Oren Netzer (pictured below), co-founder and CEO, cClearly, writes exclusively for ExchangeWire about the benefits of geo targeting and why marketers should make it part of their arsenal now.
Geo targeting is the most under-utilised targeting element available to marketers today, giving a huge opportunity to brands that invest time and money in smarter geo targeting. Most advertising platforms now allow for detailed geo targeting – often down to a zip code/postcode or even to GPS coordinates. Yet it is amazing how few advertisers are consciously investing effort in this area. Audience targeting/ retargeting (via cookies) has dominated online display advertising and is now under threat from legislation and the end of third party cookies. Targeting in search and demographic targeting in logged in social networks attract huge spends. With the end of cookies it has been contextual targeting getting the most attention. This has relegated geo targeting down the list in terms of investment and understanding. This is a mistake as in fact it has many benefits, and to succeed advertisers need to understand how it impacts their business.
It works in multiple channels
Geo targeting and optimisation at a postcode level can be used effectively in the largest search engines, on social media, in online display and video platforms. As it is location based it can also be leveraged in digital out of home and connected TV as well as in traditional media channels such as radio and TV. Obviously such data has been used for years in direct mail and door drops. Therefore understanding how effective geo targeting and optimisation can be for brands can be utilised in so many media channels. Furthermore it can be used in personalisation (online, in app or on connected devices) and business intelligence. What has really changed recently for geo is the speed at which data can be analysed and optimised and the introduction of machine learning techniques making some fairly old methodologies relevant in the digital age.
It can be a proxy for other variables
At a zip code/postcode level, geo data can help brands target other audiences. Geo data goes hand in hand with understanding if its a household, large or small business (either by explicit registration or number of devices on an IP). Business SIC codes are often available from geo IP providers on business category. However more interesting is the ability to use zip codes as a strong proxy/predictor of age/gender/income/life stage. Large data companies like Experian and Equifax have for a long time used this data to group into profiles which makes it very suitable for brand activity. And yet this data has not been extensively used in modern media channels.
It can be compliant of legislation
One has to be very careful here stating what data is and is not compliant. However used correctly, geo data is considered compliant for use in marketing, insights and personalisation. In some cases, such as with GPS coordinates it is necessary to group the data up in large enough grids to ensure it is not able to identify individuals. Properly handled though geo data should be a safe data set to be used and one that is likely to only grow in importance as legislation and technology develop.
It drives large increases in performance
For many brands geo data can be a big driver in predicting and optimising performance marketing. Brands will find that they have a different affinity in different parts of the country. Furthermore most brands perform differently to different ages, demographics and other geo related profiles. Advances in machine learning and AI alongside the granularity of data available from online channels make profiling this data more powerful than ever and it is vital brands understand their geo dynamics to unlock more powerful marketing, personalisation and make better decisions.
Geo data requires expertise
Perhaps the reason why geo data has been underused is that it is surprisingly difficult to handle. Different geo sources have varying rates of accuracy. Furthermore handling insufficient sales data at a granular level through predictive modelling is a vital component to unlocking full power. It is therefore recommended that brands bring in experts with a history of success in this space to drive success. Understanding how different platforms and measurement systems use Geo, how to access granular data, the use of advanced machine learning/AI techniques and how the benefits can best be syndicated to marketing platforms are vital and relatively rare skills.
This is for everyone
One of the common misconceptions in marketing is that geo optimisation is only for geo focussed businesses. For example ones that have all their stores in a certain part of the country. I have also heard brands state that they cover all locations evenly so it is not relevant. This misunderstands the impact of geo. Location baed targeting highlights changes in how brands, or product preference, over locations often manifest. Even when that doesn’t, location targeting at a detailed level also surfaces differences in demographics, incomes, life stages and more. Walking down the street you can see these changes vividly in the different types of housing. Geo optimisation brings that to the table at scale in online advertising.
The time is now
Digital marketing channels and measurement particularly are going to go through a period of change due to legislation and technology over the next two years. Therefore it is vital that Brands prepare for this and make use of the current environment to understand their Geo dynamics. Those that do will have a big advantage over those that do not. The emerging benefits of Machine learning and AI particularly are now accelerating the advantages that some brands have in insights, personalisation and marketing can become a real differentiator between successful brands, marketing programs and the rest.