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January 03, 2017

As we enter a new year, it's time to look back at the major 2016 location-based marketing trends. What's changed since 2015, and how should marketers reflect these changes in their location-based efforts today?

Attribution Is Where It's At
In the early days of mobile advertising, marketers were excited simply to be able to reach consumers on their smartphones when they passed through a specific area by setting up a geofence. As targeting advanced, brands could serve ads to consumers based on their historical location data, or combine that data with real-time location, demographic information, and more.

But in 2016, we saw a decisive shift in the way marketers made use of location data. Now, it's not just for targeting consumers; it's for determining if consumers who saw an ad actually made a visit to a particular store.
In other words, 2016 has been the year of place-based attribution, and using data in this way is able to take marketers beyond predicting who might respond to an ad or message by showing them who actually did.

Panel-Based vs. Impression-Based Measurements
At present, there are two popular methods for using location data to measure a lift in foot traffic, according to an October 2016 eMarketer report: panel-based measurement and impression-based measurement. In panel-based measurement, a firm studies a large panel of mobile users' locations over time. Here, you're looking at a big percentage of the audience targeted in most ad campaigns. Impression-based measurement, on the other hand, looks at where a device is when an ad is viewed in relation to where the device ends up, and attributes visits to ad campaigns this way.

In turn, evaluating this data can help marketers to shift their targeting strategies. If ads served to consumers within 100 feet of a store resulted in significantly more store visits than those served to consumers within a mile, you can concentrate your future efforts on reaching the nearer consumers, knowing that this is proven to be more effective.

Place-based attribution is something that all physical businesses ought to take note of in 2017, ensuring that their marketing spend is effective and properly optimized.

Beacons Became A Retargeting Tool
It's no secret that the applications of proximity marketing have expanded over the past year, but while brands have been experimenting with use cases for beacons for a while, 2016 was the year that many marketers realized that the technology has applications beyond simply sending push notifications to nearby shoppers. Real-time communication is valuable, but not when it doesn't speak directly to a shopper's interests. Essentially, preferences matter as much as proximity. Retargeting customers in-store, based on past mobile searches or previous business visits, is a smart way to take this into account.

Thus, the idea comes to light that beacons have more to offer brands than a means to send discounts. Consider how they might serve as touchpoints in retargeting opted-in shoppers. Beacon providers like Unacast are striking partnerships that aim to make this use case more practical, according to GeoMarketing

Brands that expand their imagination when it comes to how to use beacons will have better luck determining what kind of targeted messages actually result in sales or coupon redemption.

Personalization Matters More
From guerrilla tactics influencing location-based marketing to the popularity of Snapchat geofilter campaigns, one thing is clear: customers want ad experiences that don't feel like ads, and the bar for personalization in marketing is higher than ever. As such, businesses that use location to customize their app content or deploy beacons and other technology to remember frequent shoppers when they come back to a store are building brand affinity and seeing higher ROI. Increased personalization helps marketers to build one-to-one relationships with consumers, and that can be a large part of what keeps them coming back to stores in the age of Amazon.

≥≥ Need a Shortcut?
1. In terms of 2016 location-based marketing trends, in-store attribution is a big one. Physical businesses should be measuring when—and how —customers who saw a mobile ad came into a physical store.
2. Beacons are increasingly being used as a retargeting tool. There is great value in recognizing customers who have previously visited a store or a particular department (even before they interact with a salesperson).
3. Personalization is key. The mobile age has customer expectations at an all-time high, and marketers need to think about how to customize app content, store experiences, and more based on location.

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