A sense of place

John O'Hanlon
- Technology - Apr 29, 2015

As the Internet of Things gathers momentum and we are propelled into a world where everything is connected, Business Review Europe asked Kate Owen - VP Northern Europe, of Digital Element, the leading provider of IP geolocation technology – to explain the role of location-based data, and how it can be used to best advantage

BRE: Consumers are spending more and more time online on mobile devices. Is location still relevant?

Kate Owen: To be honest, it’s probably more important than ever as markets become increasingly mobile. IP-based location data can enable highly specific audience targeting in advertising, and the exact location of an ad impression is an important value metric in automated bidding. In addition, brands can present the most relevant homepage to the user – varying the language and currency, and even displaying local store details without the user needing to enter any information. Advertisers can use this detailed geolocation data to promote wet weather gear when rain is forecast in a particular area, or offer special deals at local dealerships when an MoT is due, for example. Relationships can be built as brands vary their offering based on regional tastes, humour or topical issues.  

Not only does this variation of content enable highly relevant campaigns, leading to high response rates, it also helps build brand awareness and loyalty – both key in competitive markets. And the closer a brand can get to their consumers, by understanding and acting on regional differences, the greater the potential for relevancy and campaign success. Location is a critical element in the cycle.

BRE: But aren’t people concerned about their privacy? Many don’t like having their location tracked.

Kate Owen: Our data does not track individual people. We provide information on location, connection type and carrier – without using any Personally Identifiable Information (PII). This is refined using anonymised feeds and permission-based data so that, without breaching user privacy rights, brands can reach their target audience with highly relevant and personalised content – without actually knowing who they are. Further down the line, once the consumer is engaged, promotions and other incentives can be used to encourage opt-in to other types of location-based services – including the provision of personal information.

In this way, consumers can be assured they are not traced personally without permission – but with IP geolocation technology they can still receive messaging that is relevant to them. This is a game of respect, caution and trust, and if it’s played right, both parties will profit.

BRE: How can you be certain the location data is reliable and accurate?

Kate Owen: Our technology uses the internet routing infrastructure to triangulate the geographic location of IP addresses – and then cross-references this with anonymised data from our global partners for further data intelligence. Our latest IP-based technology enables even more granular targeting to postcode level by incorporating mobile-derived data from wifi access points across the globe – further validating and fine-tuning results. This enables reliable targeting to within a 5-8 kilometre radius, and often even less.

To give some examples, with the latest mobile and wifi inputs closing gaps in IP targeting, the number of individual postcodes in The Netherlands able to be identified solely through the IP address has increased from 3,300 to 291,000! In Eastern Europe, postcode reporting in Poland has risen from 5,500 to 18,000, and in the Nordics, Sweden has experienced around a 50 percent increase, from 6,500 to 9,500. The UK has experienced dramatic increases in coverage across major cities, and even within particular districts. One neighbourhood in East London was able to target an additional two million IPs and our customers are benefitting from a more even distribution of postcodes across cities and regions generally. Actual results are constantly refined and improved as new datasets are incorporated – making true postcode-level targeting a reality.

BRE: When would this level of granularity actually be required?

Kate Owen: We can provide different levels of data precision, depending on our clients’ requirements. For instance, online gambling businesses need country-level location information to ensure regulatory compliance, and also to personalise website content by language and currency. In some countries, such as Germany, regulatory compliance requirements may even differ quite considerably by Federal state. In advertising and ecommerce, however, even more precise location data – city-level or even hyperlocal postcode or postcode sector data – is required to enable accurate analysis of consumer behaviour and preferences, optimal targeting and ROI.

In any application, however, the key to successful use of location data – at any level of accuracy – is to ensure it is reliable. Regular and automated updates to IP routing infrastructure and multi-layered verification techniques are essential. Accepting second-best could lead to poor customer experience – and no brand can afford to risk that. 

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