Location-Based Advertising: Data-Driven Marketing for 2013

Starbucks location adThis is one of those “the future is now” moments – what if you could advertise to potential customers based on their vicinity to your product or service? We’ve talked about targeting mobile users here on the CEM blog before, but the use of location-based ads brings it to a whole new level. In this article, learn how you can combine analytics and principles of personalization with mobile location services to get in on what might be the next transformative trend in mobile marketing.

Breaking Through the Noise

I discussed the recent convergence of technology with overwhelming amounts of information in my recent post on big data. We know that businesses have access to more and more demographic data and huge amounts of analytics, and that the sheer volume can sometimes lead to decision-making paralysis. The same is, in many respects, true for consumers, too. How many ads do you see in a day? How many product reviews do you check out before making a purchase or using a service? So many it’s hard to keep track of them, right?

Search Engine Watch recently predicted that one of the biggest challenges for 2013 is going to be breaking through all of that growing noise to make your business’ voice heard over everyone else’s. They also pointed out that consumer purchases continue to involve mobile devices at higher percentages with each new survey, from the research to the buying phase. So, the question is, how do you project the most salient image of your business while integrating mobile technology?

Mobile, Personal, Local

Those three words hold one of the keys to maximizing your ROI in 2013. The “mobile” is obvious, of course – I’ve talked before about how the mobile market is booming both in terms of usage and consumers using various mobile devices to make purchases. But if you pair it with “personal” and “local,” you can ride the mobile reinvention train to a huge boost in sales.

A recent Clickz article discussed the concept of “personalization” in recent years, as we’ve shifted to integrate multiple devices and huge amounts of technology into our lives. The author suggested that recently, the idea of personalizing a consumer experience has started to shift from the “if you liked this book, you’ll probably like this one” that we’re all familiar with from sites like Amazon, to a model of a “user experience” that creates a unique system for each individual. This system crosses over domains from one device to another, and in some ways even from the physical world to the digital and vice versa.

And therein enters the “local” aspect. Mobile technology like smartphones and to some extent tablets have already bridged the divide between the physical and digital worlds; we have the internet with us everywhere, safely in our pockets. For businesses, the trick is to now make a personalized digital experience based on a physical location.

Location-Based Advertising in Practice

Conceptually, location-based advertising sounds great. Let’s say you run a brick-and-mortar store. Your customer gets an alert for a sale at your store, or they receive an awesome coupon that will expire in half an hour, when they come within a mile of your physical location. They throw on the brakes, pay you a visit, make a purchase, and your location-based ad campaign is a resounding success.

Forbes’ article on whether or not location-based advertising is the future of mobile marketing complicates the matter a little bit. For the most part, consumers apparently will not stop what they’re doing just because they get an alert on their phone saying that they’re near one of their favorite stores. The vast majority of purchases are planned, say the authors, not impulsive, so you’re not likely to catch that many customers who weren’t already thinking about buying from you. And of course, there are myriad privacy concerns when it comes to tracking potential customers’ locations.

However, location-based advertising remains a very attractive next step in mobile advertising, and it’s already happening. The recent launch of Google Now offers a function to alert Android users to nearby attractions, events, and even photo opportunities. JiWire, a company that specializes in location-based ads, has already brought this kind of targeted advertising to multiple airport hubs in the United States, using WiFi hotspot locations rather than phone-based location services to advertise for nearby businesses.

Next Steps for Your Business

If you want to stay a step ahead in the mobile advertising race, now is the time to adopt a location-based advertising strategy. The key here is to make sure that your ads are not only relevant to your audience, but are hard-hitting enough to make potential customers stop in at your business as they’re driving or walking past it.

There are a couple of concrete ways that you can optimize your location-based ad campaign, and we’re interested in hearing more from you if you’ve had success with these or other tips. Here’s what we’ve come up with:

  • Use predictive analytics. Physical location is a narrow field, sure, but you want to make sure you’re targeting the customers who really want to buy. Pay attention to behavioral data, and use it in conjunction with location data to direct your efforts to relevant consumers.
  • Make strong, short-term offers. Potential customers are more likely to turn into definite customers if they receive a location-based offer that requires them to act now, and provides an impetus to do so.
  • Optimize local SEO. Even if you decide to forego your own campaign, make sure your web presence carries all the necessary information about your location and hours, so that third party searches like Google Now will alert nearby potential customers to your existence.

Has your business ventured into the location-based advertising arena? What was your experience?


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Beans graduated from Smith College in 2011 with a BA in History of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, and has worked as a farmer, a cook on a food truck, and an archival assistant. Outside of writing and editing for CEM, Beans enjoys reading voraciously, watching space documentaries, and baking vegan treats. Currently, Beans lives in Salt Lake City, UT.

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