TechBytes with Ian James, GM, International, Verve

Ian James
Ian James

Ian James
GM International,  Verve

The tech industry has come a long way in utilizing Location Data to enhance modern marketing opportunities. Most mobile apps now seek a customer’s geo-location to update and present features that could be most relevant to their real-time behavior. To dive deeper into how Digital Marketing Agencies and Customer Experience platforms could better leverage Location Data, we spoke to Ian James of Verve.

Tell us about your role at Verve and the team you handle.

As the General Manager International at Verve, I am in charge of the strategic direction of the business across international markets. I primarily oversee my team of nine who are responsible for the business development, sales, product and marketing departments at Verve. In addition, I work alongside the global leadership team to strategize the growth of the company.

From a digital marketer’s perspective, how would you define ‘Location Data”?

The advent of the internet is the single biggest transformational event that has affected the way in which we communicate. The catalyst that saw the beginning of the web as we now know it, took hold of our screens and transformed our daily lives.

And then the mobile device grew in power. This was a never seen before opportunity for marketers, opening the doors to new ways of communication. Technology has moved the digital world into our pockets, and consumers are now targeted at every single touch point of their daily journeys, which has led to a demand for personalization, relevancy and transparency.

Location data, albeit still holding some misunderstanding due to poor management and use in the past, is beginning to provide advertisers with the niche golden ticket to solve their business problems; attracting more real-world actions, and driving revenues.

Location data is the ‘secret sauce’ of communication, relevancy and personalization.

Also Read:  Hitting The Spot with Location Data

How relevant is it for marketers to work on location data?

Location-based services provide added value for individuals in the form of new utilities embedded in their personal device. These services help us to understand consumers’ frequently visited places, behavioral patterns and interests, neighboring venues, cultural influencers and so on. For marketers, these are unique, invaluable insights that other data sets simply cannot provide.

It is a technology that allows human beings to encounter personalized experiences in a kind of technologically augmented serendipity.

But this pool of data is just one apparatus that belongs in a much bigger toolkit. Information is everywhere. Data is everywhere. Consumers are everywhere. The industry needs to decipher the good amongst the bad and join the dots among the goldmines to take us into the next chapter of digital marketing.

Also Read:  Five Smart Campaigns To Make The Most Of GeoLocation

How does Verve Movement Science deliver relevant customer experiences?

The verve product suite offers everything from data collection, cleansing and scoring, to audience building, creative design, and measurement. We use a location-smart SDK technology to extract both accurate and precise location data from the mobile device.

Verve’s data is trusted, consented first-party data that provides invaluable insights by allowing us to benchmark an individual’s favorite places, behavioral habits, points of interest, movement patterns, and so on. In turn, this data is then used to build specific audience profiles, dramatically enhancing the traditional demographic data sets. This allows marketers to determine the most relevant creative to be matched with that audience, based on precise campaign objectives.

For example, a retailer using our popular format, Tap-to-Map, takes the load off a consumer who’s ‘in the moment’ and provides them quick and easy directions to the nearest store, without having to lift a finger. Literally.

In order to bridge the online and offline gap, this data can start to overlay and sync with other data sets including Beacon data (tracking in-store movements), POI data (understanding points of interest) and CRM data (unlocking the power of loyalty cards). In turn, this enables us to measure the true, accurate, real-world behaviors and impacts that a specific campaign has had, so we can better understand the physical and digital movements of that consumer. It’s movement science at its finest.

Why is there such a huge discrepancy in the accuracy of location data? How should mobile marketing companies ensure the accuracy of their location data?

Location data has typically been sourced via the exchange pool – a scaled pool of data that holds both accurate, and inaccurate data. And that’s exactly the point, there’s no way of telling whether the data pulled from the exchange is accurate or not. In fact, 80-90% of location data is inaccurate.

At Verve we use our patented technology, location-smart SDK – a small piece of code, embedded directly into an app which sources first-party data directly from the device. This piece of technology provides deeper insight that allows us to measure the accuracy, and precision, through four key metrics.

Firstly, the lat/long measurement is significantly more specific, meaning we can ensure that we are accurately pinpointing where that consumer is in the world. Secondly the data is accompanied by a time stamp, to tell us how ‘fresh’ the data is, and in turn, how much that represents the consumer’s current habits. Thirdly we receive a horizontal measurement that reveals the degree of ‘confidence’ that the device has that it is in that place. Finally, we also have insight on dwell time, to show the duration which a user was in a specific place.

These key measurements allow us to build up a detailed and accurate picture of the user’s habits and interests. The location-smart-SDK is changing the future of location data intelligence.

How do you see the contemporary location-based mobile marketing landscape evolving in 2018-2020?

I think we’ll continue to see advertisers recognizing the true importance of quality data. As our industry stands under the spotlight this year regarding data protection, the data we are using to enhance the advertising experience needs to be quality, useful and engaging for the consumer, but above all, transparent. I hope that, as a result, this will encourage brands to be more clued in on their data, the data available to them and how they use it.

On a slightly different note, I think we’ll see the marketing and ad tech worlds aligning more. We saw the shift take shape in 2017, with the LUMA partners describing the movement as MarTech ‘healing’ ‘AdTech’. What do we mean by this? Well, every marketer’s dream is to reach the right person, with the right message at the right time. Ad tech can’t always guarantee the right message is seen, as we still contend with fraudulent traffic and viewability issues. However, marketing tech can help to overcome these, as the on and offline data worlds collide. Online impact, resulting in offline actions is hugely powerful for advertisers – and we’re getting closer to the ability to join these experiences together.

I strongly believe the mobile device sits at the heart of this movement. It’s the only device that can join the on and offline data dots that surround the consumer, whilst opening up opportunities to genuinely impact real-world behaviors.

What are the major challenges to the way location data is collected? Is data privacy the biggest challenge?

Data privacy isn’t so much a challenge for the SDK technology itself, however an opportunity to focus on the transparency and control offered to consumers. Verve is introducing policy changes to the way it governs access to, and the use of data, through its platform, with committed cross-functional resources and investment in its European data center infrastructure.

I look forward to seeing privacy and protection laws ensure publishers are more explicit about why that data is being used, what for and by whom.

Brand safety will also improve and additionally decrease fraud by requiring data processors to disclose all partners with whom they work. This will encourage better user experiences and stronger relationships between the brand and consumer. GDPR will inspire companies to innovate and increase their added value to consumers and brands.

How do you see AI-driven data management platforms improving the value of location data? How do you leverage AI/ML at Verve?

I’m going to be honest – I’m not the biggest fan of the term ‘AI’. I feel the industry has taken the latest buzz word and overused it until it’s rough around the edges! Having said that, many of the innovations I am seeing from technologies and platforms across the industry are extremely exciting. Our machines and learning processes are continuing to make our worlds more efficient – and that’s only ever going to be a good thing.

I think what’s perhaps more exciting than the technology itself growing in intelligence, is the collaborations between technologies and services across our landscape. We saw this trend developing throughout 2017, with a shy number of new entrants launching in the market, but over double the number of acquisitions and mergers. I think we’ll see value in the clever matching of companies and platforms; the smart collaborations that will bring both strength and intelligence to the fore.

Also Read:  You Are in Control… How GDPR Will Revolutionize location marketing

Thanks for chatting with us, Ian.
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