Cost-Per-Visit and Bad Location Data: Are You Really Getting What You Pay For?

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With the mainstream adoption of location data by marketers and brands, an innovative pay-for performance model called cost-per-visit (CPV) is emerging. Similar to its online cousins cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-action (CPA), CPV enables marketers to pay only for media that results in a consumer visiting a retail store in the physical world (yes, people really do still go to stores!). This new pricing model offers the promise of accountability and transparency to brands in the retail industry which, with over $15B spent in 2016, is the largest single digital ad spending category.

Seems like a no-brainer, right? Who doesn’t like only paying for what they get?

CPV is generating a welcome dialogue in the ad industry as it wrestles with questions such as how to value repeat customer visits and how much is a visit worth. Key to answering all these questions, though, is clearly understanding the accuracy of the underlying location data being used to score the visit. After all, if the data inaccurately counts a store visit, how does a marketer know whether or not to pay?

Take the bad with the good…
Location data is like many things in life — you take the bad with the good. Accurate location data is a valuable resource for planning, audience targeting, proximity ad campaigns, foot traffic measurement, and even out-of-home ad exposure. The location data fueling these campaign strategies actually comprises two data sets: user location data (“a mobile user’s whereabouts”) and point-of-interest (POI) data (“where places like stores are actually located”). When leveraged properly, location data opens new worlds of insights for marketers and agencies so they know what is driving value for their campaigns.

However, the good attributes of location data can be overshadowed by known data collection inconsistencies, outright fraud, and a shortage of persistent, verifiably-clean signals at scale. What’s more, we see that the quality of data even from the same source (SDK or app) can vary widely: some data points may be highly accurate or precise, while others are hundreds of miles out of place for the reasons shared above. Add that to the fact that both Android and Apple are putting curbs on the collection of general location data, and it’s no wonder that bad location data is mobile media buyers’ number-one concern.

Verification is critical for CPV
With that in mind, there’s no question that location data needs to be verified on a broad scale, but especially when it comes to the cost-per-visit model. Independent, third-party verification of location data works to the advantage of everyone in the CPV ecosystem, be it vendor, agency, or brand. As the model goes, brands should be certain they’ve actually gotten what they’ve paid for, and vice versa.

Not only can brands ensure the most powerful geo-targeted mobile campaigns, but vendors may set CPV price points based on verified store visits, without the risk of surprises later.

When all sides participate, everyone in the ecosystem benefits from the resulting transparency and accountability.

Carrier data holds the key for user location accuracy
The biggest question, then, is how best to verify location-targeted impressions and their consequential visits; that’s where carrier data comes in.

Most data sets are either accurate or precise — but carrier data, as the system of record for all that happens on the device and on the network, is uniquely qualified to report on both. Since the anonymized carrier database stores the original full format of the location data, other data sets can be compared to this truth set in a privacy safe and compliant environment, and inaccurate data can be flagged for remediation.

The benefits of this approach are far reaching: not only can this large-scale carrier dataset be used to compare and verify the accuracy and precision of any other data set, by virtue of the census-grade scale, it also enables an agency or brand to accurately and precisely verify any population group or segment.

And given that no other use case apart from CPV benefits more from the application of verified, accurate location data, who wouldn’t want to use carrier data to attribute visits to media?

Ensure Your Location-Targeted Campaigns Are On Point
As the CPV model continues to gain traction, the industry receives a welcome chance to double-down on accountability. But in order to get the most out of this model, and location-targeted campaigns at large, we’ve got to be sure our efforts are hitting the mark, both literally and figuratively. And if carrier data can help promote transparency in the industry, ensure the strongest campaigns possible, and ease marketers’ unease in working with location data, I say full speed ahead.

Alistair Goodman brings over 20 years of experience working in marketing and product development efforts for media and data technology companies. Currently, as the CEO at Placecast, Alistair leads a team of location and mobile data management experts. Prior to Placecast, Alistair was vice-president of strategic marketing at Exponential Interactive.