Charting Consumer Behavior In the Real World

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-5At Street Fight’s Local Data Summit on Tuesday, LocalSEOGuide proprietor Andrew Shotland started off a morning panel discussion on charting consumer behavior in the real world by asking Placed CEO David Shim, MapQuest CDO Donnie Yancey, and PlaceIQ VP Strategy Drew Breunig how close the local data industry is to being able to collect and aggregate the location of consumers, and then sell that information directly to marketers.

“That’s here. We created that market at the beginning of 2012,” Breunig told the audience.

The next challenge is to get businesses interested in going beyond location targeting to target specific audiences. Breunig said he’s also waiting for the market to focus more extensively on combining location, audience, and insights. The existing learning curve for businesses is so large, that it’s hard for people who don’t spend all day thinking about location to get their heads around the possibilities.

“Until people can abstract that, we aren’t there yet,” Breunig said. “It has to be tactics-based.”

Walking the audience through the process of how large volumes of data are translated for individual merchants, Placed’s Shim explained how retailers have used his company’s Insights platform to find out where their customers were going after leaving their stores. Shim favors taking an open-source approach to attribution, telling the audience that media sellers want someone to confirm whether their location campaigns are actually working.

One area where the panel was not always in agreement was on the topic of geo-fencing. Breunig said that problems can occur when geo-fencing is the only targeting tool a business has available. If a retailer that uses geo-fencing runs into trouble and a geo-fence begins to under-deliver, there’s nowhere else to turn, Breunig said. To make geo-fences work effectively, there needs to be a deep understanding of precisely where a place is.

“Geo-fences were once the right tool for the job, and used well it can be great,” Breunig said. “The problem with geo-fences is … it’s garbage in, garbage out.”

Shim offered a more optimistic view, telling the crowd that geo-fences can still serve a purpose when they are narrowly targeted based on the client’s specific needs.

“I think there is still a market for geo-fencing,” Shim said.

For data companies, Breunig said the real challenge is that the speed of technology is catching up to the speed of imagination. As a result, innovative products will soon be divorced from any cases that customers can imagine. In addition to investing in technology, data companies will have to invest in the technology of evangelism if they want to stay ahead of the curve.

“The gap between imagination and technology is shrinking,” Breunig said.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.