Throughout the conferences I attended last year, it was often an uphill battle for me as I worked to educate people there about the merits of location data and why companies need a proximity strategy in order to thrive. This year was very different.
Throughout the conferences I attended last year, it was often an uphill battle for me as I worked to educate people there about the merits of location data and why companies need a proximity strategy in order to thrive.
This year was very different. Instead of being asked general questions about location data, I was fielding detailed questions from people who were much more attuned to the nuances of the industry. This is illustrative of how far the proximity space has evolved: We’re growing out of the volume game and are now asking tough questions about where the data is coming from and what it can do. Transparency in this space will do much to answer these questions and will also make the field more accessible to those who are looking to invest in it.
Transparency is an issue that every space must address eventually. We saw this with the rise of programmatic, and location is no exception to the rule. But what does transparency mean in this context? From a location perspective, there are multiple ways a company can be transparent with its data.
The first way is simply by being open about where the data is coming from -- whether it’s bidstream data, GPS data, beacon data, sensor data, etc. This is important because, as those interested in location data are learning, the source of the data is important when considering the quality and accuracy and the types of conclusions you can draw from it. If companies know exactly where data is coming from and what the confidence level in the data is, then they will be better able to execute any strategies that utilize that information.
Not only that, but having a concrete understanding of what story the data tells will make it easier for brands to set goals and track results. If you know exactly what type of data you’re using and how to use it, then you have the ability to craft a winning strategy. At the moment, the market for location data is still primarily focused on volume. Companies want to collect as much data as possible on as many users as possible because that way they can make broader generalizations about user behavior. The problem is that companies either don’t currently have the means to collect all the information they need in the physical space or they don’t have a clear understanding of what they need in order to do so.
What does this mean? It means that people need to get realistic about the types of data they’re getting. People used to get excited about location and bidstream data; now, the whole industry is aware of how inaccurate that data can be. Buyers are asking more sophisticated questions and doing their due diligence. They are also more likely to prefer certain types of data for marketing use: data from apps, beacons and Wi-Fi instead of high-volume bidstream data.
Those who aggregate location data for marketing use can no longer rest on their laurels and continue to sell black boxes full of data; instead, they need to be more accountable to the needs of their clients. From this perspective, transparency is important not only because clients are becoming better-informed on the subject but also because it’s important to manage their expectations. Companies will have to learn what types of data work best for their needs and the types of campaigns they want to run.
The market both wants and requires higher-quality location and proximity data. By quality, I don’t mean 100% certainty about a person’s movements and behavior -- every technology has its weak points. Instead, when thinking about quality, the focus should be the efficacy of the data as related to the goals of the company. After all, we demand transparency through accuracy and accountability for online data; physical data should be no different. At Unacast, we focus on the problem of bad location data because we strongly believe that companies need quality location and proximity data to make the right decisions and build quality products. If you can point to something and say, “I know exactly what this data means and how I can use it,” then we’ve done our job properly. Transparency is just the first step for this customer journey.
Published on Forbes.com