Mobile location: bridging the gap between online and offline
A view from Danielle Johns

Mobile location: bridging the gap between online and offline

Key takeaways from IAB's mobile location seminar

With brands allocating 25% of their marketing budget to mobile location targeting in 2017, and 50 billion devices predicted to be connected by 2020, mobile location targeting is both a valuable and increasingly important asset in any marketer’s arsenal.

Once limited to just a few data sources, now layers of data can be accessed, and, used correctly, mobile location could help bridge the all-important gap between the online and offline worlds.

Tackling the topic head-on, the IAB Mobile Location seminar, held on 27 September, outlined the potential for brands.

Here are four key points to take away from the event:

Mobile location is much more than a pin on a map

Mobile location data (MLD) is now much more than just a single location point. The best MLD should be applied using three important dimensions:

  • Data about the user – latitude, longitude co-ordinates.
  • Data about the surrounding area – places of interest.
  • Context – is the user travelling; how many times has a user visited the place?
  • Collection methodologies dictate its potential

Gaining insights for better advertising can only be as good as the data itself. So, it’s vital to understand collection methodologies, the accuracy of data and its practical limitations.

The "holy grail": telecommunications provider data 

This is the gold standard of mobile location data. Telecommunication providers, such as O2, store a massive amount of data on their mobile user. Mobile-provider companies collect data as a user’s mobile device "swings" from cell tower to cell tower when they move around during their day. With cell towers, data is accurate to within 150 metres.  

This data can build a picture of a user’s "dwells" and "journeys" – essentially a map of millions of mobile users' origins and destinations. This map, layered with declared demographic data (collected when the user signed up to the network), in-app and mobile web behavioural data, device types and data usage, can provide a holistic, agnostic and consistent view of a consumer. This is vital for any seriously targeted mobile campaign.

Obviously, a single body collecting this much personal and identifiable data gives rise to escalating concerns over consumer privacy, not to mention the looming legislative changes to collecting and processing consumer data. However, telecoms providers sidestep this by providing a value exchange, and aggregating and anonymising user data.

Other sources

    • SDK

      A piece of code inside mobile apps that tracks a user’s location in the background. It’s accurate to 10 metres via GPS.

    • Bid stream

      Latitude/longitude data derived from ads making a bid request on a mobile web page or mobile app. The accuracy depends on the precision of the co-ordinates sent back from the bid request.

  • Beacon data

    Data is collected when a user’s mobile device connects to a piece of hardware in store. This is normally collected via Bluetooth. Often, however, this in-store beacon data is available only to the store owner, not to exchanges, and is limited to where they are positioned. It’s accurate to 10 metres.

  • Bridging the gap between online and offline

    The key is using mobile location data wisely at every step of a campaign. Mobile location allows you to understand a user much better so, from an awareness point of view, you can accurately run personalised creative messaging for a better, more relevant user experience. Mobile location information also helps efficiency, as it enables a marketer to make more informed decisions when serving ad campaigns – both minimising media waste and increasing relevancy. For the retail sector, mobile location information can help link together in-store retail sales, which still account for 90% of all transactions.

    There are still challenges to overcome

    As with any developing tech, there are challenges to bear in mind. Scale can be an issue. However, combining GPS and beacon information helps to overcome this. Ad fraud is an industry-wide challenge, so this, too, should always be considered. Lastly, and most importantly, in planning to use MLD are you sure you’re using the right type of data for your campaign? Precision and accuracy can be excellent, but ensure that the costs and scale are in line with how the campaign needs to perform.

    Good application of the layers of MLD now available could be the key to meshing together a consumer’s offline and online world. This, in turn, would make mobile location one of the most exciting data developments of the next few years.

    Danielle Johns, is an ad ops executive at Encore Digital Media

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