What is Mobile Location Data & How to Use It

Mobile location data refers to the latitude/longitude (often abbreviated as lat/long) of a mobile device, usually a smartphone or tablet connected to the mobile network. Mobile location datasets usually include a timestamp in order to analyse the movement of a specific device and user. Typical sources of mobile location data are GPS signals collected via an in-app SDK, Wi-Fi and connected MAC addresses, IP addresses, bluetooth-based beacon SDKs, cellular triangulation, and user-reported registration data. Mobile location data can be used by marketers to create targetable audiences (e.g. an audience that frequently visits car dealerships might be interested in buying a new car), by retailers to analyse footfall traffic to optimize store locations, and many more areas such as finance, smart city, etc.

What is Mobile Location Data?

Mobile location data is geographical data about a device’s whereabouts linked to a time identifier (timestamp). It is collected by mobile devices in the form of latitude and longitude coordinates (lat/long) to map the location of the mobile device at that precise time. Paramount to mobile location data is the accuracy and precision of the information collected.

Accuracy refers to how close the location measurement is to the actual location. Precision refers to how close measurements are to each other. The more multiple sources of data match up with each other, the more precise the mobile location data is judged to be.

Mobile location data is used for locating where a device and its user are at any particular time. But to make use of this information it is necessary for businesses to know what exactly can be found in that location. For this reason, mobile location data is often used with POI and map data to give greater insights. Mobile location data can record geographically where a device is. POI data can confirm that this location is actually a coffee house or a department store.

Who uses Mobile Location Data and for what use cases?

Mobile location data is used by many businesses, including retail, finance, government, healthcare and real estate. Using Software development kits (SDK’s), businesses can track target audiences and how much time they spend in their store or the stores of their competitors. They can detect what time of day consumers are visiting their stores, which can help stores decide opening hours and staffing levels. And they can detect potential customers living in the area and what businesses are already utilised by customers in the area.

Mobile location data can measure footfall and how it changes over time. It can measure what stores in the area your potential customers visit and what they purchase. It can measure how often customers visit your business and how long they stay there. It can help businesses build better and more targeted marketing campaigns.

Marketing campaigns thrive when they target ideal audiences. Mobile location data helps businesses to understand how consumers move and behave in the real world. It can give insights into audience movement, behaviour, interests and intent. Mobile location data can build up a detailed picture of consumers, which helps businesses to create a more relevant and targeted marketing campaigns. If a potential customer has just entered a shopping mall in which you have a store, you can instantly send them a marketing message in realtime to encourage them to visit your store during their visit to the mall.

Mobile location data can be used to target potential customers based on their interests. A health food store may see from mobile location data that a segment of consumers visit a nearby gym three times or more a week. Since these consumers are likely interested in a healthy lifestyle, the health food store may decide to target them and make them aware of its health food products. Mobile location data makes it easier to ensure you are targeting the right audience at the right time.

Mobile location data can also be used for retargeting. Only some consumers will respond to marketing campaigns in real time. But by retargeting even when the consumer has left the location, businesses can convert more potential customers. So let’s look again at our health store’s potential customers. Maybe the health store decides to target potential customers the night before they are due to go to the gym. Or an hour before they are due to go to the gym. Using mobile location data to retarget can convert more consumers that single realtime alone.

Another way historical mobile data versus realtime can be used is to target competitor’s consumers. Building up a picture of competitors’ consumers over time can help with targeting those consumers with marketing offers that may cause them to convert to your business.

Consumers today want and expect a personalised service. Mobile location data helps businesses deliver a personalised service and build a better rapport with their consumers. Businesses can tailor ads to specific segments of their customers or potential customers. This increases customer satisfaction, as customers like to receive relevant marketing. It also decreases customer dissatisfaction as customers don’t like to receive ads that aren’t relevant to them.

When consumers see an ad online and then make a purchase online, it’s pretty easy to see the correlation between seeing the ad and making the purchase. But what about when the consumer sees an ad online and then makes a purchase offline in store? This is where mobile location data can be essential in bridging the gap between online marketing and offline purchases, by allowing businesses to see how many online targeted consumers then purchase in store. Using mobile location data in conjunction with marketing data gives businesses a better measure of how well their marketing campaigns are working.

Why Should I use Software development kits (SKD’s) with location data?

Software developement kits (SDK’s) are a more sophisticated method of measuring location data. Some SDK’s may have their own POI systems built in, such as measuring location entry and exit times and floors visited in large department stores and shopping malls.

Utilising SDK’s has other benefits. For instance, mobile location data using a single signal may record a device is at a location for 15 minutes. The location is outside a retail store. The natural assumption might be the consumer shopped in the store for 15 minutes. However, using SDK multiple signals, we discover the consumer didn’t actually enter the store. Perhaps they were waiting to meet some-one outside the store. Or perhaps they were stuck in traffic in the road outside. We can see the need of obtaining mobile location data that is accurate and precise in order to be of benefit to your business. Using SDK’s makes mobile location data more precise by using multiple sources to verify and correlate the information.

What are typical mobile location data attributes?

Typical mobile location data attributes include:

  • Longitude (position)
  • Latitude (position)
  • Horizontal Accuracy (degree of error)
  • Elevation (above sea level)
  • Altitude (above sea level)
  • Mobile Ad ID (unique identifier for device)
  • Timestamp (adds context to mobile location data)
  • IP Address (unique numerical label assigned by network provider)

How is Mobile Location Data typically collected?

Mobile location data Is collected from several sources using several techniques, such as:

Mobile device ID, which measures movement over time. The mobile device uses location signals provided by GPS satellites for positioning by measuring the length of time it takes the signal to reach the device. GPS is especially good at receiving location signals outdoors.

Indoors, Wifi provides good mobile location signals and is useful when GPS is unavailable or blocked by buildings etc.
Beacons are static signal receivers that also accurately provide mobile location data.

Devices can also use mobile cell towers, such as those provided by telecommunications companies such as Telco, to triangulate position and accurately identify location.

Ad agencies buy mobile location data direct from app, website and network providers.
They also buy bundles from ad networks.

Providers sell data to ad exchanges which sell to ad agencies in realtime through a ‘bid request’. Every time a bid request is made, mobile location data is created which ad agencies package up, along with other data information, to sell to businesses.

Vast amounts of data are collected in this way. Because its captured programmatically, it can be used right away.

App publishers often use location data provided by the device’s built-in location provision to collect mobile location data, such as the locations of nearby restaurants. App developers often add location based SDK’s to make location data more accurate. Some only work when the app is open, but others work in the background even when the app isn’t being accessed to gain broader insights.

Location based SDK’s gather information with the device user’s consent. Sometimes this consent is explicitly asked for each time. Sometimes it is included in the T’s & C’s.

How to assess the quality of mobile location data?

When purchasing mobile location data, the quality of the data is of paramount importance. The quality and accuracy of the data will depend on the source. When purchasing mobile location data, buyers should check:

  • How is the mobile location data collected?
  • Is it single source mobile location data?
  • Is it multiple source mobile location data?
  • How detailed is the data?
  • How contextual is the data?
  • How does the provider check for misleading data?
  • What are the database update frequencies?

How is mobile location data typically priced?

There are two main pricing models for mobile location data. These include:

  • Wireless data, charged per number of minutes or bytes purchased
  • Location services, which often charge a monthly subscription rate

Location service plans differ in price depending on the services required. A starting plan might include a number of monthly reports, while a more advanced plan may include unlimited reports, customized data and sales forecasting.

What are the common challenges when buying mobile location data?

Common challenges when buying mobile location data include:

  • Ensuring the mobile location data is reliable, accurate, and precise.
  • Data collected from a single source is less reliable.
  • Whether the data is first, second or third party is also a challenge.

First party data will usually be more accurate and relevant than third party data, which has already gone through several agencies before being purchased for your business use.

What to ask mobile location data providers?

When buying mobile location data, there are several questions buyers may want to ask, such as:

  • How is the mobile location data collected?
  • Is POI data included?
  • Is the data accurate in real time?
  • How often is the mobile location data updated?
  • How do you verify the mobile location data you supply?
  • What error detection do you have in place?
  • Can the mobile location data you supply be customized to my business needs?
  • Can the system provide predictive sales forecasts?

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