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How mobile location tracking can improve high street retail fortunes

With the high profile collapse of BHS, and high street footfall falling year-on-year, these are worrying times for UK retailers. But what if they could predict approaching woes ahead of time and take evasive action?
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Check-in app company Foursquare – known for forecasting iPhone sales more accurately than Apple itself – recently predicted US fast-food chain Chipotle’s sales would fall 30 per cent based on mobile location footfall data with uncanny accuracy.

This type of data is recorded when app users actively check into a venue or passively share their location via their smartphone.

Mobile is now an integral part of the retail experience even when shopping in store – for example, 60 per cent will use mobile store locators and 72 per cent will research products before purchase – so mobile location data is an accurate way to determine where shoppers are and what they are doing.

Footfall prediction using location tracking can help retailers accurately predict their financial future, foreseeing troubled times before they arrive or – conversely – highlighting positive trends that can be exploited.

In addition to predicting profitability and warning retailers of twists and turns in the road ahead, mobile location tracking can also deliver the tools companies need to turn their fortunes around.

Optimising messaging by location

The contextual relevance of an ad can mean the difference between an engaged or irritated consumer, and mobile location data can help retailers tailor their messaging to the consumer’s whereabouts. This could mean serving ads in the right language or currency for that location, adapting creative to regional weather signals or real-world events, or delivering special offers and directions to local stores.

This is best achieved using dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) where marketers create a single campaign with messaging that can be adapted in real-time according to a wide range of variables, including location.

Measuring mobile advertising

Online and offline should no longer be viewed as separate entities but converged elements of the consumer journey. This is because online activity frequently impacts offline purchases and vice versa. The difficultly with this cross-channel approach is measurement, as linking the various touch points the consumer has been exposed to can be problematic.

Mobile location tracking provides one solution and allows marketers to accurately measure the impact of mobile marketing campaigns on offline visits. Brands can establish how likely a consumer is to visit a store without viewing any advertising and then compare this with their likelihood of visiting after viewing a mobile ad.

They can take this further by measuring the difference in likelihood of visiting between those who just saw the ad and those who engaged with it by clicking or taking a similar action. These actionable insights can be fed back into mobile campaigns to optimise performance and maximise ROI.

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Enhancing audience understanding

Gaining a deeper understanding of audiences is another key benefit of mobile location tracking, and location data can be utilised in a similar way to behavioural data in desktop targeting, but to far greater effect.

Brands can target audiences based on the places they visit and how often they visit them – think outdoor enthusiasts seen mountain biking or lovers of the arts seen at theatres and galleries.

This level of insight allows retailers to create detailed audience profiling using common locations and behaviours to target ad messaging based on the mobile user’s demographic, geographic, and behavioural characteristics, significantly increasing campaign relevance and performance.

Analysing competitor audiences

And it’s not just their own audiences that brands can better understand through mobile location tracking, they can also analyse the customers of their competitors.

By identifying key competitor locations, retailers can differentiate between audiences that choose to shop in Sainsbury’s and those that choose to shop in Tesco, for example, and use this information to inform their own marketing strategies. It also allows retailers to target competitor customers as well as their own.

Mobile location tracking is an innovative and accurate way of measuring footfall and predicting the financial prospects of retail stores. But it can also be used to turn the fortunes of those stores around using highly accurate data to measure ad performance, as well as understanding and precisely targeting the audiences of both retailers and their competitors.

Alex Rahaman is VP of programmatic EMEA & APAC at Sizmek

A great example of mobile location can be seen as people across the UK are being paid to play Nintendo’s Pokemon Go.

Image: Shutterstock

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