It’s Valuable, But Is It Accurate? LBMA Report Shines Light On Marketers’ Location Data Issues

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New research by the Location-Based Marketing Association (LBMA) finds that the overwhelming majority of marketers (75%) deem location-based marketing an important focus for 2016, and they are collectively projecting growth of 3.3% for the sector this year.

The new data reflects positive, building momentum, but it’s telling that while 77% of the marketers surveyed thought that location-based data is valuable, only 66% of them felt that it was accurate. This is a troubling discrepancy that indicates that there is a lot of work to be done in standardizing and verifying location data.

The Global Location Trends Report, the LBMA’s first survey of this nature, consulted 253 marketers in the U.S., Canada, Germany, U.K. and Singapore — countries which the association’s founder and president Asif Khan told Street Fight are leading in location-based technology. Major brands — including Coca-Cola, Mondelez International, BMW, Tesco, and Starbucks — were consulted in the survey, which was conducted over a five week period in January, Khan said.

“Location data can be valuable in reaching [a marketer’s] intended audience, but a lot of the existing solutions out there are inherently inaccurate,” Khan said. “For example if you were relying purely on third party data like a platform of Foursquare, where there’s a lot of user-generated content, and [content] a business can create on its own, there’s no validation of that data. It creates duplicates, and all sorts of other scenarios of inaccuracy.”

Another problem is that the industry hasn’t formally, unanimously agreed on what location data is. In a sense, this data should be as plainly understood as paper money or any other clear-cut currency — if it is to be regarded as valuable. Instead it comes in complicated varieties and is calculated differently by every player.

“It comes down to how data is being collected today,” Khan said. “You’ve got guys [generating data] off of beacons, along with platforms like Yelp and Google —  there are so, so many different solutions out there around us in terms of understanding what it is,” Khan said.

The answer, and what should be a chief focus for the location industry this year, he said, is to standardize data and the approach to collecting it.

“Picture a scenario like [the one we have] with the web domain industry,” Khan proposed. “You go to a domain registrar like GoDaddy and you buy your domain and then pop in the information around that. You own and manage that data through that registrar. That info is then taken by the registrar you work with and populated out in a standardized format so you only have to list it once. We need to get to that with location data and we are not quite there.”

Khan says that now is the time to make the necessary moves, not only because of where marketers stand in terms of their value assessment of location, but because of where consumers stand. More than ever, they recognize and trust the value of their location data.

“The market is maturing right now to the  point where the average consumer knows that location data has value,” Khan said. “We’re moving out of the world of ‘Creepy! People are trying to track me,’ and instead focusing on the true utility. Location is like dial tone. It’s part of the fabric of everyday life. What areas will that expand into? Initially, retail was the primary sector, but now it’s part of customer service engagement and even public safety. Location data is not just a marketing thing but an everyday optimization and efficiency for the general public.”

Nicole Spector is a Street Fight contributor.