Why Leveraging Location Is the Key to Success in Mobile Advertising

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If 2011 was the year of mobile, 2012 is most certainly the year of mobile-local. Both smartphone and tablet users are searching for locally relevant content at an increasing rate, so much so that mobile user experience as a whole has been affected by the need for location-based information.

Mobile networks have seen a massive increase in local search traffic this year, affecting mobile advertising in a big way. Earlier this year, BIA/Kelsey released a report which forecast a 280% increase in mobile-local ad spend by 2016. Yet the vast majority of mobile advertising doesn’t grasp what it means to be truly local.

The development of a successful mobile-local ad campaign hinges on two major factors – accurate user location signals, and contextually local ad creative. Both of these are seriously underutilized by the industry today, and failing to actually incorporate location into mobile-local ads is a huge disservice to both the mobile user and the advertiser. And the consequences are certainly visible in campaign performance.  So how do you ensure your mobile campaign is taking advantage of all the magic that location has to offer?

Leveraging Location Signals
The first step in creating a well-developed mobile-local campaign is vetting location signals to ensure they are the most relevant for the campaign. There are a number of location-based signals available and currently in use by the mobile industry, but some carry greater targeting abilities than others. Not all mobile sites and networks are collecting the location data necessary to target on a hyperlocal level.

Location data depends on the information a publisher gathers from a mobile user. Any piece of location data, whether static zip code or roaming GPS signal, can be translated by a publisher into a latitude-longitude signal, and then provided to an ad network looking to place ads based on hyperlocal data. But just because it’s a lat-long signal, doesn’t mean you are receiving the most accurate user location data. Therefore it’s possible that targeting based on that information may bring poor campaign results.

Imagine this: a national coffee brand is looking to drive foot traffic to just a select few of their more than 250 locations in Manhattan in order to promote a specific deal. This is the type of chain that has a location on every other corner (you know the type) and therefore within a relatively small geographic location, there could be four or five to choose from. In order to target users only within the very specific areas of the select few stores offering this promotion, the most effective location signals to use would be GPS and WiFi-ISP (if available). Other types of signals would cast too wide a net.

The true value of locally-relevant banner ads can be found in user engagement and activity. Locally targeted ads can perform up to 10 times better than non-optimized local banners.

The moral of the story is that advertisers looking to truly leverage location should be aware of the variety of location data available and make sure their ad network and/or sites are capable of the correct type of targeting. By utilizing only the most targeted location data, advertisers can avoid serving irrelevant impressions, drive greater overall campaign engagement, and save money,

Location Puts Content in Context
Once the depth of signal is determined, the most important level of strategy begins. While properly vetted location signals hold significant importance — what is done with that location intelligence determines the success of a mobile ad campaign. These signals can be used to provide a locally-relevant context to display advertisements. Wouldn’t it be helpful if during the course of your search for the aforementioned national coffee chain, you came across an ad that provides your exact distance from the nearest location? No arguments here!

The true value of locally-relevant banner ads can be found in user engagement and activity. Locally targeted ads can perform up to 10 times better than non-optimized local banners.  But the injection of location in mobile banner ads is not the end of location-based mobile context.

By connecting locally-relevant ads to an optimized landing page, you can provide a direct line of engagement between a consumer and a business location. What are two of the most common local actions you complete with your smartphone? (say phone calls and navigation)… Phone calls and Navigation? Fantastic! Actually you’re not alone. Google recently reported that 52% of smartphone users call a business, and 50% look up a map of the location – a strong indicator of intent to visit of course.  It’s no coincidence that these frequently completed tasks are incorporated into the design of locally-optimized mobile landing pages.

A properly designed mobile-local landing page should provide a list of methods to directly connect with the local business advertised. This menu of connection points includes the option to make a call, download map and driving directions, check out reviews, et cetera. Consumers that take that extra step to call the business, or check out directions to get there are demonstrating a deeper level of engagement — all of which can be tracked. This level of consumer insight is only possible via a locally-optimized mobile landing page.

So there you have it. Some of the coolest trends in mobile advertising (you may not be seeing) are in fact brought to you by the letter “L” for Location. Whether visible in creative, or masterfully woven into the back-end targeting strategy, location is essential in driving optimal mobile-local campaign performance. As we continue to understand and hone the data signals available, and test new and interesting creative experiences, you can bet location will only continue to drive mobile industry innovation.

Annisa Farese is Marketing & Communications Manager for xAd Inc. As the largest local-mobile ad network, xAd leverages local search data to drive performance in search and display campaigns for clients ranging from local SMBs to global brands. To learn more about xAd visit www.xAd.com or find us on Twitter at @xAdInc.