campaign in the right direction By Shaun Rosen on 18 August, 2017

From the largest biodiversity database in the world that maps over 1.7-million species in participating countries, to the company that promises to deliver your parcel to exactly where you are in real time, geo-location technologies are already being put through their paces in South Africa.

In particular, a host of industries — although definitely not any wildlife — stand to benefit from the location data created by connected devices.

Its range of applications include everything from hyper-convenient parcel delivery services to helping marketers reach on-the-go consumers in the era of mobile. Here’s how.

Mapping your audiences

Location data is one of many important tools in a marketer’s arsenal, as it provides insights that basic demographic information and browsing history cannot. It reveals where audiences go and, as a result, what they love to do.

Whether that’s visiting shopping malls or coffee shops, location data can fill in the gaps where other data sources fall short, and bridge the physical and digital worlds to help build a holistic picture of how consumers move through both.

In the past, for instance, brands with a physical outlet in a shopping mall could only reach their in-store visitors online if they were signed up to a loyalty card scheme. But by collecting anonymised device IDs from the mall’s public WiFi network, marketers are now able to easily link the online and offline worlds.

This means their digital campaigns can reach new audiences of immense size who, importantly, are already familiar with that brand because they have visited or at least passed by its store.

Putting insights into action

With location data at their fingertips alongside other data sources, the old adage of delivering an ad at the right time and place starts to take on new meaning. Based on their audience’s real-time location, marketers can determine which time, device or format is best – because where consumers are in the world strongly affects how receptive they are to ads.

An audience’s historic location data might suggest habits like regular visits to the gym on weekday evenings and to their local Starbucks outlet on Saturday mornings. But if a consumer is presented with a video ad while at the office, they’ll be too busy to find out about offers from a nearby gym or coffee hangout.

Location data is one of many important tools in a marketer’s arsenal

What they’re far more likely to appreciate is a quick email with a discount voucher for items on the breakfast menu when they’re en route to their Saturday morning latte. Or perhaps an ad offering them a free trial as they pass a newly-opened gym on their way home — both of which are possible using beacon technology.

Tallying up your results

It’s all about location – even attribution. Because while it’s easy to track how an online ad led to a conversion on an online store, the same isn’t true for an offline purchase. For instance, how can a marketer of a food chain hope to find out whether their most recent campaign increased footfall or not?

One option is trying to detect whether there was any increase in revenue in the days immediately following the campaign, but a boost in sales could be random and down to correlation, not causation.

One way to be certain is with anonymised device IDs. If a device ID is picked up on the restaurant’s WiFi network following a campaign using a shopping mall’s WiFi network, it is fair for the marketer to assume that their campaign worked a charm. And if that chain has branches from Johannesburg to Cape Town, the same strategy can be applied across the country.

Similarly, a single large venue like a sports arena can use its WiFi network to build new audience segments and attribute actions such as repeat visits accurately at scale.

By showing who audiences are based on where they go, location data is becoming an essential part of a marketer’s toolkit, helping them engage audiences when they’re most receptive and measure campaigns with the utmost certainty.

By 2021, the global app economy is predicted to be worth a staggering US$6.3-trillion, and South Africa is at the forefront of the African continent as the country that uses apps more than any other. It looks like the usefulness of cookies for SA marketers will dwindle as the value of location data from app use grows.

As a nation that’s constantly on the move with their smartphones in their pockets, it’s fair to say that South Africa’s going mobile.