A Holistic View of Location

Duncan McCall headshot PlaceIQDavid Murphy talks to PlaceIQ CEO Duncan McCall about the evolution of location data.

With the possible exception of virtual reality, there’s no hotter topic in mobile right now than location. In the early days, it was all about in-the-moment marketing. We know you’re near one of our outlets right now, so let’s hit you with an offer on your phone to tempt you in.

More recently, the excitement has been around location as a proxy for a user’s interests, a cookie for the real world if you like. Where you go says a lot about the things you’re interested in, so let’s use that information to hit you with relevant offers on your phone, not necessarily while you’re at one of those places, but when you’re at home in the evening with the time to act on it.

Now, according to PlaceIQ CEO Duncan McCall, location is entering a third phase, where location data doesn’t exist in a silo, but can be integrated with myriad other data sets to gain a much deeper understanding of your customers as they interact with your brand and your competitors across multiple channels.

“All the interactions we have are becoming digital, from watching TV to going fishing,” says McCall. “They all have a digital element to them, so the question has to be: ‘how do you connect them together?’ There is no universal cookie, so what is the universal omnipresent force? The ubiquity of mobile devices and the signals emitted from them means location can serve that role. Connecting to that data and making sense of it helps you build a new, observed model for consumer understanding.”

Impeccable credentials
PlaceIQ has impeccable location credentials. Not only has it been at it longer than most companies operating in the space – six years – but as McCall is keen to point out, the company was purpose-built with technology in mind.

“We started in data with no aspirations around advertising,” he says. “It was about creating the best quality location intelligence platform, nothing to do with advertising. In fact one of our first offerings was one of the first mobile foot traffic measurement solutions, called Place Visit Rate.”

The move into advertising came as a result of customer demand. “People were telling us that there was a real lack of good quality data in the mobile advertising space,” says McCall. “So we moved into the space with a mobile activation business and a media buy wrapped into data, measurement and analytics, and got a tremendous reception.”

McCall concedes that the location space is a busy one, with lots of companies claiming to have the best, most accurate solution. “There is a bunch of companies who have piled into this space, but the concept of location involves a complicated set of technologies, with many elements in the stack and multiples shades of grey,” he says. “If I were looking for a partner in this space, I would want someone with legacy and history and who has been focused on understanding the tech for a long time.”

He also feels the topic of location data accuracy has become a complex topic for brands and media agencies alike. “The accuracy of the location itself is not really the challenge because no one controls that,” he says. “What really matters is how a company deals with the inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the make-up of the physical world and understanding that multiple factors, such as environment and personal use, can greatly influence accuracy. A new PlaceIQ solution called Dynamic Distancing greatly enhances the way marketers can address this issue,” McCall says.

PlaceIQ has also begun offering new ways for brands to leverage its location data and insights, including granting the ability for larger enterprise customers to license its platform. “Big corporations are starting to recognise that location is an incredibly powerful way to understand their customer and their competitors,” says McCall.

Talking to McCall, it’s clear how much importance he attaches to the concept of seeing location data in the round, rather than in isolation. To this end, PlaceIQ has put a number of partnerships in place with other data providers, including Rentrak for TV, Clear Channel for outdoor and IRI for CPG purchases, that enables customers to connect the dots. One example of how this works in practice would be to be able to tie consumer visits to retail stores to people who saw the retailer’s ad on TV to establish a link between the two activities, should one exist.

“We are starting to see the first signs of our vision falling into place,” he says. “Location is so much more than xfencing and proximity. It’s a new way of understanding consumer behaviour that can be appended across lots of apps and media and well beyond advertising and marketing into the supply chain and many other areas of the business. It’s an incredibly exciting space to be in as we see brands waking up to its full potential.”

This sponsored article first appeared in the June 2016 print edition of Mobile Marketing. You can read the whole issue here