A recent Forrester Research study points to a persistent stumbling block to location marketing: managing location data. Forrester recently surveyed North American digital marketers to understand their challenges creating and delivering relevant mobile ads. As reported in eMarketer, managing location data emerged as a major stumbling block, with inaccurate location data looming especially large as a problem. eMarketer also notes that managing location data has been a major challenge for local marketers for quite some time, beyond mobile advertising.
These findings are not surprising. Managing location data isn’t easy, especially for companies that operate hundreds and thousands of locations. A business’s location data encompasses far more than your name, address, and phone number (NAP). That’s because for any brick-and-mortar business, a consumer’s concept of location also encompasses a vast set of complicated, often-changing data and attributes, including variable hours, information about accessibility, whether parking is available, customer reviews, availability of WiFi, and a host of other details that must be kept up to date. Failing to update any of these details can and often does result in missing opportunities to draw foot traffic to your stores and disappointing customers who receive inaccurate search results.
I believe the key for managing location data well comes down to fixing these persistent mistakes:
- Having a “Set-It-and-Forget-It” Mentality
One of the reasons location data too often becomes stale is that marketers publish their essential information and don’t think about it again. But marketplace conditions change too frequently for businesses to act that way. For example, consider all the retailers who will offer Black Friday sales. They’ll all need to ensure that their location pages and local listings note any special hours of operation so that shoppers searching for “Black Friday sales” can find what they want. Conversely, a business closed for a holiday needs to ensure that it does not disappoint its customers.
Consider also businesses that open new locations or move addresses for long-standing locations, as with a company such as Starbucks. They need to complement their advertising (offline and online) with a concerted effort to update their store locators on their web pages and their location pages, among other updates. We recommend businesses examine the accuracy and timeliness of their location data at least once a month. If you don’t have someone assigned the job of managing data on an ongoing basis, do so now.
- Ignoring Data Amplifiers
Data amplifiers consist of publishers such as Foursquare and aggregators such as Neustar that distribute your data throughout the digital world where people conduct searches for things to do and visit. It is crucial that businesses share their data with these businesses to be found in searches. As the name implies, data amplifiers make sure that your location information gets more reach than you ever could achieve on your own. As my colleague Adam Dorfman discussed recently in Search Engine Land, the principal data publishers are Apple, Bing, Facebook, Foursquare, Google and Yelp. They ensure that your data appears on discovery platforms such as Google Maps and Apple Maps – and the publishers in and of themselves are discovery platforms. On the other hand, data aggregators – namely Acxiom, Factual, Infogroup and Neustar – share your data with the publishers.
Make sure your location data game plan includes building relationships with the amplifiers. Take time to understand how they want your data formatted for their own requirements. When you update your data on your location pages, make sure you update your data with the amplifiers, too. You need to play ball with them if you want to be found.
- Not Automating
I suppose it’s not a surprise that a provider of an automated data platform would recommend that you automate your data. But I do so for a reason: There is a huge cost to failing to automate your location data, especially if you manage multiple locations. Not only will your data fall out of date, you’ll also be more prone to committing mistakes with one of your most precious business assets – the information that your customers use to find you. Think about it: would a responsible business manage its employee records or financial data with a manually updated Excel spreadsheet? I’m sure some do but I’m willing to bet most don’t – especially any business that expects to achieve any kind of scale. When you automate your data, you achieve speed, accuracy, efficiency, and a host of other benefits. You also mitigate against several problems arising – the kind of problems that will turn away customers.
Most of all, I recommend that you treat location data as a precious asset. Understand its power to draw customers when managed well and to lose customers when handled poorly. Location data is not a geeky topic for technologists to ponder. Location data is the lifeblood of your location marketing. Contact SIM Partners to understand how to win with location data.