identifier of the user’s device – great for indoor footfall. Wi-Fi is a good method of tracking users when they enter a building, as many will be signed up to office networks or those in local bars and cafes. But it is nowhere near foolproof, as it relies on consumers actively consenting to a connection. Used in conjunction with GPS technology however it can generate highly accurate results.

NFC and iBeacon are new tracking technologies and it’s too early to know how they might grow. Both have an extremely high degree of precision when it comes to pinpointing a user’s location, but require users to have an app installed on their device and a network of beacons set up at a specific venue, making them expensive to fully implement. The distance between the NFC or iBeacon and the device has to be so small that neither are suitable for outdoor usage but they can, along with instore Wi-Fi, track how long a consumer is in a specific location.

Marketers must keep in mind the limitations of location targeting – users may have deactivated location services or may have simply left their phone at home – so the technology cannot always provide a complete picture of consumer activity. 

Build the bigger picture

Tej Rekhi, Sizmek

Tej Rekhi, Sizmek

Location data is great for pinpointing where consumers are but there’s far more to it. Marketers need to take time to layer data about consumers to build the bigger picture of their individual daily and weekly habits. Using Nandos as an example, it can tell how many times a particular consumer has been in the vicinity of a certain restaurant and at what times of day. This provides good insight into a potential customer, and helps advertisers to build up a picture of that consumer, so they can customise their communications accordingly. For example, it might be that a particular consumer tends to walk within a few streets of Nandos in Soho every weekday morning and evening – suggesting they work in the area. It therefore wouldn’t make sense to serve them a discount voucher for that particular restaurant at the weekend.

Don’t target consumers out at sea

As well as checking data for irrelevant consumers, it’s vital marketers check it for out-of-bounds, blacklisted or invalid coordinates. Some providers may fake locations to bring in more revenue, so it’s important marketers remain vigilant.

The make-up of the latitude and longitude coordinate is vital – the more decimal points there are the more accurate your data should be, providing the numbers are put together correctly in the first place. Coordinates with at least five decimal places are optimal for location tracking and anything less than four isn’t suitable for real-time geomarketing. For example, five decimal places can track a user to within 1m, decreasing to 100m for three decimal places and 10,000m for one decimal place. Accuracy of coordinates is also affected by the tracking technology – IP will not be as precise as GPS as the IP address covers a wider area.

David Bräuninger, Sizmek

David Bräuninger, Sizmek

When processing billions of consumer records you can expect to find some invalid or blacklisted coordinates in amongst them. Location validation platforms will identify and expel any odd looking data for brands. If a user appears to be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for instance, then it’s safe to assume it’s down to bad coding and developers have inadvertently switched the latitude and longitude coordinates. Likewise, if you see a sudden spike in impressions in a certain area with no logical explanation, then you can assume these coordinates are fraudulent.

Combine location data with DCO

This wouldn’t be an article about advertising if we didn’t mention creative. Marketers are well versed nowadays on the importance of beautiful and engaging creative, but the advantage of knowing a consumer’s location means you also have insight into their environment and surroundings – what type of weather they’re experiencing for example. Good advertisers know the value exchange in consumers accepting ads is that are personalised for them, and combine location data with dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) to build and serve different versions of ads to compliment a consumer’s environment.

Location tracking is something all marketers should be investing in – it provides the greatest insight available into consumer behaviour, whether they plan to target users in real-time or use the data as part of long-term campaign planning.

Only through location data can marketers evaluate the true success of a campaign – did a particular consumer visit Nandos on the same day they were served an ad for example. And if the optimum type of location data is used correctly in combination with DCO, ads can – for the first time – be fully personalised to each individual, down to where they are and what they are doing at any particular time. This enhanced level of personalisation far increases the chances of user engagement with an ad – ultimately improving brand reputation and boosting ROI.