IAB Member Q&A: Location Data and Marketing

On July 15, 2020 Research & Resources

Mobile location data enhances retail marketers’ understanding of consumer behaviour in the physical world, and helps reach consumers when they are in the right context, measuring marketing campaign effectiveness in driving consumers to store and connecting the dots between different marketing platforms, including TV, desktop, mobile, and Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH).  The COVID-19 lockdown period has highlighted the role human mobility data can play in providing insights derived from people movement. As the industry experiences unprecedented upheavals, brands have stopped to re-evaluate their marketing and advertising and how to approach data in more innovative ways to understand and target consumers.  

IAB member experts Dom Gambino from Near, Emma-Jayne Owens from Blis and Tom Gregory from Lifesight tell us more.


Dom Gambino, Head of Customer Success ANZ, Near

How is location data helping marketers understand consumers in the current emergence from lockdown and beyond?

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the world. People are living differently, thinking differently, and buying differently. The pandemic has left an indelible mark on consumers’ mind, making everything marketers know about them superfluous and dated. To relearn consumer behaviour within a short period of time, having actionable location intelligence becomes a key piece. With tightened budgets, marketers and advertisers have been compelled to identify new ways to segment, target, and earn a share of consumers’ minds with trust building being the brand purpose.

Pre-lockdown, location data enabled brands to do better proximity targeting, however, with places shutting down and people practicing self-isolation, the traction shifted to the online platforms and a new consumer segment of the home location based audience emerged. Due to limited mobility, in-store and OOH spends have reduced and mobile phones have become the primary screen for consumers. For example, understanding behavioural patterns about consumers’ online shopping on an e-commerce platform coupled with the visitation data (from before the isolation measures) to a supermarket can help determine the brand affinity, frequency and platform to serve ads about the availability of products, new stocks, discounts, customized delivery/pick-up slots or even relief work. 

Identifying relevant audiences, along with having an integrated omni-channel approach has always been a top priority for marketers. However, given the sensitivity of the current situation, we can expect personalisation to take centre stage and brands will need to focus on communication driven by sincere empathy to create a positive brand image. Therefore, having a unified view of consumers based on online and real-world behaviour is more important than ever for marketers to target their audiences with the right channel and relevant messaging.

In the new normal world, the deluge of data generated is bountiful with everyone being glued to screens across multiple devices and brands can monetise if they act quickly with the right actionable intelligence backed by precise consumer behaviour data. 

What recent consumer behaviour changes has location data revealed that will endure and impact marketers in the ‘new normal’ world?

Early signals analysed by Near as places started to open up indicated varied mobility rates from different consumer segments which was guided by the risk they are willing to take. Those having a higher risk appetite (risk-takers) are more likely to travel farther distances to visit their preferred supermarket or restaurant, whereas those with a lower risk appetite (risk-averse) will prefer to stay-at home, and the balanced consumers will step out only on a need basis.

To strike a deep connection with these ‘new normal world’ consumer segments, brands will need to target them with the aim to increase engagement rather than selling. Having an accurate understanding of where the audience is and creating personalised experiences across channels is therefore critical. For example, brands focusing on driving in-store visitation should focus on engaging with the ‘risk-takers’ and the ‘balancers’ by incentivising consumers with offers and providing personalised in-store experiences. And brands having a stronger online presence should focus on targeting the risk-averse with improved at-home offerings, contactless deliveries, digital payments and round the clock deliveries. Accessing such accurate and actionable intelligence derived from online and real-world behaviour enables marketers to do precise planning and effective targeted marketing and earn a higher return on ad dollars. 

While location data, merged with online or first party data is a goldmine for marketers and advertisers, it is important to engage through a privacy-complaint data partner where the consent of data sharing is with consumers. This is of utmost importance especially today where companies like Apple and Google are giving better control to choose whether consumers want to let Developers track them across apps and websites owned by other companies. Being transparent regarding the intent and usage of the data collected will gradually lead to higher opt-ins from consumers.

We are a privacy-by-design led platform offering actionable intelligence derived from accurate and high-quality consumer data without compromising end-user privacy. Even with the recent Apple announcement and the third-party cookie blocking scenario, we continue to be able to offer a reliable data ecosystem that not only enables our customers and partners to reach their business goals faster but also respects the consent of ultimate stakeholders of this business model i.e. the end consumers.


Emma-Jayne Owens, Managing Director, Blis

How is location data helping marketers understand consumers in the current emergence from lockdown and beyond? 

Uncertainty and change are fast becoming the bywords of post-lockdown life. For marketers, the key to clarity, certainty and effective decision making is with a better understanding of consumer needs, mindsets and behaviour. And accurate location data is the most powerful measure of real-world behaviour. It offers a more complete representation of people based on what they are doing, where they are going and where they have been. Location data helps us understand actual human movement and real habits which in turn, helps us to form a deeper understanding of them as consumers. With consistent measurement and analysis, marketers can not only get a sense of how people are adapting to post-lockdown life, they can also predict future behaviours.

At Blis we recently conducted a consumer sentiment study across Australia and New Zealand to understand what people are thinking and feeling as we start to emerge from lockdown. We compared this sentiment to Blis footfall data to understand whether what we say and we do are the same thing. Our findings showed they’re not. Consumer sentiment and habits have changed dramatically since COVID and we found several key differences between what consumers are saying and what they are doing coming out of lockdown. We also saw how consumer needs have changed and how people are balancing these needs against caution and other factors impacting recovery.

Because location data is the most accurate measure of real-world behaviour and consumer intent at scale than any other type of data, it’s a hugely powerful tool for marketers.

What recent consumer behaviour changes has location data revealed that will endure and impact marketers in the ‘new normal’ world? 

In the Blis Life After Lockdown study, we found that the pace of recovery is not the same for all geographical regions or brand categories. Consumers are responding very differently depending on who they are and where they live. It’s fair to say, according to the survey and Blis’ location behavioural data, things aren’t quite back to ‘normal’.

What is clear though, is that consumers are moving beyond survival mode, they are adapting to their new ‘normal’ and adjusting their behaviour outside the home where uncertainty is affecting the pace of recovery.

Our study and location data has revealed:

  1. Australians are moving beyond survival mode: While caution remains the prevailing sentiment, actual behaviour reveals we are still looking to satisfy our innate, psychological need for wellbeing, social interaction and fun.
  2. Consumers are adapting their behaviour outside the home: A more cautious mindset sees consumers adapt their behaviour to meet their needs and mitigate their concerns regarding crowds and confined spaces, including public transport.
  3. Financial and economic uncertainty is driving a nuanced return to normality:Our data indicates that a return to normality is occurring at different speeds. Uncertainty is distorting the picture of recovery depending on location, socio-economic status and specific life stage.

As we look to what’s next, what will endure is the need for marketers to adapt and evolve with a rapidly changing society and to an ever-evolving consumer.

Understanding consumers based on what their location behaviour tells us about them is critical to being able to connect and engage effectively and to investing wisely in ongoing media and advertising efforts.


Tom Gregory, Country Manager, Lifesight

How is location data helping marketers understand consumers in the current emergence from lockdown and beyond? 

Geo-spatial analysis of location data from mobile devices has helped marketers understand how consumer preferences and brand loyalties have shifted as a result of COVID19. Consumers’ definition of convenience has changed. During level 3 lockdowns, for example, we saw foot-traffic diverting away from large format supermarkets to smaller format local grocery and convenience retail locations. Across Australia the average distance travelled from consumers’ home locations is still down on the 3 months prior to lockdown. Did catchment areas for offline retailers and other local businesses shift as a result of lockdown and COVID19 awareness? Most definitely. Have the audience profiles of consumers at physical store locations changed pre- and post-COVID. Our data suggests they have.

Location data is also helping online retailers better understand their customers, power personalisation and identify new target audience groups. As ecommerce and online retail channels grow due to recent changes in consumer needs and lifestyles, converting offline shoppers to online channels presents a significant commercial opportunity.  By enriching 1st party online ID data with 3rd party data including location data attributes, online retailers can refine targeting or messaging based on where existing and prospect customers shop, changes in movement patterns or which behavioural personas they index highly for.

How could the recent Apple announcements limit location targeting in iOS14?

The changes announced by Apple regarding IDFA and location tracking policies in iOS 14 were largely expected within the industry following initial privacy policy updates in iOS13 last year.  Improved privacy control for compliance and transparency is a good thing but as with the retiring of 3rd party cookies there are concerns on the impact these changes will have on advertising and measurement. The entire mobile ecosystem, not just location vendors, will be affected by these changes to varying degrees and the full impact will remain to be seen. In Australia approximately 50% of the market will be prompted to choose whether to opt out of sharing an identifier and precise location signals with apps on their devices at install.  The amount of precise location data for POI based geo-targeting and geo-audience building from iOS devices will undoubtedly be impacted.

I’m hopeful that this move by Apple will encourage a more transparent dialogue on the value exchange between app publishers and consumers. Clear communication on why sharing IDFAs will continue to support a free app economy or why sharing granular location data will improve the user experience for consumers within the app. It seems logical that apps that rely on location for a better user experience and have the trust of users through transparent communication will maintain higher opt-in rates. Others may not, if they don’t evolve or adapt. Ensuring Lifesight continues to partner with the right publishers going forward is a priority to ensure longevity as the privacy landscape evolves.