Looking at Location Signals, GroundTruth Looks at Ways to Predict Behavior

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Compared to other forms of media, local as its own category is only around nine years old, says Sarah Ohle, vice president of marketing insights at GroundTruth.

GroundTruth, a mobile advertising and data tech company (previously xAd), is focused on offline consumer behaviors that, when analyzed and cross-referenced, can provide real-world actionable recommendations and insights for brands. The data shows GroundTruth where consumers are, where they’re going, what they’re looking at, and what they’re buying.

“The way we do that is twofold,” Ohle told Street Fight in an interview. “We’re trying to understand local signals.”

GroundTruth’s system combines a GPS signal with latitude/longitude data from a device with information about the physical boundaries of business locations from the company’s Blueprints technology.

“It gives us a really precise picture of where the location dot is, whether it’s in a store, on a retail block, or in the parking lot,” Ohle says.

With that, GroundTruth is able to aggregate all the data points to draw out consumer behaviors, such as patterns that show up for foot traffic. The company sees about 20 billion visits ever year, where a location signal is registered within a Blueprint boundary, which spans mostly all of the large national brands.

“Anything that is a national brand that has a physical store footprint, we’re constantly adding those to our technology,” Ohle says. “The process is about 70 percent automatic.”

Local data has added a layer of context for marketers in a way that has never been seen before, she says, and mobile especially has helped break down the walls of brand locations.

“You can reach people at all points of their day because their devices come with them,” Ohle says. “Think about that, on how you can speak to consumers and how consumers speak to commerce. The whole world is a retail floor for them. Everything is open for them to search. Being able to speak to them in those moments and understand them because of their location is really essential.”

As consumers demand immediate relevant results from discovery search, location is the information that can enable the delivery of those results. In some ways, location data has become the missing pin that holds all the different pieces together, and Ohle believes that the changes it is seeing is providing insights previously unimaginable.

“I think the big thing that is really interesting is sort of the evolution of location,” she says. “How things have evolved beyond standard geo-fencing and how the location target is getting more precise, as you can see with our technology. But location is not limited to proximity.”

Accessing data about where individuals have visited in the past and the frequency of their visits opens up more options.

“A person doesn’t have to be actually by a store for a brand to say, ‘Here, I’m going to serve you an ad,’” Ohle says. “Brands are now looking at patterns and understanding more generalized behaviors and making decisions based on that.”

The data is offering options to brands to expand beyond one-size-fits all advertising.

“Rather, they can think about the specifics needs from a customer’s point of view, where they are in the purchase cycle, what stage they’re at and where they have been, and how to best tailor location strategy to that consumer’s journey,” Ohle says.

The GroundTruth team is also looking at its data from different angles, Ohle says, trying to see outlines of information that might not be seen otherwise.

“The Amazon new headquarters prediction is a good example,” she says. “We were like, ‘What can we look at for visitation patterns that could uncover something, some truth that isn’t otherwise available?’ Everyone can look up cities that have X number of people or places that have a major airport. But there are different things you can see through location and foot traffic data.”

At the end of October, Ohle’s team mapped out its own prediction of where Amazon will choose to name the new company headquarters, and landed on Charlotte, N.C.

The data that the study analyzed focused on the foot traffic at mass merchandisers and grocery stores and airport traffic, and with those parameters narrowed down the best options to be New York, Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Minneapolis, and San Jose. Though Ohle wanted her hometown, Minneapolis, to win, GroundTruth’s data pointed to Charlotte as the best choice for Amazon.

“Being able to dig in to real world behaviors, it draws out real actionable recommendations and insights,” she says.

April Nowicki is a staff writer at Street Fight.