Location, Relevancy, and the Search for Personalization

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Fingerprint_detail_on_male_fingerIn local marketing, location represents the physical boundaries within which an ad or message is distributed. While location sets the foundation for an ads’ relevance to consumers, location alone does not provide personalization.

Marketers today have access to an unprecedented amount of data about consumers and their environment that goes well beyond location, ranging from their demographics and shopping behavior to the time of day and weather. However, local marketers continue to fail to leverage this trove of new data to create and deliver relevant, quality and personalized ads to consumers. And it’s a big missed opportunity.

During the Local Search Association’s inaugural “Think Tank” gathering in New York City last month, Peter Minnium, Head of Digital Brand Initiatives at IAB, said that while our industry is good at targeting local ads by audience and demographics, we miss a lot of other local cues. He noted that our industry hasn’t seemed to figure out how to use all of the data available to our advantage.

Part of the problem is that the automated ad-buying systems are not sophisticated enough to use the available data to pinpoint consumers with relevant ads. As companies  improve the technology, the key focus will be on how to create individualized relevance for target consumers using all the data points available so that they are more likely to move forward with a click, call, store visit, appointment, reservation, website visit or other action.

Whether you call it personalization or contextual marketing, the big opportunity for marketers is to deliver relevant messaging that boosts ROI. In the ecommerce industry, a recent Econsultancy survey of more than 1,100 digital and ecommerce professionals working for brands and agencies found that businesses that personalize web experiences are seeing an increase in sales of 19% on average. The study also showed that 66% of marketers listed improved business performance and customer experience as the main drive for personalizing.

And it’s not just marketers that are demanding personalization; consumers want it, too. A Zogby Analytics poll of 1,000 adults commissioned by the Digital Advertising Alliance, found that consumers actually prefer targeted ads. Nearly 70% of those surveyed said that they would like at least some ads tailored directly to their interests, compared to only 16 % that preferred to see randomly selected ads. Furthermore, a strong 40% preferred that all their ads be targeted.

Consumers are also hungry for a more “3D” local experience.
During the “Think Tank” meeting, Alice Hazen, National Client Partner at Yelp, stressed that consumers want and expect local tools that will anticipate their next moves and purchases.  They want services that “give me what I want, that I didn’t know I wanted, right at the moment I need it,” she told the audience.

While consumers still aren’t very excited about the proliferation of ads on their devices for a variety of reasons, they’re not opposed to relevancy.  Consumers react to the messages that are applicable to them, not the messages that they see the most. A marketing message is only as powerful as its ability to speak to the wants, needs, means and environment of its audience.

For instance, a late night eatery in New York City might see better responses if it targets the Broadway show audience in Times Square between 10:30-11:30 p.m., as consumers are leaving the theater. A local hotel would probably benefit from pushing ads to people in an airport during inclement weather, which is causing delays and canceled flights. There are what seems like an infinite amount of situations that would make it easier for marketers to build relevance; it just requires an understanding of the local environment and a media outlet that allows for the ability to target a very specific audience segment in real-time.

While creatively targeting ads requires more work, intelligent messaging has the potential to deliver more actions and stronger ROI. Either way, local businesses can’t compete with the advertising dollars of national brands, but they can compete in regards to relevance, in large part because they are actually local. With their finger on the pulse of a community or region, local businesses are well positioned to use this knowledge in order to win the attention of local consumers with actionable marketing messages.

In our increasingly data-driven industry and given the growing number of digitally connected consumers, the winners of the local space will be the marketers that create the most relevant, local messages. As targeting technology and ad platforms become more sophisticated and affordable, small businesses will have a great chance to steal some attention from the national brands. By leveraging their local knowledge, local businesses will be able to push out marketing messages at the right time, to the right people and with the right message.

Morsello_JoeJoe Morsello contributes to the Local Search Insider and is the Communications Manager at the Local Search Association, a trade organization of print, digital, mobile and social media companies that help local businesses get found. Follow LSA on Twitter @LocalSearchAssn.

Find out more about how data can be used in local context at Street Fight’s Local Data Summit, taking place on February 25th, in Denver. Learn from and network with some of the top local data experts in the country. Reserve your ticket today!