Location data has played a critical role in transforming our devices into mini virtual assistants. According to a 2016 Pew Research Center study, 95 percent of US adults own cellphones, while 77 percent own smartphones. So you can see that we take for granted the ease with which we access accurate weather data, driving directions and geo-filter photo tags with just the tap of our screen.
But beyond customizing our in-app device experiences, location data is now driving innovation and improving the user experience across many industries. Industries from retail and manufacturing to investment banking and healthcare are now incorporating location data and insights into their digital strategies.
At a basic level, location data is the combination of latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates gathered from any connected device. Location data has two distinct components: device location and venue location. Having the correct intersection between the two is critical to draw any meaningful intelligence from the data.
Think of this data as the digital breadcrumbs that tie all of the other consumer data points together. Having an understanding of consumers’ recurring routines and behavioral patterns helps paint the full picture of who they are as people and how you can best reach them. Location insights provide businesses with the additional context that they need to make informed investment decisions.
Here are some examples of how location data can be applied to your digital strategies:
- Foot traffic analysis: This data allows you to analyze patterns of movement of devices around specific venues or events that can be used to identify patterns in people’s behavior. Knowing where they typically go on a given day can help you to best engage them at locations where they are most likely to pay attention.
- Market insights: Location insights offers a deeper understanding of trends in consumer behavior. Understanding these trends and patterns, including where consumers shop and socialize most often, allows you to tailor messaging to their personal interests – at retail chains, restaurants, car dealerships, hotels and more.
- Competitive research: Geofencing allows you to analyze competitors’ locations to get a better idea of consumer foot traffic patterns, buying preferences and loyalty level. Having an understanding of what target consumers are doing at a competitor’s location can help you target them with messaging that may sway their loyalty. This type of data can also help you gain insight into strategic information that might fuel a decision such as whether to open a nearby store in the future.
- User experience: Location data enables you to better engage with your customers by delivering personalized and location-specific experiences to them. For example, a retail app can enable “Shopping Mode” to recognize when a user enters a store, deliver content or coupons specific to the user’s environment and automatically preload that user’s shopping list from the app. Or a health-and-fitness app can enable “Gym Mode” to recognize when a user enters a gym, automatically pre-load the user’s workout routine, set up a designated playlist or trigger the beginning of a workout.
- Targeting: Location insights allow you to increase engagement by targeting people with digital content that’s most relevant to their surroundings and habits. Understanding where they go on a daily basis provides an additional layer of insight into when and where it is best to target them with specifically tailored messaging. For example, if you know that your target consumers go to a specific gas station once a week, you can target them with an offer for discounts while they are there.
- Measurement and attribution: Location insights allow you to measure digital campaign return on investment (ROI) by accurately correlating store visits to ad exposure. You can also identify life in venues visited by specific targeted groups compared with your overall ad audience. Understanding the correlation will ensure you aren’t wasting ad spend on the wrong target audiences or the wrong messaging.
The biggest hurdles for organizations looking to leverage location insights are gathering data directly from devices and ensuring that the data being gathered is both accurate and precise enough for their use case. Having both accuracy and precision is the key to ensuring that the insights will have the biggest impact.
Many assume that accurate location is virtually guaranteed if you have great precision, when in reality, that assumption is incorrect. This assumption results in missed opportunities to understand where your users actually are and to better target to them with relevant content. The costs can also pile up when advertisers pour cash into targeting for a specific location and that location turns out to be inaccurate. This renders the campaign ineffective before it even has the chance to run.
As many in the industry gain an understanding of the need for both accuracy and precision when it comes to location, they are starting to apply this data in new and innovative ways. Industries that wouldn’t normally come to mind as being relevant users of this data are now leveraging it to drive more informed strategies for their digital campaigns.
Here are a few of the latest use cases for location intelligence:
- Investing: Location insights help investors make informed decisions, including site selections for new brick-and-mortar locations. By accurately capturing target-market foot traffic, this data provides insight into relevant consumer habits such as where they shop the most and how frequently.
- Event analysis: When it comes to big events, location data is useful in a handful of ways. It provides insight into crowd density in various areas of a venue, offering attendees information about which food lines are longest, where the closest restroom is and which taxi stand is less busy. It also provides attendee demographics, helps with security planning and gathers patterns of movement based on the type of event being held, which is valuable for targeting. Additionally, the data can collectively be used to enhance the user experience at those same events in the future.
- Healthcare insurers: Location data provides richer context for self-reported patient data, helping healthcare professionals deliver more accurate diagnoses. This data shows trends in consumer behavior, including where they go to the gym, healthy food restaurants or parks and recreational areas. This data can help insurers recommend the best type of coverage plan depending on a patient’s specific needs and habits.
Location data facilitates the ability to make informed business decisions and is crucial for gaining a competitive advantage in today’s competitive marketplace. The return can come in spades with increased revenue and ROI, as well as strengthened brand loyalty. Location should play a key role in your next strategic business plan.
David Bairstow, VP of Product at Skyhook, is responsible for designing the next generation of disruptive location technology. Previously, David led Catalina Marketing’s mobile efforts, focusing on monetizing one of the world’s largest datasets of consumer purchase history. David has extensive mobile, product leadership and business experience, including time at Thomson Reuters and JP Morgan. He has a BA in finance from Boston College and an MBA from the University of Cambridge / Queens College in Cambridge, UK.