The pros & cons of hitchhiking

(Or avoid getting taken for a ride on location ad tech)

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Without sinking into slasher flick territory, hitchhiking can be risky business. In seconds, you have to make a judgement call about whether you can trust the person offering you a ride; will you be safe and how close are you going to get to where you’re going?

It’s an issue of reliability and precision.

And I’d argue the same considerations are critical when you’re thinking about location ad tech vendors to support mobile advertising campaigns. The good news is that here you have the time to make a considered decision.

Here are my thumbs-up, thumbnail guide for getting the best out of a potential mobile location ad tech partner:

Reliability

There are three main flavours of location data: Bidstream, SDK (software development kit) and Beacon.

Location Data Flavours

Beacons – though offering an increased ability to pinpoint a consumer in a physical space – work best for retailers with multiple locations, their own app and a willing team who can comb through collected data and feed it back into a targeting and CRM strategy.

Bidstream and SDK location data is appropriate for most advertisers and use cases. It’s available at scale and supports a wide variety of real-time and historical location targeting approaches. The reliability factor is driven by a) data source and b) data validation.

Data source is critical for SDK providers. The app partners who have installed their SDK will determine the available scale. When evaluating partners, you need to be asking who has installed their SDK and how many monthly active users are included in the total install base.

One of Juice’s key location partners is Factual who are a world leader in location data services and validation. Their explainers are worth a read but two erroneous coordinate examples are worth mentioning.  “Null Island”  which is a fictional place and “blacklisted coordinates” one of which is a  farmland in Kansas that receives unreasonably high mobile traffic with higher location visits that New York City, show the importance of cleansing data from the Bidstream to increase the reliability factor.

Precision

Precision in location advertising is driven by the number of GPS Coordinate places (represented as latitude and longitude) an app is able to capture and store. A quick guide here gives you an idea of the precision each additional coordinate adds

Decimal Place Precision

Your questions about SDK partners come back into view here. Google and Apple set guardrails around the precision of location data an app is able to collect, and the determining factor is app use case plus consumer benefit. A mapping, weather or delivery service app are allowed to gain very precise info because they need know where you are to provide the basic service they offer. A publisher app, by contrast, may need to access location information to geo-gate content but that can be done at the regional or city level.

The secondary implication of precision is the ability to offer a diversity of places and people to target. In Juice’s proprietary geo-targeting product, Trace, we leverage the points of interest (POI) database from our parent company, Yellow Pages. Their 1.3 million POIs are a good benchmark. Apple Maps uses the same data set for their Canadian locations.

Precision is also felt in reporting as a solid partner will be able to provide granular location-by-location reporting to provide true performance insight. Amazingly, this level of reporting is not common in location targeting platforms.

Use cases

Here’s a snapshot of four ways you can apply location data to your mobile campaigns. A good partner will be able to offer most, if not all, of these solutions.

1. Proximity targeting

The bread and butter of location ad tech; target people where they are in real-time. Geo-fencing around yours or competitive locations or spaces where your target customer congregates are common tactical examples.  A variety of point radius and polygon targeting should be available depending on how precise you need to be. Top platforms will offer the ability to trace the exact perimeter of any POI to minimize media spoilage.

2. Behaviour Location Audience Targeting

BLT takes historical visit data x frequency and uses that for a predictor of future behaviour. For instance:  show up at a Starbucks every day and you’re in a ‘Coffee Lovers’ segment; shop at The Bay, Saks Fifth Ave and Nordstrom and you’re in a ‘Luxury Fashion Enthusiasts’ segment.

3. Attribution

This is “clicks to bricks” but without the need for clicks. We can determine when a consumer was served an ad impression and if they then visited a pre-specified physical location within a certain time frame. Visits by location, dwell time and lift vs. a control audience are common metrics available.

4. Location Aware Creative

Location data can be activated in the space between the targeting and measurement. Pulling location data into ad creative can deepen engagement and increase utility. Location finders are a common use case. More advanced options like changing the creative based on location, weather condition or on-shelf product availability are powerful in driving brand and performance results.

Location ad tech is a complicated space. Harnessing quality signals and applying them in tactically intelligent ways can mean the difference between a great mobile campaign and ROI roadkill.