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What Location Strategies Are Major Brands Using To Make Retail Relevant Again?
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“We’re trying to make it easier for customers to start and stop anywhere,” says Best Buy VP Shari Rossow. “It’s now a basic expectation for how we all shop.”

The challenges of omnichannel retail are well known by major brands and while the situation is largely a “glass half full,” there are signs that marketers’ focus is sharpening when it comes to using location data to shape the way they understand and reach their customers.

That’s the gist of a report by location data provider Blis, which rounded up thoughts by marketing executives at Verizon, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Best Buy, DSW and Chili’s. It explores the current thinking by retail marketers on how to leverage location data to bolster their marketing strategies.

The report, Transforming Customer Engagement with Location-Based Technologies, finds that brands feeling confident in their ability to employ geo-data to drive foot traffic.

Executives at of DSW and Coca-Cola in particular emphasized location data’s ability to allow for greater personalization and context when communicating with their customers, while Microsoft and Verizon touted location insights as providing the connective tissue among a range of media channels as well as emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence/machine learning, voice-activation and Connected Intelligence, and smart homes/cars.

The bottom line: location is essential to communication between brands and consumers in terms of promoting discovery and engagement.

John Carroll, VP General Manager, E-Commerce, Coca-Cola North America: “It’s important that the linkage between what we’re trying to communicate with our brand to what the consumer is doing contextually is clear. It’s also important that we have the opportunity to really drive an experience online, whether through video, creative banner ads, or creative copy. We want to have a brand-building experience online and to drive purchase closer to the shopper.”

Wade Allen, VP Digital Guest Experience & Analytics, Chili’s (Brinker International): “Considering the way consumers use their mobile phones and the need for immediacy in our society, you can’t help but question whether or not we should shift more money out of television advertising and into the digital world. I don’t know what the right percentage is, but my belief is we can’t follow the 80/20 or 90/10 model anymore. Instead, we need to get closer to a 60/40 or 65/35 model with the smaller amount being digital.”

Shari Rossow, VP Retail Operations, Best Buy: “We’re trying to make it easier for customers to start and stop anywhere. It’s now a basic expectation for how we all shop.”

Beth Rick, Sr. Director, Transformation, DSW Inc.: “If you had every single piece of customer data, you could organically become a part of their lives wherever they are. You would be in the fabric of everything, because you would know where they’re located, what information they’re looking at, how they’re using it, what they’re interested in, what their behaviors are; and at that point in time, we would just try to make shoes part of their life… They would just think about shoes and DSW is the place they would go.”

ShiSh Shridhar, Director, Business Development, Data, Analytics & IoT, Microsoft: Retail Sector: “That physical experience is one aspect of it: digital and physical should complement each other. The other aspect is that there will be a lot more channels embedded into how we buy. There are a lot of capabilities available today through things such as cognitive services and artificial intelligence that are going to be used. For instance, the phone camera becomes a channel. We will be capable of pointing a phone camera at a product such as a pair of shoes someone is wearing, and the phone can identify what those shoes are, show prices at different retailers, and then we can buy with a single click.”

We also checked in with Jamie Crespi, Blis VP Marketing, for her view of the questions posed by the company’s report.

GeoMarketing: What are retailers doing to engage with consumers more effectively in the digital space?

Jamie Crespi: As the findings of the report shows, personalization is top of the retailers’ agenda to get through to consumers across multiple digital touchpoints. It’s important that they use the abundance of data available to them to make their targeting as relevant and interesting as possible, while ensuring they’re serving the right ads on the right devices at the right moment.

This is where location data comes in, as it helps retailers to better understand their customers (and potential customers) and brings the physical and digital worlds ever-closer together. Location data is one of the richest forms of data available for retailers looking to engage with consumers more effectively. It provides brands with contextual insights while allowing them to understand the impact of ads on their consumers behaviors. Brands using location data are able to efficiently target potential customers and drive them in-store.

What is the business value of leveraging location data, and what are the potential risks?

Accurate location data means great message relevancy for brands which leads to a higher likelihood for consumer engagement. At the end of the day, reaching the right consumers with the relevant creative to drive an action is really what it’s all about. Additionally, as our contributors like ShiSh Shridhar of Microsoft and Beth Rick of DSW point out, driving in-store foot traffic is a major bonus to leveraging location data. It’s important to think about location data as an insights and planning tool, not just a means by which to deliver advertisements.

To many, leveraging location data (and leveraging it in a more robust way outside of just geofencing) is still a relatively new concept, but it’s quickly becoming absolutely integral for businesses with brick and mortar locations. Their businesses are reliant on people visiting their stores – for this reason, there’s no reason not to test it.

How will location-based technologies become part of a greater digital strategy?

David Garcia, Director of Experience Innovation at Verizon, makes a really interesting point when he says how exciting the idea of converging location services with other emerging techs such as AI and IoT are.

At Blis, we’ve already started to use machine learning to predict where consumers will go to offer richer insights to brands and allow for better planning. Being able to accurately identify people who we know are either highly likely or definitely going to visit a store is invaluable as it eliminates waste in spend and increases campaign performance; and this is something we can do with the help of AI.

As David puts it, when these things start to click, you’ll see things you couldn’t have imagined. We believe it’s crucial to keep innovating to better understand consumers.

What trends will have the most impact on location-based advertising in 2018 and why?

One of the biggest developments of 2017 has been a shift towards Cost-per-Visit (CPV) models of measurement. We were early adopters back in April, and have begun to charge clients based only on the people that actually visit target locations. The response has been great as it reduces the risk for advertisers who aren’t sure if they’re getting good returns on their investments and puts the onus back on the vendors. We feel this movement will only grow and develop into 2018, as more platforms like ours move away from click-based metrics and towards models which foster more trusting relationships between vendors, agencies and their brands.

What impact will voice activation/intelligent assistants like Alexa, Siri, Okay Google have on the way geo-data is used for marketing and advertising?

This again ties in with David’s point, and it’s certainly going to be exciting to see how these types of technologies will combine. Ever since they’ve come onto the scene, brands have been wondering how best to harness their potential. One of the key benefits of these services, like Siri & Okay Google, being on your handheld devices is that you can use them when you’re out and about. I’d bet that plenty of voice searches are relevant to their location, as you may need to be reactive when looking for a business or service and this is when your intelligent assistant knowing where you are will come in handy. It also gives local businesses new opportunities to pick up customers.

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