Mobile location data matters – but just how much exactly and what can advertisers do to optimise their targeted ads?

As mobile takes on an ever more important role for advertisers, location data has proven useful to target consumers when they happen to be in the right place. Indeed, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), earlier this year, published its IAB Mobile Location Data Guide for Publishers, to offer some advice for marketers when tapping into location data. However, the industry faces core challenges and lacks a set of more defined demographics aside from targeting for age and gender.

According to a study from Hanapin Marketing, 56% of agencies and 53% of brands agree that mobile location data is one of the most important digital marketing tactics.

Over half of marketers agree: mobile location is important 



Location advertising tactics now include location-based ad targeting, geo-behavioural targeting of ads, analysing consumer insight and online to offline measurement.

According to BIA/Kelsey research, 38% of US advertising dollars are being spent on location-targeted mobile ads this year reaching $11.3bn. Spend is set to increase to 43% by 2020.

Mobile location targeted ads versus non-targeted ad spend



Global location marketplace xAd found that as much as 80% of marketers are now using location targeting. Most advertisers are using location targeting to reach a specific audience, address business customers and send location-relevant messages. However, location trumped proximity targeting since marketers have gained better insights into location-based mobile ads.

Majority of marketers have tapped into location



Geo-targeting may be particularly beneficial for consumers, finds Adadyn. 68% of US digital shoppers agree that these ads are useful and were more likely to respond to ads from local businesses.

Shoppers trust geo-targeted mobile ads

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Another 59% of consumers told Blis that they started a transaction on mobile and then finished it on another device. This presents a strong potential for marketers to push in and target these consumers whilst they’re on the move, using their mobile devices.

Advertisers have begun to follow user location over time, much like they track consumer behaviour whilst shopping. A Forrester study for Magnetic found that 55% of marketers in the US and Europe were using overlays between geo-behavioural data and contextual data to increase ad relevancy.

In determining which businesses performed better when it comes to mobile location targeting, the Local Search Association LSA Insights database found that it doesn’t matter all too much. Click-through rates for mobile display ads that were geo-targeted were generally higher than the industry benchmark irrespective of industry.

Mobile display ad performance across business verticals


Ken Parnham, General Manager of Europe at mobile location intelligence firm, Near, recently spoke with ExchangeWire about the challenges that mobile location marketers are facing. He says that brands could target audiences more effectively.

ken parnham

“It depends on the campaign objectives. Many brands are buying through Facebook, due to the fact that its data is deterministic, but I would argue that inferred data could be more powerful.”

It’s about building a user profile based on location and past purchases.

“The whole point of location and audience profiling is building it up for 30 days and keeping it fresh – we are real-world beings moving to multiple locations.  […] [However,] people in the industry don’t trust location data, as location providers aren’t being transparent. A lot of the data comes from location exchanges – lat and long pings, which aren’t necessarily accurate. It’s not malicious, it just isn’t accurate.]

Indeed, location data has some way to go still. Based on samples from 3.5bn publisher ad requests and 53m ad impressions, Thinknear found that the mobile industry scored just 49 out of 100 total points for location accuracy. Whilst 67% included latitude and longitude data, just 34% of ad requests with location data were actually accurate to within 100 meters of the user’s true location.

Location still has way to go for accuracy



Another challenge for location marketers are mobile users opt-in rates for GPS.

Charlie Johnson, VP UK and Ireland at Digital Element, told ExchangeWire:

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“What has been the challenge is to harness volume. Opt-in to GPS services is quite low. Nielson found that 85% of all mobile users in Europe are doing so via WiFi, not 3G or 4G, which adds to location targeting challenges.”

It certainly pays off to have a mobile location targeting strategy in place, but the quality of the data that is being aggregated matters just as much.

Mobyaffiliates tips for mobile location advertisers include:

  1. Know where your data is coming from. Hyper-local data can be aggregated via a mobile device’s GPS, WiFi locations as well as IP address or beacons and bluetooth. For advertisers, it pays off to know the source of their data streams.
  2. Find the right location for your audience. This could include large venues such as shopping malls or airports, but it’s vital to make a distinction and exclude locations that aren’t relevant in order to not waste ad dollars. Defining a set radius is also a good idea. However, marketers should be careful not to limit their locations too narrowly. That could backfire.
  3. Discover intent by search history. It’s very useful to look at a user’s search history and determine their interests and favourite brands in order to target locations more effectively.
  4. Analyse past locations.
  5. Ad content is still king. Think beyond the location. Many consumers are already tired of mobile advertising. It’s more important than ever before to think of the individual consumer and the context s/he is in to provide the best possible advertising and get a solid return on investment.