Marketers Start Exploring Location-Based Consumer Metrics’ Value

By Richard H. Levey, Contributing Writer


Find a new channel for interacting with consumers, and marketers will find a new way to measure the results.

Outbound telemarketing allowed dialers to track the times prospects answered their phones, thereby enabling better targeting. Email gave rise to open and click-through measurements, which helped marketers evaluate ad strength. Web browsing begat clickstream analysis and abandonment metrics, which gave marketers clues regarding a page design’s effectiveness.

Now come beacons — on-site sensors which allow marketers to track consumer foot traffic at physical locations via the consumers’ mobile devices. Marketers are scrambling to determine what they can measure as a result of these interactions — as well as attempting to sort out which measurements will prove most useful.

Measuring foot traffic digitally does have value, asserts Mike McMurray, SVP of Marketing & Business Operations at Point Inside, a location solutions vendor based in Bellevue, Wash.

“[Previously] you could use cameras to manage foot traffic, but you couldn’t tie that direct to sales and what drove that behavior,” McMurray said. “As you start to add beacons or Wi-Fi you get a better understanding of how people in your store navigate, or come in with a list of 10 things and end up looking for two others, and can tie that attribution together.”

Interacting with beacons is part of what Asif R. Khan, Founder and President of the Toronto-based Location Based Marketing Association calls “sensor engagement.” Capturing this activity may soon influence other measurable behavior, such as pass-along rates for offers made when a prospect is on location.

“[In the future] we will also be talking about things like social magnification and dissemination, [in which] an on-site mobile offer lasts for two minutes, but the customer shares it with three friends, the marketer extends the offer for another 10 minutes,” Khan said.

Other industry observers believe location-based data will lead to new data being applied to existing measurements. “Some of the metrics we are comfortable with in a web environment can become more applicable in an in-store environment,” said John Cathey, Director of Product for Big Data Analytics and Advertising at multiscreen solutions provider Phunware, Austin, Texas.

“If 90% of my customers have my app, and it’s tied to my charge card and loyalty program, I can track in-store behavior by hour of day, by season, by what foot traffic looks like in each location,” Cathey continued. “If you are seeing stores that have higher-than-expected foot traffic, you can see where your app users live, how far they are traveling, and where it would make sense to put another store.”

Blending Data Strengthens Marketing

Location information can help make other data sets more powerful. For instance, when marketers are able to pinpoint their prospects’ locations, they’ll have the option of incorporating environmental data into their pitches. “Mobile location marketing makes weather data totally relevant,” said Greg Stuart, CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association in New York City.

“We had [studied] a product which played well in hot weather. A display ad didn’t do anything until we added ‘weather 80 degrees and above’ as a criteria [for serving ads to the device],” Stuart added. “We saw that ad unit perform 50% better.”

All this said, marketers know that the ultimate measurements are the most fundamental: revenue, costs, and margin. “Metrics, from an ROI perspective, still revolve around two key aspects: How am I optimizing my cost structure and how am I increasing market size and my topline revenue? I don’t anticipate change in terms of those two key metrics,” said Sunalini Sankhavaram, Director of Product Management, Locationing & Analytics Solutions at San Francisco-based, a mobile and digital solutions provider.

“[Location tracking] technology in the store will be analyzed to see how it affects either operational efficiencies or increases basket size or coupon redemption,” Sankhavaram added. “But [with multiple beacons in a single location] you can say ‘this shopper spent time in aisles 1, 5, and 6, but the only product that made it into the basket was from aisle 6. How much time was spent in the other aisles, and what were the reasons that the time spent did not convert into a transaction?”

Ultimately there is no correct answer. During the early days of the internet, “eyeballs” was a hot new metric. On-paper fortunes were both made and lost by people who believed, or convinced others to believe, that simply attracting people to a website, rather than monitoring actions which led to sales, was a key measurement.

In 2016, few people take “eyeballs” as a standalone measurement seriously. Today’s marketers are well advised to consider all metrics, but rely on those which best reflect their pre-established business rules, rather than letting available measurements determine their activities.


Richard H. Levey, Principal of Editorial Matters, is a seasoned writer and editor with expertise in the marketing, financial, nonprofit, and industrial sectors. He has written for several business publications, including Chief Marketer and Direct.