2014-22-October-Need-Caffeine.jpgWe've been hearing about location-based advertising in digital marketing since the mass adoption of smartphones in the late 2000s. Five years ago, marketers targeted ads based on broad data, such as a specific city where a consumer was located. Fast forward to 2014, and we've put those efforts in overdrive. Some technologies can now locate consumers down to the exact product they are perusing in a store.

It's being called “hyper-local” data, and it’s an exciting asset for digital marketers. Everyone from Facebook to Comcast is trying to get a piece of the hyper-local pie in order to make their messages, ads and information more individually relevant for consumers.

Where We Are Now

Within the last year, we’ve seen some particularly exciting advancements in hyper-local advertising. Apple started testing out iBeacon late last year at 254 Apple stores in the US. These tiny beacons -- which can be placed in retail stores, airports, Major League Baseball stadiums and beyond -- transmit a Bluetooth signal which alerts shoppers to different products and promotions in their proximity. iBeacon requires a level of active participation, as consumers must enable Bluetooth and download an application in order to receive signals, but other innovations have been built to bypass the Bluetooth connection altogether.

LTE Direct allows phones to communicate with other nearby mobile devices and in-store beacons without going through a cell tower or Bluetooth connection. With the ability to automatically discover nearby people, places and things, LTE Direct creates a huge opportunity for advertisers to send targeted messages based on an individual consumer's real-time environment.

Getting Even More Personal

Now that we have the technology in place to find consumers and proactively send location-specific messages, it’s time to integrate other context-aware signals that can make ads even more individually relevant. Specific situational data related to things like transit delays, real-time weather, and up-to-the-minute football game scores can inform marketers of the best time to push relevant content and take hyper-local to the next level.

Location data combined with an extra layer of personal context provides a situationally relevant advertising message that gives extra value for the consumer. For example: a man walks by a Starbucks everyday on his way to the subway. Just because he’s walking by doesn’t mean a push notification will convince him to stop by for a latte. But with data on his surrounding environment, a marketer could integrate information about nearby train delays, send him a targeted ad noting the delays, and offer this potential customer a quick coffee break while he waits for his morning train.

The Rise of New Form Factors

These advertising messages don’t necessarily have to be sent via traditional websites or mobile devices. Wearable technologies are upping the ante for marketers, who will discover new ways to share messages across smart watches, Google Glass and more. Location data and hyper-local information about a consumer's environment are impressive tools, but wearables provide a whole new layer of contextualization potential. Just think: a marketer could use a mixture of context data to determine where a jogger is located, how long she’s been running and what the weather is like, then send a targeted message for a cool drink at a local cafe right to her Apple Watch. The possibilities are endless.

While this might seem like digital marketing science fiction right now, these grand ideas are not as far off as we may think. The technology is already in place, and content management systems are being built with the flexibility to integrate with thousands of these different platforms and third party services. It’s safe to say that 2015 will be a banner year for personalized and contextually relevant marketing. To stay ahead of the game, digital marketers should find flexible and open platforms capable of analyzing multiple data points and dispersing content to a variety of form factors, from computers to mobile phones to wearables. Brands who do this will be able to successfully cater to today’s super-connected consumers who demand relevance like never before.​

Title image by Timothy Appnel (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license