The Location-Data Challenge: Collaborating To Build Better Mobile Experiences

Overcoming location-data challenges can lead to healthier advertiser and marketing outcomes.

In a mobile-first world, we may well assume that advertisers have a lock on what they’re doing when it comes to reaching consumers on smartphones, delivering relevance and introducing engaging ideas with every mobile experience. The truth is somewhat different, however.

Based on a recent report in which our company, Verve, commissioned Forrester Consulting, 94% of advertisers report difficulty in working with location data, listing an average of four challenges that complicate their work. Some 30% suffer a lack of clarity around what location-data offerings exist, and 33% say they do not fully understand how to leverage location data to deliver relevant messages. Also, among the respondents, 34% say they are likely to be working with inaccurate location data in the first place, struggling to fully apprehend the difference between “good” and “bad” location data.

All of these responses amount to evidence: The location-data landscape is incredibly complex. And it can stymie advertisers, discouraging them from taking full advantage of opportunities around behavioral and geography-based details, the kind that mobile shoppers on the move create with their devices.

Let’s take a closer look at the obstacles in play and then highlight how overcoming these data challenges can lead to healthier advertiser and marketing outcomes.

Managing Location Data For Insights

When it comes to sourcing and aggregating location data in the mobile marketing space, two important elements are at work: sources of data and the ways location coincides with other data types that brands, marketers and their partners employ.

For example, our research shows that advertisers use an average of two sources of location data: They chiefly turn to internal sources and also bring in data from third-party partners. For brands, data assets are largely composed of GPS, cellular towers, RFID, Wi-Fi and beacons. And within that list of asset sources, brands ingest data from an average of three of them.

To uncover insights, advertisers and marketers then integrate that location data with an average of two other types of customer data, including loyalty and purchase data. With all this in mind, and with such a network of sources and details under consideration, advertisers must focus on maturing their organization’s approach to using location data from the start.

It can be challenging to see the forest through the trees when so much time and energy must be directed toward the collection, organization, matching and accessibility of the data. The effort to navigate the data landscape leaves little time to properly study what the data are trying to say to us, analyze those outcomes and then strategize next steps based on our interpretation of the incoming information. These steps speak to the core of mobile marketing maturity. In the quest for this maturity, we must seize new opportunities to create partnerships and forge alliances. These are the connections that will advance brands’ efforts. In the next section, we’ll look at what these opportunities represent.

Solutions: Location Data And Mobile-Marketing Maturity 

Data is a multi-sourced asset, one that comes with a slew of complexities in terms of aggregation, insights, implementation and achieving an underlying confidence in its accuracy. These challenges, however, are surmountable.

As Alison Schiff points out in an Ad Exchanger article, “to access location data, marketers can partner with location-data vendors, license data from third-party providers, connect through APIs that hook into apps with access to location data, partner directly with location-enabled apps, or glean location appended to bid requests on the open exchange.”

With such a variety of options for brands, having a tight alignment with third-party data and platform partners — in particular, collaboration that emphasizes expertise around high-quality data sources and types — is essential to growth. One way to narrow the field of choices is to look to vendors that are actively participating and helping to institute best practices. Good examples include organizations working with recent Media Rating Council guidelines on mobile location-data standards. Another approach, as AdAge reports, is to ensure that location-data partners are employing “alternate data sets and algorithms to detect patterns of inaccurate/fraudulent location data and filter it out, with empirical support and disclosure.”

Succeeding in the location-data space takes not only partnerships and collaboration but also a sustained commitment to maturing the brand’s overall mobile marketing profile. This turns on location-based marketing working in tandem with local marketing, improving the advertiser’s ability to deliver contextual messages that engage, even delight, the customer.

In the next part of this ongoing series, we’ll dive even deeper into the subject of mobile marketing maturity and its wide-reaching effects. We’ll put a lens on the state of the industry and what advertisers say happens to their campaigns when they stretch for the upper tiers of marketing maturity, leveraging location data to improve the consumer’s mobile experience, one engaging moment at a time.

Julie Bernard is CMO at Verve.

[This article first appeared at Forbes.]

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