One of technology’s best gifts is a greater awareness of the world around us. And when it comes to building a business or further developing an already-successful one, geospatial data — often referred to as “hyper-local” data — is one of the most powerful types of data at our disposal.
Where Does Geospatial/Hyper-Local Data Come From?
Businesses of all sizes have lots of opportunities for gathering geospatial and hyper-local data. Here are a few of the possibilities:
- Website visits
- Mobile devices and downloaded apps
- Data from clients, vendors, and partners
- Customer service interactions
- Cross-department data
- Point of sale systems
Local data includes things like the state of residence and zip code. But hyper-local data allows you to engage in even more granular targeting and glean even more specific insights about your customers and prospects. Hyper-local includes items like neighborhoods, streets and exact addresses.
The question is, what can businesses do with customer information from these more clearly defined areas?
Hyper-Specific Targeting for Search Engine and Social Ads
Hyper-local advertising makes previous techniques look nearly archaic. Companies still broadcast ads on television and radio stations. And these are, after a fashion, targeted ads: brands buy air time according to that station’s known demographics. But this still isn’t as specific as most companies would like — it’s more of a scattershot approach that more customers will tune out than not.
With that need in mind, Google has made it easier than ever to target campaigns to internet users within a certain radius. This needs to be followed up by an SEO campaign that targets phrases like “[plumber/arcade/auto repair shop] near me” in addition to keywords which specifically mention the cities, towns, and boroughs you want to reach. In fact, Google says search volume for “near me” phrases grew by 150% between 2015 and 2017.
Of course, hyper-specific location-based advertisements go beyond search engines. Facebook is the first stop on the internet for many people these days, which is why they have a set of tools of their own that businesses can use to deliver ads to prospects in specific states, cities, and ZIP codes — or within a certain radius of your brick-and-mortar business.
In this example, it’s Google and Facebook that are accumulating the location data on users and selling ads based on what they know about users’ physical locations. But what about some slightly more direct ways companies put location and geospatial data to work?
Ubiquitous Computing, Geofencing, and Connected Cars
Automobile “infotainment” systems are one of the next untapped frontiers when it comes to business development, customer interactions, and hyper-local advertising.
McKinsey wanted to learn about public opinion on these do-it-all devices that provide music and video functionality, navigation and on-demand directions to local businesses. They found that 55 percent of respondents to their survey would be willing to share information from their car’s mapping system with third parties in exchange for “improved services.” It seems the public is growing more comfortable with ubiquitous computing and constant contact with third-party ads services.
So what opportunities do these and other mobile devices provide for businesses?
Interestingly, it’s not all about advertising — at least, not all about advertising products. Recruiters at Florida’s Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital were having a hard time finding qualified local talent, so they turned to geofencing to deliver job listings to local nurses. Before the ads went live, the hospital was getting “almost no” applicants. Afterward, they began fielding up to four candidates per week.
Geofencing is where certain events are triggered — like the delivery of an advertisement — when a person (or, rather, a person’s connected device, including smartphones and car infotainment systems) travel within a defined area. Expect this to become a regularly used part of the recruiter’s toolkit in the coming years.
The concept also applies to garner more foot traffic to local businesses. “Geo-conquesting” is another idea that’s closely related to geofencing. It involves pushing ads and notifications when potential customers pass within a certain distance of a rival’s business location. Burger King launched a brutally effective geo-conquesting campaign against McDonald’s by creating 600-foot perimeters around the Golden Arches and inticing commuters and travelers with offers for Burger King instead.
More Intelligent Business Expansion and Service Delivery
Again, not every use of hyper-local and geospatial data is explicitly about advertising a product or service. These insights are also significant for identifying new markets and business opportunities, pinpointing underserved areas and planning new retail locations and distribution centers. Here’s a closer look:
- Identifying new markets: If you visualize your existing service areas with data mapping, you may find gaps — and those gaps might be filled with potential customers. You can also visualize data from your competitors to see where you might be able to edge into their territory.
- Find underserved customers: Are some of your customers traveling great distances to buy from you or access your services? This isn’t about finding new customers — geospatial data can help you retain the ones you’ve already earned.
- Route and delivery planning: Geospatial data can be extremely important for logistical reasons. Mapping your service areas and then overlaying data about delivery times and traffic delays can help you find more efficient ways to move your product. It might also reveal a need for additional distribution centers, redistribution partners or drop-shipping locations.
Insurance agents, HVAC repair companies, dentists, wholesalers, banks, and a host of other business types can find novel uses for geospatial and hyper-local data. The Media Ratings Council and other entities have published guidelines on the ethical use of location-specific data in advertising. And while there’s no U.S. equivalent yet, it’s expected that the EU’s GDPR laws will serve as a prototype for other countries, too.
If you want to use your website, mobile app, or customer interactions to learn more about where your customers live, work and play, you need to get their permission first. But we’re seeing more and more evidence that the public is willing to share details about their lives if it means getting more personalized and relevant services and ads. If you want to up your marketing game, improve service delivery, plan business expansions and more, you can get it done with geospatial data.
Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet. To read his latest articles online follow him on Twitter @nathansykestech.