As consumers, everywhere we go, we leave a digital footprint. According to research from my Gartner Iconoculture colleagues (Gartner client subscription required), more than half of US consumers feel their digital footprint accurately portrays who they are. So telling — and so extensive — are the clues we leave that marketers are literally following in our footsteps, playing the role of digital detectives as they try to figure out how to find and best engage us.

Consumers leave a digital footprint, including location data, wherever they go

Photo by Bruno Luz on Unsplash

Enjoy the Rewards

The rewards for “solving the case” — for successful detective work — are considerable. Our digital footprint forms the basis of marketers’ personalization efforts, helping to triangulate multichannel interactions between the digital and physical worlds. Location intelligence, marking where we are and where we’ve been, is a key piece of that effort, which thathincludes a number of complementary initiatives:

  • Location data management — Tools marketers use to ensure that information about their brand’s physical world storefronts is accurate for search engines, map publishers and app publishers
  • Location-based engagement — Tools such as geofences and beacons that enable marketers to target and engage consumers, often in real time
  • Location-based advertising  Leveraging location data to retarget users with advertising on different channels or devices, a tactic of growing importance to multichannel marketers especially as location signals in mobile-driven search queries continue to spike

In Gartner’s Multichannel Marketing Effectiveness Survey 2017 (subscription again required), location-based offers saw a significant uptick from 2016 to 2017 among mobile marketers currently using or piloting the technique; use or piloting of beacons registered among 58% of the mobile marketers surveyed.

But Be Mindful of the Risk

Consumers’ location history can be a valuable component in a personalization strategy, but it also carries risk to marketers. Witness the December 2018 New York Times story that revealed the volumes of personal data smartphone apps routinely collect. With that in mind, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What and how much do I need to know about location to effectively engage my customers and prospects?
  • How much is too much?

It’s a tough balancing act between relevance and creepiness. On the one hand, consumers reward marketers for relevance, and using more consumer data, including location intelligence, can increase relevance. On the other, using more (and more varied) consumer data increases the risk that the consumers you’re hoping to engage will perceive the message as creepy. And that’s a risk with significant downside: according to Gartner research, over one-third (38%) of consumers will stop doing business with a brand altogether if the brand’s message is perceived to be creepy.

What’s a marketer to do? Focus on getting your brand’s location data in order first. Use your customers’ location data sparingly and strategically, emphasizing a more comprehensive understanding of behavior and preference that can inform a broader multichannel marketing strategy, rather than using that intelligence for outbound offers and promotions that may be timely but also carry fleeting benefits to the brand.

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