Did Your Customer Opt for One of Your Competitors?

Using location data to understand shopper behavior

Author: Tricia Carr

May 15, 2017

Access to location data from consumers’ mobile devices has helped many retailers target their marketing and advertising more precisely, but there are other areas of a retail business that can benefit from this data. eMarketer’s Tricia Carr spoke with Duncan McCall, CEO of location data and technology company PlaceIQ, about the applications of location data that go beyond a retailer’s marketing department.

eMarketer: The majority of retailers have discovered the value of location data for ad targeting and relevancy, but what’s the next step? How can retailers do more with it? 

Duncan McCall: Don’t think of location data as just for targeting—it really is a new holistic dataset that allows you to have a new level of consumer understanding. It can be used for not only better marketing, but also better construction of creative, better omnichannel marketing and better sequential messaging. Most importantly, it enables retailers to analyze and understand if someone doesn’t come to their store because their competitor is closer to home or work, or if someone drives past their store to go to their competitor.

Our most sophisticated clients have pushed us to build products that give them a new understanding of consumers. We still see some [marketers] saying, ‘I’ll just target everyone within 10 miles of my store,’ instead of thinking about location as a fundamentally new type of asset that can be used to revolutionize business, be it brick-and-mortar only, omnichannel or online only. 

eMarketer: Can you walk us through how location data helps retailers get that deeper understanding of consumers?

McCall: Most retailers are omnichannel. They’re driving people in-store and to ecommerce sites. Mobile provides a connection between physical and digital, and location data shows customer journeys in the physical world. How far do people drive to go to a store? How many people go to my store versus my competitor? How many people buy things online and how does that correlate to their behaviors in the physical world?

We’re focused on using mobile devices and privacy-friendly identifiers to understand consumer behavior by bringing in large amounts of movement data and connecting that back to third-party data, like TV viewership and credit card data. It’s not just about knowing if someone went to a store, but also what TV stations they watch, what cars they own, what things they buy, etc.

Lastly, we are connecting that to first-party data, which in retail typically means loyalty cards, traceable purchases, registration data and website visitation data. Suddenly retailers can understand the correlation between people buying items on their website vs. their store or even a competitor’s store.

eMarketer: In what other areas of their business can retailers apply location data? How can it help them make better decisions outside of marketing and advertising?

“It’s no longer just research—it’s real data.” 

McCall: The real power of this data is to connect it to all these different applications. It’s no longer just research—it’s real data. You can apply it to many areas: Where do I open stores? Where do I worry about my competitors opening stores? How do I support store openings [by reaching] people who are most likely to come to my store? How do I think about my digital marketing dollars? How do I think about personalization of content? How do I think about spending my TV dollars in a much more efficient, targeted manner? 

We have a part of our business that helps retailers figure out where to open new stores and diagnose why certain stores are succeeding or failing based on the types of people that are coming to them versus their competitors.

eMarketer: How can location data help retailers budget their marketing and advertising spend more efficiently?

McCall: In markets where [location data shows] you’re outperforming competitors, you won’t necessarily spend additional dollars because you’re already doing well. In markets where you competitor is beating you, you can analyze why that is. Don’t waste money on someone who doesn’t live near your store, or push them to your ecommerce site. If it turns out consumers are driving past your store to go to your competitor, you should spend more marketing dollars in that market because you have a higher chance of getting people into your store.

The idea is that you can use this data to deploy marketing dollars in a much more efficient, effective manner. Consumers also benefit because they won’t get advertising if they’re not in a target market.