According to Forrester’s Head of Digital Transformation J. McCormick, location intelligence is, “the science of leveraging location information to optimise decision making and customer experiences”. Traditionally it has been achieved by overlaying geospatial data with additional information to understand the relationship a place has with other places, people and things.
Today, advancements in wearables, transportation, mobile and commerce have forced businesses to place more emphasis on the accuracy of location data to drive stronger customer relationships, personalise service offerings, and remain competitive.
This guide aims to help businesses better understand the benefits of location intelligence data and the companies that are already using location intelligence to power ahead, and will provide key insights into what businesses should be looking for when selecting a location intelligence provider.
What is geospatial data?
Geospatial data comes from a range of sources including some that are quite traditional. The telephone directory is an example of geospatial data linking a location, described by an address, to a telephone number.
There are Open Data sets such as the National Register of Social Housing which correlates addresses to the tenancy status of a property; crowd-sourced databases such as the Ordnance Survey, and the OpenStreetMap Initiative; and there are imaging sources such as satellite imagery or LIDAR data that need to be digitally processed before it can be used.
With an abundance of new technology and sector-specific data sources that can now be leveraged or overlaid on existing location data, selecting the right provider is critical. While consumers have become more comfortable sharing personal data to enhance digital experiences – recent breaches in data security have made them warier of disclosing personal details with just anyone. This change in public perception now requires businesses to perform extensive due-diligence when looking to leverage location in order to remain compliant, and keep customers safe.
Leveraging location intelligence varies by sector
One example of how location intelligence supports operational success is in the insurance industry. To accurately appraise a property’s value, an insurer needs to know things like the type of structure, its age, number of bedrooms and so forth.
They might also want to know its distance to the nearest body of water, the nearest road, and the burglary and crime rate of the area. Distance to roads or rivers, burglary and crime rates, electricity usage and so on are all explicitly geospatial attributes – they require you to know the location of a place through a postal address or via latitude and longitude in order to associate a value.
Retail is another sector heavily reliant on location information. Technology powered by location intelligence can be found in-store and online to make the shopping experience more personal. Shoppers are increasingly willing to share their location via mobile app or wearable in exchange for in-store savings and loyalty rewards. For retailers, this requires the use of location technology like GPS and in-store beacons coupled with digital capabilities that connect the customer to the enhanced experiences.
This guide aims to help businesses gain a better understanding of the benefits and use case of location intelligence and the key role address data plays within location intelligence. Readers will be able to identify their unique location needs and learn how to select a provider who can meet these requirements to drive more successful business.
What are companies currently doing vs what they should be doing?
According to a recent study, commissioned by Loqate and conducted by Forrester, location intelligence is becoming more and more prevalent in both customer facing areas, and back-office enterprise data management systems and processes.
Firms are beginning to recognise the value of location intelligence across the entire customer lifecycle, and over the next three years, 77% of firms believe it will be important to their business, (currently in 2018 at 50%). While the benefits of location intelligence are clear, like all other business initiatives there are no shortage of challenges.
Obstacles and opportunities
Poor quality address data is one of the biggest obstacles to successfully leveraging location data in a digitally disruptive world.
According to the Forrester study, over half of businesses stated that the quality of their data is one of the biggest inhibitors to delivering location-based insights, but growth in customer distribution will soon make cleaner data a requirement. Over the next three years, firms predict a 10% increase in global customer distribution, meaning accurate location-based insights will soon be critical to delivering relevant experiences whether in the form of product recommendations, or in dictating the tone of digital communications.
Address data can be a complex matter. One reason for this is the fact that an address can be written in many varying forms. For example:
Apartment 1, Main Street, New York, NY 11201
Apt 1, Main Street, New York, NY 11201
Apartment 1, Main St, New York, NY 11201
Apt 1, Main St, New York, NY 11201
These are all common ways of writing the same address. Therefore, business systems can struggle to understand that these are the same property. Also, address input on small devices can easily lead to spelling errors, and often the same addresses are often collected at multiple points in the customer journey. This can lead to confusion and requires master data management, improving efficiency. Geocoding and reverse geocoding can also be used to locate an address, distinguishing between business or residential properties and single occupancy and multiple occupancy, such as apartments or halls of residence.
With an abundance of data now available to businesses, it has become an extremely valuable resource that can lead to an increase in efficiency, product improvement and, in turn, customer satisfaction and further data.
In the near future, almost all firms (97%) say they are planning to spend the same or more on location intelligence services in order to optimise their customer experiences and improve data-powered business efficiency. With consumers seeing value in brands who use location data to personalise experiences throughout the lifecycle, businesses should consider their customers’ needs and develop location-based strategies that meet those expectations.
Which businesses are leading the way in location intelligence?
Tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft have all invested significant effort towards Location Intelligence infrastructure and capabilities. Location intelligence enables Facebook to serve relevant local ads, and drive organic engagement for businesses and locations around the world.
For Facebook users, this means that when posting a new status or photo, the social network can identify their location and connect them to other users at that location. Facebook Places also connects users to friends who are physically nearby. Once a user checks in to a location they can tag friends or add photos about what’s going on. Once they’re checked in, a user’s social network can see where they are from the News Feed. If a user is out and using the Facebook mobile app they can see if friends are around by tapping “Nearby” from the Facebook menu.
The ability to strengthen social connections by leveraging location is only becoming more important to Facebook as challengers like Snapchat and Twitter continue to improve their location services to deliver more relevant content and advertisements.
Another technology firm utilising geospatial data is transportation giant Uber. The company has garnered international success for its prompt and convenient service by connecting riders and drivers with a single click. By tracking a user’s location and leveraging location intelligence, Uber drivers are able to collect customers at a relevant pick up point and take them to a desired destination through the quickest route, accurately re-routing in case of heavy traffic or road closures and ultimately redefining how people get around.
Dominos has revolutionised the way pizzas are delivered by offering customers the chance to have their food delivered to an outdoor location. The pizza company is set to deliver to over 150,000 outdoor hotspots such as parks, beaches and public spaces. Once an order has been placed, users are prompted to turn location services on, and outdoor delivery options pop-up so a user can easily locate themselves on a delivery map.
Retailers are also taking advantage of location intelligence to boost sales and improve customer engagement. With customer experience touted as overtaking both price and product as a key brand differentiator by 2020, businesses must look a new levels of personalisation if they want to stand out from the competition.
US-based retailer American Eagle geo-fenced its outlet stores, delivering offers and notifications to shoppers entering mall car parks to entice customers into their store. This resulted in an increase in foot traffic and a boost in sales. European-based H&M leverages location intelligence to reduce unsold inventory and ensure popular items stay stocked. These are two examples of the many ways brick-and-mortar stores use L.I. to remain competitive and generate more foot-traffic.
For software companies such as IBM and Oracle, global address data is vital to their success. Thanks to one master data source, IBM have been able to help their customers increase data confidence, improve delivery rates, revenues and profits, achieve accurate customer records, create a timely billing process and most importantly create a positive customer experience. This helps deliver quality data for big data, business intelligence, data warehousing, application migration and master data management projects.
What to look for in a location intelligence provider:
Choosing a Location Intelligence provider can be an arduous task if you don’t have a proper lay of the land. In order to select a provider that will help you maximise business success, improve user experience, and meet your location goals, you want to ensure that you cover each of the points below.
There are over 120 different address formats, thousands of languages and hundreds of character sets that are used to describe location. Leveraging data on a global scale requires the flexibly to translate data to meet local purposes. Regional postal providers and government agencies generally provide the best quality data coverage due to its higher frequency in use and updates. The downside of using regional providers is that it may not be standardised for global use. Data cleansing ensures that data can be used on both a regional and global scale.
Compliance has recently become a public focal point for businesses leveraging customer data. Recent events like the introduction of GDPR, the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, speculation about voter rigging in the United States, and data breaches at some of the largest global corporations have made compliance and security one of the highest priorities. A lack of compliance has the potential to impact public opinion, stock value, employee morale, and customer trust and loyalty. Taking time to look through providers’ policies and legal protections is a must.
Investigate to see whether your supplier is ISO27001 accredited too so that you can be confident that your data is secure. Being ISO27001 accredited demonstrates that providers are following security best practice, and that information security is managed following international best practice.
Deployment options vary across use cases. Consult an internal or external IT resource to determine whether you require cloud, on premise, or a more private and dedicated deployment option.
Data quality refers to a dataset’s ability to serve a specific purpose in a particular context. In addition to understanding data’s source, you must consider its integrity. Without high-quality standardised data, cleansed of inaccuracies and missing information businesses will be unable to communicate with customers in the digital age. Data that is continuously cleansed and updated maintains a level of quality that ensures compliance, and operational ability. The depth and richness of data also impacts its quality. Does the data go beyond premise-level detail to include geospatial attributes such as geography, economic status, and population density? This is essential information to understand as it has a huge impact on the way you will be able to use this data.
Data quality is one of the most vital factors for the success of any business. In order to effectively communicate with customers, make informed business decisions, work better and increase revenue, data must be clean and accurate. If data is dirty, the cost to your business could spiral out of control financially, operationally, and publicly.
In today’s global economy it is critical to consider a provider’s international service coverage. Are they capable of automatically routing traffic to the closest data center anywhere in the world? How secure and resilient are their data centers in cases of extreme weather or data breaches? How does a physical data center’s failure or shutdown affect your operations and customer experience?
Something to pay close attention to is where the data is coming from. Ask providers where their data is sourced, and do your due-diligence to ensure this is a valid and verified source. If the data source is not valid, question its reliability. If the data is valid and verified, the next step is to make sure the datasets on offer are qualified to suit your needs. For example, if you’re a retailer looking to use location intelligence to determine consumer spending habits, you would consider overlaying demographic information to pinpoint the most profitable markets.
We all need help sometimes, regardless of how tech-savvy or large a business can be, determining the level of assistance you need to successfully leverage location data can range from company to company. Speak with your internal teams and IT resources to gauge their level of experience with location data. When selecting a provider, a crucial factor to consider the cost and reward of leveraging this form of data. If support is offered, you need to understand whether this support is free and if not, exactly how much it will cost in order to allocate resources responsibly.
How quickly support can be provided is also a factor to consider. If an urgent enquiry or problem arises will you get a response immediately, in 24 hours or will it take longer.
Uptime is an essential requirement when looking for a location intelligence data provider. Look for a provider that can offer 99.999% uptime to ensure that your service is always running smoothly.
Location intelligence is set to soar in importance over the next few years making it vital for businesses across all sectors to take advantage of the potential. Learning from the likes of Uber, Dominos , American Eagle and the likes of the world’s largest software companies such as IBM, will position businesses for a future that will undoubtedly require further location intelligence.
To ensure that the selection process is carefully considered when choosing a location intelligence provider, guaranteeing that various criteria are met, i.e. data quality, security and compliance, is crucial for delivering a service that will ultimately allow your business to thrive rather than simply survive.
Make sure you are asking the right questions when selecting a location intelligence provider by referencing our useful checklist below.