Location Data Confidence in an Exploding Data Universe

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A recent article likening location data to a Ponzi scheme reinforced the fact that, like any good consumer, you have to ask the right questions to know what you are buying.

Location intelligence, sourced securely and used in the right way, is an extremely powerful tool to craft precise targeting, predictive modeling, and creative media that drive meaningful marketing moments, massive ROI, and brand growth. Unfortunately, the location intelligence sector has also become a jungle of data fraught with fraudulence and insecurity.

Location intelligence is powerful, but in today’s highly scrutinized world, you have to challenge every resource you engage to ensure confidence in its quality.

There are three critical questions you should ask data partners before you engage them.

1. How much bid stream data is supplementing your immediate data set?

The data source is paramount. The majority of data should come from accurate, scalable, and secure first-party device ID tracking. There are three dominant location data sources: bid stream (or lat/long), SDK (or Software Development Kits), and beacons (or one-way signals).

Bid stream data, for example, which comes mostly from ads running on installed mobile apps, can be a problem if not authenticated. However, it is great for expanding your audience for a defined moment in time. As a publisher, relying on this data source is a great choice, but as an advertiser, not so much.

It is critical to understand how your data partners leverage and scale these data sources and how they filter and clean the data to eliminate fraud and spoofing.

2. Does your digital intelligence platform filter incoming data in real-time?

When I discuss SDK-level data with prospects and clients, I like to do a little test. I ask them to go into their phone settings and look at their location services to see which applications are set to ‘always on’ or ‘on while using.’ Most people are shocked at the amount of data they make available. That sort of revelation makes it clear that your data, in the wrong hands, can be used in ways to which you would never agree. Make sure you’re working with a company that ethically sources data, stores consent files, and goes the extra mile to de-duplicate their data.

It’s also important to know how data is stored, secured, and refreshed. If a company is leveraging heavy bid stream data, and there’s rampant fraud and spoofing in the bid stream, there is a good chance that a great deal of their data is fake.

However, if your partners are leveraging authentic SDK-level data and have trusted publishers that pass fraud-free bid stream data over, then you can be confident in the validity of the data. Leveraging a secure and actionable DMP (data management platform) is paramount when it comes to data storage and segmentation for insights and targeting.

3. How do you ensure POI data quality?

While there is no perfect POI (point of interest) data, there are ways to ensure data quality. Accuracy and recency are two key factors.

The best quality data does not only look at the locational coordinates of a particular device but also helps you understand the context of the location so that the data can start to inform intent and meaning. Information without contextual insight makes the data virtually useless.

The best quality data should be validated and analyzed from multiple, authenticated data sources—from types of destinations, to visit frequency, to time of day. The most accurate and actionable data is validated by scale input and a cleaning and de-duplication process that creates more accurate insights and effective marketing efforts.

The bottom line

It’s important to do your due diligence to identify trusted partners that not only passively and ethically collect data, but also bring expertise and experience in how to analyze and create end-to-end solutions around behaviors.  

There are some fundamental truths raised by location data skeptics — people are not looking for ads while they shop or when they pull up to the drive-through. They do, however, have apps that send out valuable information, some of which they’ve opted into leaving “always on.” It takes a solid data science team to know how to best manage and normalize this data for executable segmentation and innovative data artistry expertise to make it connect in a meaningful way. 

Other questions to consider:

  • How does your location partner help you establish success?
  • Where have they been successful in your industry?
  • How are they innovating?

People are the magic bullet. Assess the talent your data provider has in-house and request relevant case studies to see how they’ve creatively and successfully applied the data at their disposal.

Data is evolving, and location is just part of the story. You want to partner with a company that is thinking beyond the data they collect to create a larger narrative around your brand and, more importantly, your target.

As Chief Strategy Officer for SITO Mobile, Sean leads the Strategic Advisory Group, where he focuses on enhancing SITO’s product development offerings with a data-first, consultancy approach for evolving client needs. Under his leadership, the Strategic Advisory Group provides enterprise clients with the powerful ad media and data-driven intelligence solutions they need to drive robust revenue growth.