Location Conundrum: Where does that latitude and longitude come from- and how do you know they're right?

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Where does that latitude/longitude come from?
Amy Fox

In our second post of this series, “Which Data Source is Best? SDK vs. Bid Stream vs. Beacon,” we discussed the various sources of location data and how you can use each of them. We also hope we made one point very clear: GPS data is the absolute gold standard in location.

So when it comes to bid stream data, everyone wants GPS, but a lot of that lat/long information actually comes from centroids. Far less precise than in-device GPS, centroids represent any central location, like a city or a country, and they are not the most reliable source for accurate location data.

Here’s why: GPS data can only be collected when a user gives express permission via an app or mobile website to do so. When a user refuses permission for an app to use their device’s location data, in order to serve an ad, a centroid is used to estimate a location instead. A third-party IP-to-location provide will, in real time, send the user’s IP address to a partner who will see who the carrier of that phone is, then fling back a location they associate with that carrier. So, if you’re a Verizon customer, your location may be assumed to be New Jersey, since that’s where Verizon is headquartered – even though you’re in Westchester, New York.

There are many bad actors in the digital advertising space who will try to pass centroid data off as GPS. Sometimes this is simply due to a lack of education, but sometimes it’s due to greed. Data with lat/long information is extremely valuable in today’s market. However, by trying to pass off less accurate centroid data as GPS, these publishers are doing more harm than good. Selling bad data puts all data into question; bad data yields poor results, and no one will pay a premium for data that may not deliver.

And yet, nearly half of the data that comes to Blis is centroid data that publishers are attempting to pass off as GPS. We have rigorous processes in place to catch it before it ever can reach our customers, but of course, not all advertisers work with us. Advertisers working with less responsible partners may never know how poor the quality of their location data is!

To illustrate how bad the problems with centroid data can be, there was a campaign we ran at Blis years ago that involved several geo-fences in metropolitan areas across England. However, shortly after the campaign began, we realized that 95 percent of the campaign’s volume was coming from a single geo-fence – one which wasn’t even in the most densely populated areas encompassed by the campaign. Further investigation revealed that millions of bid requests were coming from one specific set of lat/long coordinates – an area less than a single square meter. The only way this could have possibly occurred would have been if thousands of smart phones were stacked on top of each other in a pile over a thousand phones high, and all requesting ads at the exact same moment. It was physically impossible.

It’s because of fraudulent data like this that we invented our SmartPin technology. We decided that rather than battling fraud in court, educating marketers and providing reliable solutions was a far more productive path.

To ensure you’re getting the best location data possible, working with Blis is the obvious solution – but we understand you may have partners you trust in place already. If you’re not confident you’re getting the best quality data, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • Where do you source your data?
  • Do you use bid stream data? Is it strictly GPS, or do you use centroid data, as well?
  • How do you validate that the data is GPS data?
  • What’s your methodology for filtering bad data?
  • If your provider can’t answer these questions, they’re not good enough for you. If they can answer, ask them to prove it.

At Blis, we strive relentlessly for transparency. Saying that data is high quality isn’t good enough; we need to keep asking questions and keep digging. We will continue to do that, and to share heat maps and visual representations of our data. And we’ll keep doing what we can to educate marketers, so that you don’t have to trust blindly in your data partners. You’ll be able to ask the right questions, and know what the answers must be.

We’ll take this conversation a step further in our next blog post, which will arm you with the right questions to ask about the cleanliness of your location data.

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Amy Fox is Head of Product at Blis and is responsible for high level product strategy and development alongside the release of new revenue streams and products into the market. As one of the original Blis employees, Amy has grown her career over the last few years from an entry level role in partner relationships through to heading up both Operations and Product sequentially.
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So it’s no wonder mobile devices have become integral to an advertiser’s ability to reach their ideal audiences at every stage of the sales funnel. Here’s how brands can employ effective mobile advertising strategies to acquire, engage and retain customers.

Win Over New Customers

One of the best ways for advertisers to identify new audiences is to see where they shop. But without access to a competitor’s first-party purchase data or information about their website traffic, how can advertisers find this out?

Mobile devices provide the answer. By revealing where consumers go, mobile location data can tell brands which consumers spend their time browsing similar products at a competitor’s store. Let’s say Target wants to reach out to consumers who usually shop at Walmart. They can use location data to identify—then target—those who frequently visit the competitor yet still live near a Target store.

But brands need to be careful before jumping to conclusions about consumers. Real-time location data provides important insights, but they can be strengthened when paired with historical location data.

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Keep Them Interested

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? For most of us, it’s look at our phones to turn off our alarms before checking the weather and scrolling through our Twitter feeds. And throughout the day, we continue to stare down into the faces of our mobile devices: checking the news on the train, sending an email between meetings, or watching videos from our living room sofas.

In order to engage consumers on the devices we use day in and day out, advertisers will need to serve ads that make sense for the consumer depending on where they are during the day. To do this, advertisers must first ask the question: What do consumers want to see on their mobile devices and when? Consumers spend a third of their time online watching videos, for instance, but they aren’t going to watch a 30-second video ad while walking down the street.

To boost engagement, brands can use knowledge about a consumer’s historical and real-time whereabouts to reach out at the time and place that will produce the greatest level of engagement. To effectively grab the attention of a consumer that’s out and about, a banner ad may work best. Later that evening, when the consumer is at home using a tablet or laptop, a longer video on a larger screen may work well.

Inspire Loyalty

How can brands make sure they retain the new and existing customers they’ve worked so hard to gain? They must first recognize and show appreciation for their most loyal customers.

Most advertisers identify loyal customers by looking at newsletter subscriptions and online purchase histories, but they may be missing other valuable customers who prefer to shop in stores. By identifying devices that frequently visit a brand’s store location, advertisers can make sure they are recognizing—and thanking—all their biggest fans. When an existing customer comes into a store a certain number of times, for example, advertisers can deliver a thank-you message—perhaps offering the loyal customer a generous coupon to redeem in-store.

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Following its decision to buy e-commerce company Jet.com last year, Walmart recently agreed to acquire Bonobos, a retailer with a strong online presence and generous shipping policies. If these moves weren’t sign enough that the physical and digital retail worlds are merging, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is the ultimate wake-up call.

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Understanding Consumers though Mobile

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Beyond real-time location data, retailers can use historical location data to understand a consumer’s habits. For example, some consumers might visit a luxury jewelry brand on Fifth Avenue just to browse, even if they have no intention (or monetary means!) of buying. Thus, for that specific retailer, in-store visits may not indicate ideal customers. Instead, that luxury retailer can look at historical location data to identify their ideal consumers: perhaps individuals who frequently stay at the Four Seasons Hotel or regularly check in to exclusive country clubs.

But retailers shouldn’t rely on mobile data alone. By layering mobile insights with other valuable sources of data, advertisers can gain a holistic picture of their perfect audiences. Data collected from laptops, for instance, can reveal browsing histories and online shopping patterns; however, consumers won’t be opening up their laptops while shopping in stores. The trick is for retailers to match the data across devices to unique mobile device IDs. Only then will they gain a more holistic understanding of consumers and will be able to target or retarget them with products they are likely to go buy.

Driving Foot Traffic Creatively

Once they’ve gotten a clear and thorough understanding of their ideal audiences, how can retailers use mobile devices to drive foot traffic? Proximity targeting—delivering ads to consumers when they come within a certain distance of a store location—is a common approach. Retailers can maximize the power of proximity targeting by crafting unique and imaginative creatives.

For instance, advertisers can deliver ads to shoppers already in the area to tell them about an in-store sale, or offer them a coupon they can only redeem in person. Retailers can also deliver ads that feature a handy map telling consumers how to find their store.

Sometimes, targeting consumers when they are walking by a store may be a little too late. A QSR wanting to boost its 10 am breakfast crowd, for instance, may want to target consumers when they wake up around 7a and begin planning their day. Otherwise, the consumer has most likely already made their breakfast choice.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for retailers looking to connect with consumers and drive in-store sales, a strong mobile strategy is key. As the digital and physical worlds continue to blend, retailers must harness the insights and capabilities of mobile to reach their unique brand objectives.

Tune in next week to read all about how mobile is fast becoming the extension of a retailer’s store.

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3 Ways Retailers Can Use Mobile for Effective One-to-one...

Today, mobile devices are like mini retail stores we carry around in our pockets: places where consumers can browse merchandise or place orders almost instantly.

But mobile devices also give consumers something they can’t get in stores: personalized marketing. Collecting data like shopping histories and browsing patterns, mmobile devices provide retailers with detailed insight into individual consumers and a means of communicating with them directly.

How can retailers use mobile insights and capabilities to craft effective, one-to-one messaging?

1. Get personal.

Today, consumers want—and expect—ads to speak directly to them. In fact, 74% of customers feel frustrated when their online experiences aren’t personalized.

The easiest way for retailers to personalize content is by harnessing their first-party data. If a customer purchases a dress online, the brand can use what they know about her (her fashion interests, browsing history and email address) to customize subsequent content. For example, the brand can serve an ad via email that suggests a pair of shoes to go along with the new dress.

With CRM data, the retailer can see what the woman bought online, but do they know what she’s purchased elsewhere? Or what she does when she’s not shopping? This is where location data comes in. Retailers that layer location-based insights on to other sources of data can get to know where and when consumers shop at brick and mortar stores. They can also identify other behavioral patterns, including which day of the week and time of day they like to go shopping—data can enables greater levels of personalization.

Let’s say a CPG brand wants to reach out to a previous customer who hasn’t been seen in store lately. The marketers can use their knowledge of the consumer’s daily commute to deliver the ad just before he leaves work, suggesting he stop by on his way home. They may even offer him a discount on the product he previously purchased.

2. Market to individuals, not devices.

Once retailer marketers have identified their ideal audiences on mobile, they shouldn’t see phones as the only means of communication. Consumers own an average of 3.6 connected devices, so retailers should communicate with consumers across the devices they use, including tablets, laptops, desktops and addressable TV.

However, if a retailer sees a user reading political news on the tablet all day but watching cartoons in the evening, it might not be the same same person. With families and partners sharing devices at home, marketers need to make sure they are constructing nuanced consumer profiles across devices in order to reach out to individuals, not just devices.

3. Don’t be creepy.

Personalized, cross-device marketing is on the rise in part because consumers are increasingly willing to disclose their data to retailers. After all, purchase histories and location data are essential for useful or interesting ads.

But how retailers use that data is key. Consumers want to feel understood, but they don’t want to feel like ads are invasive or drawing on data that’s simply too personal and private. Marketers need to make sure they aren’t crossing any personal boundaries or making consumers feel uncomfortable.

If marketers want to turn heads or, more importantly, turn consumers into buyers, they’ll need to do more than blast out generic ads to the masses. When retailers personalize ads with these three tips, they’ll see huge improvements in campaign performance.

But how, exactly, do they measure these improvements? Find out next week when we assess the best metrics for retailers.

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