Marketing’s Digital Divide Grows As Location Pushes Marketers to Think Beyond the Screen

Digital media and mobile devices have transformed how we understand and interact with the world around us. For consumers, this means more convenience, reduced friction and persistent access to information. For small businesses and even major brands, however, digital media and mobile have in many ways created more friction and complexity.

The promise of digital media and marketing has always been transparency and efficiency. Yet that hasn’t played out in practice – illustrated by a martech landscape of more than 4,000 companies and too-common confusion about “what’s working.”

There’s an expanding continuum of practical digital knowledge with experts on one end and novices on the other. Most fall somewhere in the middle. Yet most businesses large or small are challenged to thoughtfully develop digital strategies, execute and then determine what is working and optimize – a tall order.

The thinking about how to utilize expanding digital and mobile capabilities varies. On the one hand many SMBs are struggling to develop mobile-friendly websites. While, on the other, a supermarket in France (above) has installed LED indoor positioning technology to track and improve the customer experience, communicating location-aware messages to mobile devices as customers shop.

The needs of a small business obviously vary drastically from big box retailers, but the desire to grow and understand what is aiding growth is where they overlap. Consumers have fully embraced digital media along the path to purchase; brands and small businesses remain a few steps behind their customers.

According to Deloitte, 64 cents of every dollar spent in-stores was influenced by the Internet in 2015. While nobody denies digital’s impact on the customer journey, the specific path to purchase remains elusive. Many SMBs don’t measure marketing performance (ROI) or understand how to. Studies also find that executives at larger brands are no more confident in their understanding of the consumer journey.

As some marketers struggle with the basics and getting that right, a few marketers are much more advanced, waking up to the utility and power of location intelligence as an audience targeting and attribution tool. But is location the answer to a broader set of questions for marketers?

It appears to be, for some of the digital issues and questions that marketers are confronting and asking. We saw a number of case studies during the 2016 Place Conference that highlighted what is possible and what is working as it relates to location-based tactics.

For example, Zenreach helped 4EG, a network of bars and restaurants, collect email addresses, send automated email messages and collect store visit and purchase data via a simple exchange of in-store Wi-Fi for customer email addresses. 4EG dramatically increased customer contacts, grew its CRM database size and boosted customer engagement. Most importantly, the company saw actual sales and ROI metrics increase.

We also heard about how Shell, owner of Pennzoil auto service stations, launched an in-app display campaign with YP to drive service visits. Integrating campaign results with location data, the company found that about 70% of visits were outside of the 10-mile radius that dealerships thought the majority of customers came from. Additionally the data uncovered that a 21-day post-campaign “look-back” still saw a 4.23x higher store visit lift rate than the control group.

These are just two examples of how location data and related capabilities are beginning to unlock the promise and power of digital media more fully. Though a number of issues still confront broader market adoption of location tactics (i.e., location accuracy, privacy and marketer understanding), its growing usage as part of digital marketing is pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

Local used to be about thinking small. Today, thinking local is thinking big.

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