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#MRMW Preview: Why Location is the Killer Feature of Mobile Research

 

Editor’s Note: As part of our ongoing series of interviews and sneak peaks of the upcoming MRMW conference (Cincinnati, OH July 18-19) today we have a gust post from Thaddeus Fulford-Jones, PhD. Thaddeus came from MIT and is one of the pioneers in developing impactful uses of geolocation for insight and engagement. He’ll be presenting at MRMW along with over 100 other visionaries, disruptive innovators, thought leaders, and change agents that are helping to chart the course of the future of market research and redefine what our industry can do to deliver real ROI to client organizations by leveraging new technologies and approaches.

I tend to agree with Thaddeus that geolocation is a vital component of leveraging the power of mobile. There certainly are trade-offs when thinking of migrating traditional research approaches to the mobile environments that can be challenging, but the potential to engage with consumers at the point of their experience using the inherent capabilities of mobile devices offers immense potential for insight generation that was previously not possible. Whether you attend MRMW or not, this post is a great review of of the practical potential of geolocation in research. Enjoy!

By Thaddeus Fulford-Jones

At last October’s ARF Industry Leaders Forum in New York City, Jonathan Carson, Nielsen’s CEO of Digital, described location as “probably the most interesting fundamental new aspect of the mobile space”. I agree 100% with Jonathan’s statement, and in this blog post I’ll reveal why location truly is the “killer feature” of mobile research today.

But first, a quick review of why location matters. These days, practically every smartphone on the planet features “location services” – a collection of hardware and software tools that harness GPS and other technologies to monitor location. With the user’s permission, a device can link up to GPS satellites or WiFi/cellular networks and mathematically calculate latitude and longitude – sometimes with accuracy of as good as a meter or two. And that pulsing blue location dot on your smartphone’s mapping app is exactly what makes this device a uniquely powerful tool for market research. Here are the top 5 reasons why:

  1. Research moves into the aisles. Location allows us to engage with shoppers while they’re in the store, shopping as they normally would. We can ask a shopper in the aisles which signs, displays, and sales she actually notices. And we can do this more quickly, more cost-effectively, and at much greater scale than traditional in-person shopper intercepts. This allows us to generate robust ROI metrics on the effectiveness of shopper marketing, helping both manufacturers and retailers to improve share of wallet.
  2. Passive behavioral data. With location analytics, we no longer have to rely on shopper recall to understand how often a panelist visits particular stores and how shopping fits alongside other location-relevant behaviors. Traditional diary studies quickly become burdensome to the panelist; today, we can mine the GPS data to automatically generate a rich characterization of consumer behaviors.
  3. Quantitative meets qualitative. Location analytics has been described as a “quant+qual” methodology. Even relatively small panels will quickly yield thousands of shopper journeys and store visits – each one a potential opportunity to survey the panelist. In addition, deep-dive insights through ethnography-style “day in the life” panelist stories yield a complex qualitative understanding of behaviors and attitudes.
  4. New location-based segmentation systems. It’s always been a major challenge for retailers to understand what the shopper is actually doing outside the four walls of their stores. With location analytics, shoppers can be characterized in terms of retailer loyalty – understanding cross-channel store switching and substitutions can help build richer segmentation systems. Those segmentations in turn allow the retailer to engage in more relevant marketing conversations with the shopper and boost advertising effectiveness.
  5. Characterize audiences in terms of advertiser relevance. TV and other media producers can use location analytics to “surround the audience” with measurement. With the ongoing trends in time-shifted and location-independent media consumption, location analytics yields new insights into key media touchpoints both for the audience and for the advertiser.

I’m looking forward to presenting at the Market Research in the Mobile World (MRMW) conference later this summer, where I plan to amplify some of the key themes from this post.

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