neon sign that reads "you are here"
PHOTO: John Baker

Improving the use of location intelligence, or the process of gleaning insights from geospatial data relationships, has long been the holy grail for marketers looking to satisfy today’s busy, demanding customers. A business-friendly hotel, for instance, wants the ability to instantly show their customers traveling on business where the best nearby restaurants are for meetings. A retailer would love to send offers while a consumer is at a competitor, in order to draw them to their store. A restaurant chain seeking a new location wants to make sure to choose one that attracts the most traffic at the right times.

“Understanding how consumers interact with competitive brands and their movements around key locations/timeframes can reveal key learnings and opportunities for expanding services and improving customer experiences, both online and off,” said Jeff White, founder and CEO of location intelligence platform Gravy Analytics. “Marketers need to look at location as a core behavioral indicator to fully understand their customers and the customer experience. What is key is understanding not just where people are going, but also what they are doing when they are there.”

Marketers are already using location intelligence to tackle many of the challenges related to discovering, engaging and activating customers at the right time and place. But the data can be overwhelming and understanding when to use what data is difficult. 

“Most marketers don’t have a sophisticated approach, and end up tossing out valuable data, like a user’s IP address,” said Rob Friedman, co-founder and EVP of Digital Element. “...Marketers realize they have a lot to learn when it comes to understanding how best to use the data that’s already at their disposal.”

Related Article: Why Nano-Influencers Are a Social Media Marketers Secret Weapon

Using Location Intelligence to Up Your Marketing Game

Luckily, the explosion of mobile usage through Wi-Fi and the evolution of technology in the space is helping marketers to improve and scale their location intelligence efforts in 2019. These are a few of the main ways location intelligence will take your organization's marketing to a new level this year:

  • 5G mobile technology is changing the location game — with precision - The rollout of 5G will be key for marketers, according to Kirk Mitchell, head of tech, media & telecommunications at HERE Technologies. “It will improve the precision of the mobile location by one or two orders of magnitude,” he said. “We believe that location will play a critical role in helping to justify the investment and driving the leading use cases of 5G. Whether it be through provisioning High Definition (HD) maps through Mobile Edge Compute (MEC) infrastructure to enable truly autonomous cars or through enabling sub-meter positioning to enable precise location indoors, location will again be a defining factor.”
  • Marketers will gain short-term wins in segmentation and proximity marketing - In-depth behavioral insights from location data will help marketers build and validate segmentation strategies this year, said Gary Sankary, retail industry marketing strategy lead at Esri. “They will use geo-enrichment to append geographic attributes to customer location data in order to make better assumptions about their behaviors,” he explained. In addition, marketers will continue to use location data to develop proximity marketing techniques. “We have seen it rolled out a bit, but it has not come to critical mass yet,” he said. “I think the technology is there, but it's expensive on one hand, and there are still a lot of privacy issues to work through on the other. That, in my mind is slowing adoption.”
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) will find patterns to make sense out of massive data sets -With location signals sourced and generated in many ways (such as GPS and Wi-Fi access points), meaning the quality and accuracy of data can vary widely, AI and machine learning will help determine data veracity as well as patterns in massive data sets, White said. “Ultimately, AI will have to be deployed because without it companies and marketers will just be scratching the surface of what they can do with the technology.”
  • Tackling privacy issues will be key for location intelligence success - Privacy is an important macro trend affecting location, as marketers will not want to compromise the trust they have with their customers — as shown by concern over the European rollout of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the bad press facing Facebook over the use of data. “Marketers need to be careful to only use data that they’re permitted to use and not overstep,” Friedman said. “Most consumers will be okay with sharing data for specific needs/results if they’re given something of value or perceived value in return.”

There’s no question that location intelligence will explode over the next two years as technology enables companies to consume even more data and companies build organizations to use location-based information. “But the key capabilities are the ability to manage massive data sets, and bring them into one place to interrogate them and find insights,” Sankary said. In the long term, marketers will be able to develop location-based engagement applications that customers trust and use, he added, “I think that’s where the future is going, more precise marketing based on time, location and customer.”