Expert Roundup: How Will Location Intelligence Transform This Year?

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Location intelligence continues to be a tentpole topic in local commerce. This is the subsector of the broader local media, advertising, and commerce worlds that works with location data and targeting. It’s Street Fight’s theme for the month of April, and it continues to transform rapidly. 

Much of that transformation is due to the privacy backlash that is driving new restrictions on data collection. Public-sector measures such as GDPR, CCPA, and the rest of the legislative alphabet soup are bearing down. Private-sector measures also loom large, such as Apple and Google’s platform moves

To define the current state and future trajectory of location intelligence, we’ve rounded up top industry voices and thought leaders. This is part of Street Fight’s new monthly tradition in which we tap our community to provide insights on each month’s editorial theme.  

Starting with Part I, here are the insights we were able to gather from the community.

Street Fight’s April Theme: Targeting Location

Josh Cohen, SVP of Product, Foursquare, on the location privacy landscape

Throughout the rest of 2021 and beyond, it’s going to become even clearer that the future of location technology must be rooted in a truly privacy-first approach. The momentum that has been building over the last decade around protecting consumers’ privacy will continue to pick up speed, and we know location is at the center of the conversation.

Over the next few months, we can expect that the rollout of iOS 14.5 and the general shift away from MAIDs and cookies will have a real impact on the developers, advertisers, and brands who rely on location data to help them to improve in-app experience, obtain insights into consumer behaviors, and reach their target consumers with more precision and personalization. While some degree of impact in the short term is unavoidable, how developers react and adapt to new data-sharing permissions and a pluralistic identity future is going to be what actually sets the industry’s next course. Ultimately, we know that leaning into privacy is crucial for developers and marketers to build trust with consumers. We’re going to see a lot of creativity around how developers frame their permissions primer messages and we’re going to see a lot of experimentation with ID-agnostic strategies and new forms of IDs.

While tech companies continue to grapple with privacy-related challenges that have been boiling up from within the industry, we are also poised to see notable movement in the arena of regulation. Just a few weeks ago, Virginia became the second state (after California) to pass a substantial privacy law, and it seems likely that others will follow. Even more importantly, the need for a federal law aimed at protecting data privacy is only growing greater. Many companies — Foursquare included — view the prospect of a comprehensive federal privacy law as a good and necessary step to protect consumers and preserve innovation, and therefore we may see more companies take action to prepare for such legislation by implementing policies and best practices that align with a truly privacy-first approach.

Gladys Kong, CEO, UM, on the need for outreach & education

I think there are two areas where we’ll see the most focus in the near future: privacy protection and use cases. But to move forward we need to do more outreach and education to help organizations better understand location insights and their potential, so we can sit down together and figure out how best to use that data to resolve their problems.

As data providers, it’s our responsibility to offload the burden from clients. We invest in the data processing infrastructure, the data science to come up with a methodology, and in data privacy protocols so our clients feel safe. Our goal should be to democratize data access so people can develop their own use cases because they feel comfortable enough to do so.

I think that’s the most exciting part about the future of location intelligence — new opportunities to collaborate for innovation and growing this incredibly important ‘green field.’ It’s easy to forget that much of the intelligence data the world is using right now wasn’t nearly as advanced even six or seven years ago. We are working with a lot of research organizations on forward-looking projects to benefit the community in five to ten years. But in the short term, there are significant social and economic development needs for this data, like addressing homelessness, vaccine distribution, planning for traffic flow, housing communities, and even school districts.

With a greater understanding and sense of security, I think location intelligence will become part of the day-to-day solution for a lot of organizations as they work to address challenges for the greater benefit of our communities.

Jeff White, CEO, Gravy Analytics, on Improving DOOH with Real-World Data

According to the National Association of Realtors, 8.9 million people relocated between the start of the pandemic and the end of 2020. That’s 8.9 million people whose entire lives have changed along with their priorities, preferences, and tastes.

For advertisers—especially digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertisers— this population shift presents a significant market opportunity and quite the conundrum simultaneously. Everything from site selection to the target audience and, of course, measurement needs to be adjusted to reflect this massive shift in consumer trends, traveling habits, and congregation points. So the question becomes — how can DOOH advertisers keep up with shifts in consumer behavior and get the most ROI from their advertising efforts and spend? Real-world mobility data is uniquely suited to solve this.

Intentionality is the best predictive indicator of emerging consumer commitment and what is most important to them. Consumers don’t go places or attend events by accident; they do so intentionally — expending extra time, effort, and money. In other words, where people go and what people do is the best indicator of who they truly are. For this reason, mobility data will need to become an increasingly important foundation of every advertiser’s overarching strategy in 2021 and beyond.

That said, it won’t be enough for advertisers to just access any movement data. When using this data to measure foot traffic or to assign behavioral characteristics to consumers and segment them into audiences, even more critical factors and nuances come into play. This means the underlying data you rely on must be accurate, scalable, and reliable.

While verifying what consumers do is complicated, data accuracy has a direct impact on the ROI of DOOH advertising post-pandemic. High-quality data means you can predict your audience’s interests and intents more effectively. To do this, you need to not only understand where the consumer has been but what that location signifies and what events were taking place when the consumer was present. Take a place like Madison Square garden for instance. The consumer that visits MSG for a pop concert is likely different than the one attending an NHL game.

The way that people move around the world is changing, but the ability to get ahead of consumer behavior and show your audience what they want to see, when they want to see it, still remains. The DOOH advertising market had it tough last year, but with a strategy driven by real-world mobility data, 2021 might just be your best year yet.

Stay tuned for Part II next week.