Beyond the Blue Bar: The State of Location-Based Marketing for Advertisers

With investments set to reach $32B by 2021 for location-derived advertising, it’s crucial to unpack what our technology can actually do.

The arrival of Apple’s iOS 11 blue bar for location is a significant moment for mobile marketing — telling users when apps are drawing on location data (and raising all the concerns that change can create).

What the blue bar really represents, however, is not a blow to location-powered campaigns but instead a battery-life spotlight that will drive positive consumer experiences. The iOS blue bar is an opportunity for premium media and premium in-app advertising to shine. And it’s a moment that developers with power-draining apps — and those with unscrupulous data-collection practices built into their apps — will not soon forget. In short, the iOS blue bar for location will curb unnecessary data collection, and it will be good for our industry.

Every time a new feature like this one comes along, however, it’s also an opportunity to assess how mobile marketing is evolving in the location-powered space. With investments set to reach $32B by 2021 for location-derived advertising, it’s crucial to unpack what our technology can actually do — highlighting progress and also where we need to grow even further. Consider the following four points; each goes to the heart of where location data can take us, and what it takes to get location data and best outcomes right.

  1. Foot Traffic: At the core of what location-powered marketing promises is accurate and precise data about foot traffic. Beginning your journey with location data derived from the device — via in-app software development kits (SDKs), for example — enables marketers and advertisers to achieve a realistic measurement down to 5–10 meters. That’s the real-world case, right now, no myths about it. But it also comes with Remember, it’s not the SDK that’s driving the accuracy, it’s the ability to access increasingly precise sources of location data, like on-site beacons and Wi-Fi. The SDK must exist within a robust network of signals.
  2. Points of Interest and Other Data: Signals and data, along with multiple data sets coming together, are key to our continued growth. Beyond the device, for example, it’s true that point-of-interest (POI) data is important to every mobile-marketing campaign. It’s also true that keeping POI databases accurate and up-to-date is a challenge — stores change and buildings often contain multiple businesses on a vertical as well a horizontal plane (read our recent white paper for a deeper look at vertical location). The good news is that POI, CRM, beacon, and household data are converging, industrywide. As we promote and develop that convergence, powerful options such as the SDK will further make the case for location-powered marketing.
  3. Dwell Time: It’s not enough to know a consumer visited your location, you want to know how long they stayed — ultimately tying visits to purchases. To measure dwell-time you need the precise, consistent signals that can be collected through an SDK (again, it’s the conduit to background data, beacons, Wi-Fi, etc.). That being said, there are other solutions for finding dwell-time outside the location-data space — video-based solutions exist and there are metrics not attached to SDK or ad-serving — but SDKs are the only way to track dwell-time using mobile location data. Clearly, we’re looking at future that focuses on this approach.
  4. The Future of Beacons: There’s a lot to say about the history and future of beacons. We can start with this: the old story of pushing notifications and offers to consumers when in proximity to beacons has evolved. But advanced leaders in the location-data space approach beacons along the lines of measurement and strategy. Knowing the beacon-supplied frequency of consumer visits to a location, for example, gives advertisers the ability to measure the effectiveness of ads served and then develop thoughtful ways to engage consumers at other times. 

In the end, it’s all about the audience. Location data is a piece of an audience-profile approach that enables marketers and brands to target with accuracy and precision. The best way to get location-rich data that is both reliable and powerful is to become as closely linked to each device — and each user — as possible. Going back to our list above, it’s repeatedly the case that the best way to get closely linked to users — and their devices — is to focus on the SDK.

Furthermore, thanks to the SDK and the learnings we can extract from the data it provides, we can even improve the future of open exchange data. Exchanges are full of noisy and low-quality data. But we can take benchmarks such as time-stamp and horizontal accuracy and apply them to exchange data, cleaning it up and scoring it to ensure advertisers are getting the best of both worlds — on-device and open exchange.

Blue bars and other notifications will come, and some will go, but one certainty in our industry is that the best-quality location data will always drive the most meaningful results. Meaningful results, for advertisers, publishers, and marketers, means engaging users with relevance. One data-driven moment at a time, this is how you win in the location-data space … you don’t need a blue bar to tell you that.

Ian James is General Manager, International, at Verve

This article was first published at AW360.

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