Many location data companies and location-based marketing solutions claim to be the best in their respective spaces. But what actually makes location data actionable and location-based marketing effective — and what do recent success stories like Pokemon Go foretell for the location data industry?
Street Fight recently caught up with Joe Francica, managing director of geospatial solutions at Pitney Bowes, to talk about the best practices in location data collection and visualization as well as recent trends in the industry.
What are some of the keys to making location data actionable?
It’s all about how current the data is. We’re still on the cusp of what you can do with the data. It’s increasingly challenging to manage, which is the big data problem. With the information coming from social media and mobile devices, it’s all about currency — it’s all about getting a handle on how to analyze and use that data.
What makes for a good location-based marketing strategy?
We have an education problem. There are many people that do not know how to use location-based data. Very few people know how to think spatially. Even though we think spatially every day, people don’t know how to translate that into using enterprise systems and business intelligence.
The way you can tell is if you try to look at how people are implementing a location-based data strategy, they are falling way short of what they need to be doing. Generally people are using a business intelligence solution, and if you look at the capabilities of the iPlatforms and mapping technology, it is at such a basic level.
You do find some sophisticated companies out there that are all about location-based data, mostly adtech firms that are way ahead of the game here. But they’re struggling even to get things like mobile trace data.
What separates the people who are getting it right from the people who aren’t?
There are some people who are trying to use a big data framework and visualize volumes of data that are coming in; that’s going to be the future. If you can find a way to aggregate both social media and mobile trace data as well as integrating some current data from baseline demographics, they’ll be ahead. It’s people using the baseline demographics and coupling that with things like loyalty programs that they can gather from social media.
I’d add that if they can get a handle on transaction information, you couple that with merchandise, then they’ll have a really good leg up. You can’t have marketing without merchandise.
Some companies are using consumer location data to track things like foot traffic to locations — and then they’re selling that data to traders seeking to understand business dynamics in real time. Are there other uses like this where location data indicates something about a business that it may not know about itself yet?
Let’s take a generalized retailer that’s got 25 stores in the market. If they’re not capturing some of the baseline data, they’re not doing their job. That’s not just footfall traffic. There’s transaction history, traffic volumes passing by their store. Even something as basic as traffic volume by your store can give you a handle on what your potential sales are.
So, you’ve talked about how one of the big differences in the efficacy of location-based marketing solutions is data collection. What makes for effective data visualization?
You can look at all of this wonderful data in spreadsheets or pie charts, or you can look at one map. Because without understanding the proximity relationships of all that data, you will miss something you should’ve seen spatially.
I go back to that example of that network of stores in a particular city. If you don’t see that store A is outperforming store B that is just down the block from it, you would assume store A is somewhere off in the boonies. You wouldn’t know that there’s something relevant from a location-based data perspective without seeing it on the map.
One of the big mass media stories in location data recently has been Pokemon Go. What has the popularity of Pokemon Go indicated about the future of location data?
The fact that it is using not only street network data and other location-based data but also augmented reality is probably something that we wouldn’t have been able to foretell because augmented reality has otherwise been a bust.
What’s happened with Pokemon Go is the ability to use gaming as a means to do marketing. Now we’re looking at this and reevaluating how we engage with a potential consumer in a gaming setting. It’s not just that it’s a neat game to play; it’s opened the eyes of a lot of people to say what can I do in terms of attracting new consumers given the popularity of the game.
Almost every type of application is looking at Pokemon Go. In education, people are looking at Pokemon Go and saying “Can I use that as an educational platform and not just as a marketing platform?” So it really has revolutionized the way we treat augmented reality as a technology platform.
Consumers are clearly comfortable with (or at least not averse to) giving their location data to a game like Pokemon Go and having it tied to their Google accounts. What is different about the value exchange in this context from what other companies have offered in the past where consumers have been wary about handing over location data?
It’s a little bit mind-boggling. Even when I signed up for Pokemon Go I had a bit of a hesitation to link it to my Google account. I think the consumer had to get over a hurdle this time. Generally when we use your location, it’s more contextual, it’s more related — like if I’m downloading a weather app I understand better why they need to use my location. But to use that game, it was more of a conscious decision to give my information to Google.
I think it causes a hesitation for most people but as you can tell, people got over it. What you’ve got to ask yourself is are we now completely comfortable giving away our personal information both because we know Google and we know we have to have location to play this game?
How useful is augmented reality in the location space beyond Pokemon Go? Are we going to see augmented reality used by a lot of other people who are doing things with location and commerce?
The short answer is: it’s yet to be seen. Even Google’s attempt at Google Glass failed miserably or at least failed in the short term such that augmented reality never played out. So does Pokemon Go foretell other successes? I don’t necessarily think so. I think this was a unique situation. So I’m not sure that there’s going to be much success beyond Pokemon Go — maybe it will, but there have been lots of failed attempts.
Joseph Zappa is Street Fight’s news editor. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.