Location data provider Factual is launching a new product called Data Enrichment, which supplements first-party data with additional audience insights built on mobile-location and real-world behaviors. The company says this allows companies to a gain deeper understanding of their own customers than first-party data would enable by itself.

CPG brands, automotive, media publishers. I spoke about the new offering with Scott Townsend, Factual’s Head of Data Enrichment and Factual CMO Brian Czarny. Townsend outlined several concrete use cases for the product for CPG brands, automotive marketers and media publishers, among others.

Townsend explained that CPG brands often struggle to get good first-party data from the retailers that sell their products. Factual’s product can show these brands where their customers are shopping. “This helps with personalized messaging,” said Townsend. “The campaign can say, ‘the product is on sale at Costco,’ where the consumer is a frequent shopper.”  

Automotive brands can better understand other car makers they’re up against and engage in-market shoppers visiting competitor lots. And media publishers, according to Townsend, “Often struggle to get enough data to make their inventory competitive with the walled gardens. Enrichment provides additional insights for advertisers about publisher audiences,” so they can charge more for their inventory.

Growing appetite for location data among brands. Factual’s Czarny observed, “Brands want to have the complete picture of their customers,” and added that the company is seeing “incredible appetite for location data to build behavioral segments.”

Indeed, location data has been described as a “cookie for the real world.” That idea becomes more significant and not just a marketing concept as browsers shut down third party cookies and privacy regulations make many types of data less available.

I asked Czarny and Townsend, as more brands seek out location data for insights and segmentation capabilities, will CCPA or mobile OS location alerts affect the availability or accuracy of that data? Czarny predicted that iOS 13 would likely have a bigger impact than CCPA in that regard.

Indeed, the Wall Street Journal previously reported, “Since iOS 13 was released in September, tens of millions of people have moved to block apps’ ability to track their locations when not in use.”

But Czarny said that Factual’s access to data had not been significantly impacted. “Near term iOS 13’s impact hasn’t be great for us because we responsibly source the data.” He predicted that wouldn’t be the case for publishers and mobile apps that ask for location without delivering a clear benefit to the user.

Why we care. As privacy forces marketers and brands to develop or better utilize their first party data, data enhancement offerings like Factual’s will become more important. The audience insights gained from location data is an obvious and powerful data-enhancement tool. It remains to be seen, however, how deeply the location intelligence industry is affected by CCPA, OS location alerts and increasing consumer privacy concerns surrounding location.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.


We might soon see another FTC investigation of Facebook for “consumer deception.” The company acknowledged in a letter to two U.S. senators that it continues to capture and use location to serve relevant ads even if users have turned off location services.

Bipartisan inquiry into Facebook’s user of location. Senators Coons and Hawley sent a letter in November to Facebook “raising concern that Facebook ignores the wishes of users who don’t want their exact location to be tracked,” The Hill first reported.

Facebook, in September, pledged to be respectful of user choices around location tracking. In a blog post, the company said, “You can control whether your device shares precise location information with Facebook via Location Services, a setting on your phone or tablet. We may still understand your location using things like check-ins, events and information about your internet connection.” So Facebook is explicitly saying it will still use location.

Facebook not technically ‘deceptive.’ This caveat and the word “precise” may wind up saving Facebook from legal consequences. Mirroring the language in its blog post, the company explained in response to Coons and Hawley that it continues to use location (though not precise location) from other sources such as user check-ins and IP address. So, as laid out in its post, the company isn’t technically “deceiving” people, though they may not have caught that point.

Google was similarly embroiled in controversy over location tracking after it was discovered that the company captured user location even if location history was turned off. Google subsequently made changes and offered more transparency and user control over user location.

Why we care. As an aside, research has shown that locally relevant ads outperform ads without location. People generally prefer “relevant” ads. The real issue here is trust; and on that question, Facebook is still in the dog house. The company continues to struggle following the post-2016 revelations surrounding Cambridge Analytica and the exploitation of user data by third parties on the platform.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.


Facebook is testing the removal of the location field that advertisers use to create Lookealike audiences –  Facebook’s tool for reaching new audiences based on how they compare to existing customers. In the test, Lookalike audiences use locations from ad sets – eliminating one extra step in the targeting setup process.

The update, which appears to still be either in beta or rolling out, was spotted by Duane Brown, who heads digital agency Take Some Risk, this week.

What to know about the update. When creating new lookalike lists, advertisers will see a notification stating that lookalike audiences now use the locations from your ad sets. Facebook will make copies of existing lookalikes with the locations removed to use in future campaigns. Active campaigns with previously created lookalike audiences will continue to run as normal.

Lookalike audiences ad set locations test in Facebook
A notice about the feature spotted by Duane Brown in Facebook Ads Manager.

Why we should care. For brands that target audiences across multiple geographic locations, inputting locations to build a lookalike audience can be a time-consuming and duplicative effort. Pulling location data from ad sets can help advertisers speed up the Lookalike setup process and reduce the potential of missing a key target location.

About The Author

Taylor Peterson is Third Door Media’s Deputy Editor, managing industry-leading coverage that informs and inspires marketers. Based in New York, Taylor brings marketing expertise grounded in creative production and agency advertising for global brands. Taylor’s editorial focus blends digital marketing and creative strategy with topics like campaign management, emerging formats, and display advertising.


Even though Autumn doesn’t officially start until September 23, Labor Day marks the effective start of the season for most people. School is back in session, the weather starts to turn (a bit) and the much-loved but equally derided pumpkin spice latte (PSL) makes its return.

Been around now for 15 years. The flavored coffee drink was initially introduced by Starbucks in 2003 and has now been in the market for 15 years. It has almost single-handedly inspired an entire sub-genre of seasonal foods.

store visitation appears to waning.

Pumpkin-spice fatigue? According to a foot traffic analysis by location intelligence company Gravy Analytics, the venerable yet caloric drink didn’t drive additional any incremental visits when it was re-introduced in 2018. Gravy observed, “Average daily foot traffic decreased by 2%. Starbucks customers also didn’t visit their local Starbucks more frequently once the pumpkin spice latte was released. Average daily visits per device remained flat throughout the period.”

It’s not clear whether the public has become indifferent to the Starbucks drink in particular or whether there’s growing pumpkin-spice fatigue (PSF) more generally. Based on Starbucks’ foot traffic data, Gravy speculates that competing chains, such as Dunkin, may not reap rewards they anticipate from their own pumpkin spice drinks.

Starbucks Foot Traffic by Day of Week (Jul 15 – Oct 13, 2018)

showed that the introduction of the meatless Impossible Burger drove a nearly 20% increase in visitation to participating Burger King stores in test markets. This (and sales data) prompted the chain to introduce the faux burger nationally last month.

Why we should care. Location data has many uses. Audience segmentation and offline attribution are the most common. Competitive insights are gaining currency as well. But another important use case is product testing. Location data can be used a tool to determine the impact of a fast-food menu item, in this case, on store visits before the broader introduction of the product.

The pumpkin-spice latte is a lighthearted example to prove a larger point about the utility of location data to provide customer insights. And while test marketing and sales data have historically been used to determine product viability, location data can help assess whether that product still has market appeal — or has run its course.

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In our hyper-connected digital world, an omnichannel marketing approach helps brands bridge the gap between online and offline consumer behavior. But driving an effective multi-touchpoint strategy has its unique challenges – and oftentimes, our strategies are only as effective as what we know about our customers.

In particular, customer location data has emerged over the last decade as a wealth of information for marketers, providing a digital footprint of where customers are spending time and how they interact with brands – both online and offline. From offline attribution to geo-targeting, location data can help marketers understand the bigger picture of the customer journey. But while location-based marketing can be a powerful strategy for marketers, it can also be a bit of a black box.

Here we dive into what location-based marketing is, how it works and what marketers need to consider, from privacy to targeting, to make it consumer-friendly and effective.

So, what exactly is location-based marketing?

In short, location-based marketing is targeting audiences based on where they are or have recently been.

“This can range from targeting users who live in particular zip codes, to targeting devices that tend to visit particular locations such as coffee shops, auto dealers, etc.,” said Frost Prioleau, CEO and co-founder of location marketing agency Simpli.fi.

Location data can reveal a trove of information about a customer’s daily travel routines (such as commutes), recurring shopping habits (like grocery shopping or gas station stops), restaurant preferences, and even online-to-storefront purchasing behavior. The data allows for more personalized targeting for the products and services customers might care about and enables more efficient ad targeting and budget allocation for marketers.

Location-based marketing tactics

There are several ways to use location data in ad targeting.

Geofencing. Geofencing refers to the mechanism through which location data is collected in real-time. In geotargeting, a virtual perimeter is constructed around a location to enable real-time data collection or targeting within that geographic area. Typically, geofencing uses a combination of latitude and longitude coordinates, radio frequency identification (RFID), Bluetooth technology, and location beacons to determine the specified area. Marketers can use geofencing as a vehicle for geotargeting or proximity marketing.

This technology isn’t necessarily new, but its increasing accessibility and application in digital targeting have ushered in more opportunities for real-time location-based marketing.

When a customer enters a geofenced area and shares their location with an app or browser, they might be served with local content in the form of push notifications, photo geo-filters, text messages, or in-app ads.

Geotargeting. Similar to geofencing, geotargeting is used to deliver ads to customers in a location – but unlike geofencing, geotargeting often combines past location data with particular audience attributes. Advertisers can specify the desired location in conjunction with defined criteria (such as demographics, behavior, interests, etc.) to target customers who meet the exact requirements.

Geotargeting with historical data enables marketers to reach more defined audience segments with campaigns that are informed by behavioral or shopping trends at a given location.

Conquesting. In his column Getting back to basics with location-based marketing Brian Handly explained that geoconquesting is used to help brands reach audiences that visit their competitors’ locations. “For example,” he wrote, “Burger King utilized geoconquesting to run a campaign offering the one cent whopper to audiences that had their app open when they visited a McDonald’s location.”

Geoconquesting is best served as a tactic for audiences who are local in real-time, but can also be applied to reach historical audiences.

Proximity marketing. A more granular form of location-based marketing, proximity marketing often uses geofencing to deliver customers with timely ads in a specific location, in real-time. Marketers can use proximity marketing for things like local events or recurring store visits with the aim of serving the most relevant content in that given moment (i.e. a nearby restaurant chain, gas station, etc.).

For example, navigation app Waze uses proximity marketing in its ad platform by delivering ads when a driver is near a promoted location or billboard and the car is stopped. Advertisers can then leverage information about the customer’s location, frequent routes, weather, and time of day to provide local suggestions based on what it knows about the customer in that moment.

How location data is used in marketing

Browsers, search engines, apps, and social platforms all collect data to deliver both organic and paid content relevant to the consumer based on their location. Jeff White, founder of location data provider Gravy Analytics, explained that location data collection is nothing new – but only in the last decade has it proven to be a lucrative asset to marketers.

“Early adopters of location data info came through e-commerce and large enterprises. Early on, it was big for large retailers and hotels,” he said. But now, location data has lent itself to much broader use cases that provide valuable insights about the behavior of consumers.

Location data and the customer journey. To identify how location data can be effective in marketing, it’s important to understand the location experiences that are most valuable to the consumer – and, by extension, to the advertiser.

“A visit to a convenience store doesn’t have the same significance to a consumer as a visit to a wine-tasting festival, for example,” said White. Location data provides a toolset that marketers can use to fill in the gaps of a consumer’s profile – where valuable location-based experiences are the missing pieces.

Industry segments. Retailers or service providers with physical storefronts are best positioned for location-based marketing.  Local business marketers can employ geotargeting campaigns to reach audiences based on real-world visits, rather than on digital engagements alone.

Prioleau of Simpli.fi explained that location-based targeting can be used by businesses to “drive foot-traffic to their stores or locations (like QSR, retail, automotive, etc.), and by advertisers who want to increase traffic to their websites or apps (e-commerce providers, direct-to-consumer brands, insurance, other service providers).”

Likewise, niche industries like real estate, education, and transportation are apt to benefit from location-based marketing given the nature of their businesses. By understanding the level of intent and time investment from audiences based on their location behavior, marketers in niche industries can paint a holistic picture of likely buyers.

“Location data is the next frontier of understanding consumer behavior,” said Jeff White. “Things like collecting and geofencing open houses helps marketers get an advanced view of who might be a highly-qualified lead.”

Online to offline attribution. In addition to enabling a more highly targeted ad experience, location intelligence can be used to help close the gap between online and offline purchasing behavior. For businesses with storefronts, real-time location data can help fill in the holes of the customer journey by shedding light on the relationship between an online touchpoint and an in-person transaction.

How location data is collected

The process of data collection and the ethics surrounding it are increasingly under fire, as evidenced by growing concerns over user privacy and the regulatory legislature aimed at protecting it.

While the extensive push for data regulations creates challenges for marketers, it also provides an opportunity for businesses to build a foundation of trust with customers. By obtaining user consent and offering visibility into how location data is being used, marketers can maintain customer trust and deliver meaningful content in the path to purchase.

The location data collection process involves several steps, including anonymization, said Jeff White from Gravy Analytics.

  1. Users consent to sharing their location data by opting-in when prompted in an app or browser.
  2. SDKs then gather and transmit information about a user’s location, including geographic coordinates and the time spent.
  3. The location data is then cleaned, anonymized, and aggregated into a database to build specific consumer profiles.
  4. All of this information can then be used by the marketer to target customers using programmatic (through a DSP) or direct advertising.
GDPR in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which takes effect next year, could significantly impact how marketers use location data in campaigns. However, the move also creates an opening for increased transparency for marketers.

“When initiating location-based marketing, advertisers should use platforms that are compliant with GDPR and other privacy standards, and focused on using data which has been collected based on these standards,” said Prioleau.

By taking measures to ensure privacy is top-of-mind, marketers and businesses alike are better positioned to achieve the location-based marketing outcomes desired. Marketers should approach user privacy as a facet of both their own and their customers’ best interests to build a foundation of transparency. This approach should include:

  • Understanding and auditing the location-based insights that are most important to the business and the customers.
  • Building an airtight strategy on how personal data is handled, processed, and used for campaigns – in line with the strictest privacy regulations.
  • Determining a course of action for disposing of unused, irrelevant, and outdated user data.
  • Facilitating internal education and procedures for managing location data requests and disclosure inquiries.
  • Adhering to strict regulatory procedures in preparation of a potential data breach, with a clear operations process.
  • Review and analyze all contracts from vendors and third-party providers of user data to ensure regulatory compliance.

When businesses and marketers are able to manage and use location data responsibly, it can empower rich and impactful marketing outcomes. From understanding how consumers engage with retailers to identifying untapped opportunities for product localization, consumer location data is a potent tool for the digital marketer.

But the duty lies with the marketer to embrace privacy standards which, in turn, creates a trusting environment for users. From the rich location data that consumers willingly provide, marketers can derive meaningful insights and start to connect online touchpoints to real-world applications.

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