Location Is an Underused Data Layer for Brands Seeking Better ROI

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Data represents a big opportunity to overcome huge challenges for brands when it comes to the return on investment (ROI) for their advertising and marketing efforts. Consider that 98% of marketers agree that personalization advances customer relationships, but just 12% of brand marketers are satisfied with how their advertising performs.

In 2019 and into the next decade, brand CMOs and ad agency executives need to invest in the best behavioral, social, search and location data to gain an advantage. A Forrester study comparing a campaign that used location data with one that did not found profits improved by $2.5 million over the course of three years when location data was used.

Location data helps brand marketers improve profitability by fostering a better understanding of the customer journey, improving ad creative, and enriching online and offline experiences. These aspects of marketing campaigns are bolstered by intelligence about the places customers frequent in their daily and weekly lives.

Despite location data’s evident advantages, too many in advertising, marketing, and media don’t understand its benefits and how to effectively use it.

Boosting ad performance

Perhaps location data’s biggest benefit is its impact on ad targeting. With location data, marketers can more effectively target advertising at scale by building audiences based on historical patterns and real-time behavior. Customizable and scalable audience segments allow advertisers to serve the right message at the most opportune time.

Also, location data can be employed to connect cross-channel marketing so that advertisers know precisely what creative works and what ads drive foot traffic to retail stores. They can also use real-world signals to target people on traditional channels like TV and OOH. The final step, of course, is optimizing campaigns, which improves ROI. That same Forrester Research study found continuous targeting optimization led to a sales lift of 15%, coupled with a 47% cost reduction.

Location data’s impact is spreading to new channels. On March 26, Adobe and OTT player Roku debuted a data-minded partnership that should advance how ads perform on the streaming content service. While it’s another step toward “programmatic TV” media buying, it also suggests that advertising has barely scratched the surface for how relevant, accurate data can bolster campaign return on investment. Fans of original programming—especially live sports viewers—are increasingly watching streaming content on the go on phones or tablets. In the near term, advertising on OTT players like Roku will offer brands a locational targeting layer that will make campaigns more targeted and relevant. Clothing brands, shoe sellers, quick-serve restaurants and fast-casual chains all stand to benefit as they consider turning to location-powered ads that will drive better foot traffic and improve ROI.

Spending budget wiser

At the same time, there are challenges that come with using location data. A big problem with Big Data is disorganization. Brands are getting their hands on reams of data, but they don’t know exactly what to do with it because it is hard to bring it all together in a meaningful, efficient fashion.

Worse, many departments turn to multiple data sources that provide the same data in different forms. They are buying the same data twice (or more) for the same campaigns. This double spending undermines ROI. CMOs and agencies need to examine their data, especially their location data, and they need to invest in data talent and data practices so they know what they are doing with the data at their command.

Taking data transformation seriously

If your brand or ad agency doesn’t know exactly how location data is powering your ad campaigns and the customer journey, you need to be better organized. People in our industry talk a lot about digital transformation, but I contend that brands need to go through a data transformation. Netflix and L’Oréal are already doing this, which is a big reason they are bringing programmatic advertising in-house.

WeWork, a growing work-space player with 280 locations, also offers an intriguing look into the possibilities of what can happen when a brand embraces data transformation. The nine-year-old company employed location data to find desirable locations in cities nationwide by capturing the density of bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and other amenities in neighborhoods, and then it opened dozens of successful outlets across the country.

Scratching the surface for bigger profits

Location data can drive better advertising ROI via channels such as OTT/TV, out-of-home, mobile and online, and it can help brands achieve the Holy Grail of 1:1 holistic marketing. It improves the scale, accuracy, and reach of cross-channel efforts. It can also help retailers understand the actual value of advertising by knowing what ads drove in-store sales, and it can allow them to open and close stores more intelligently based on foot traffic trends.

In 2019, we are just scratching the surface of location data’s potential for improving the ROI of advertising and marketing. As we approach the next decade, location intelligence will be a major factor in determining which brands thrive and exist in the many years to come and which ones fall by the wayside by not taking their data seriously enough.

Ocean Fine is VP of agencies and marketers at  Factual. She’s a seasoned practitioner in the marketing and technology realms, having served tenures at places such as AT&T AdWorks and VeriSign.