The Where Factor: How Location Data Offers a New Marketing Edge


The Where Factor: How Location Data Offers a New Marketing Edge

Bill Borrelle

Location. Location. Location. It’s not just a crucial factor in real estate. Whether one is globe-trotting or strolling through the Lower East Side of Manhattan, an individual’s longitudes and latitudes form and inform a portrait about him or her.

And seeing and understanding the pixels that inform that portrait gives marketers a competitive advantage in building customer relationships and accelerating innovation. It’s the wholly accountable, wildly accurate, irresistibly precise marketing edge.

Or what I call the “Where Factor.”

As marketers, we are experts in the WhoWhat and When of our customers. And we have now woken up to the Where. Not just where our customers are geographically—although that is an important foundation—but also the competitive advantage we gain by learning about what surrounds them.

Why “Where” now? There are a number of reasons. Let’s start with the numbers.

In 2013, 74 percent of US smartphone owners used location-based services, and in 2015 that number grew to 90 percent, according to eMarketer. There are 4 million apps available on Apple and Android phones. The majority of app users expect it to have location context. Further, according to the Goddard Space Flight Center, more than 2,000 satellites are now in orbit globally—they can provide further location precision when coupled with cell phone triangulation and GPS.

Yet the most important reason for why “where” is now not about numbers. It’s far more simple and powerful. It’s consumers like you, me, our daughters, dads and neighbors who click on the “allow” button to say “Okay, I am willing to share my location.”

When we give our customers, with full transparency, the option to choose to share their location information for better service or for a price advantage, the majority will say yes. Many of the reasons why we use our smartphones begin and end with location, which is when the “Where Factor” comes in.

By layering the customer’s latitude and longitude with “what he or she is doing” data, we can generate insights and ideas about the customer that creates a value exchange with a brand. The key is the application of that data analysis through innovative ideas and programs to solve real-world issues, including cow-causing traffic jams.

In Delhi, $10.8 billion per year is lost to traffic jams, which are often caused by sacred cows who wander freely in the streets of Delhi. Y&R looked for the solution to the problem by attaching transmitters (using recycled smartphones to create solar-powered collars) to the cows themselves. With its Traffic Gaaye app (via the GPS smartphone function), it sent location-based information to drivers about traffic jams and detours. Traveling time for drivers using the app was reduced by an average of 15 minutes, with a marked reduction in fuel consumption, which in turn brought down pollution levels during peak hours.

The “Where Factor” here was created by taking the latitude/longitude of the cows and combining that with location data to help drivers avoid traffic jams.

Location-sophisticated programs are becoming cornerstones of effective customer relationship building, from promptly delivering pizzas, to assessing flood zone risks for insurance companies, to reducing urban traffic jams.

To help make the “Where Factor” a core customer factor for all, here are three things to consider:

1) If you have an app, build into it location-specific value. That will give an incentive to your customer to share their location if you deliver that value. And that opens up a world of location-specific customer relationship building.

2) Turn your data heap into an intelligence hub. All of us are sitting on location data, whether we actually know it. Customer names with addresses can be converted into geocodes enabling you to better profile your customer—where they purchase, where they travel and where they spend their time.

3) Give your location data fuel injection. You may need to gain access to more location data sets than the ones you are currently using and, if so, you should seek out a technology partner. Such partnerships can lead to surprising solutions and programs.

To cite Forrester, “the golden age of customer spatial analytics has arrived.” I, for one, welcome its arrival.

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