Home Data-Driven Thinking Reexamining The Lookback Window For Mobile Location Data

Reexamining The Lookback Window For Mobile Location Data


Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by James Smith, chief revenue officer at Arrivalist.

Today, brands mainly use mobile location data to measure media effectiveness by aligning analysis with a specific campaign flight. They’ll look at start date to end date with feedback on campaign lift as the “report card” for that initiative.

But some marketers are starting to widen their perspective of mobile location data and use it as an always-on source for overall media performance, attain longer-term insights and identify target customers’ physical and digital world behavior and the associated interaction with the brand.

The Mobile Marketing Association noted in a recent study that 60% of marketers use location data to improve insights and half use it to better understand a consumer’s purchase journey. But, from years in this industry, I can tell you that many marketers cut off this window at 30 days to conform to the parameters of a campaign flight or promotion and align with the most common location-based attribution model, which is to correlate cost with ad impressions.

The attribution window largely depends on what a marketer is selling or trying to accomplish. While a long attribution window is most appropriate for products with long consideration periods, even brands with shorter cycles can gain valuable insights about their customers if they study a wider window of behavior.

Time to widen the window

Marketers can use historical mobile location data to set a benchmark for all analytics starting from the beginning of a partnership. Many marketers do not know that they can typically get at least six months of target audience and “path” analytics before the first campaign is even measured and keep the window open after that.

Beyond a benchmark, this provides marketers with insights that can influence the setup and execution of the first campaign to be measured, and can inform messaging, targeting, budget allocation and many other aspects of ongoing marketing plans.

Unlike cookies on the internet, mobile data lasts indefinitely. It’s possible to widen a window to one or two years and still get significant and accurate insight. Assuming that a data partner offers accurate, credibly sourced mobile information, that data won’t erode.

“Going long” with location analytics is vital for two reasons. First, it allows marketers to learn more about general consumer habits. Second, it helps marketers analyze customer behavior for high-consideration products, such as travel, automobiles or real estate.


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Knowing more about all consumers

Knowing more about where a consumer has been can help inform campaign messaging, improve message timing and even provide competitive intelligence. For mobile data, marketers should look at the complete data set as an opportunity to learn more. Mobile location data isn’t limited to visitors to a store. Marketers can look at a target audience using only demographic and location criteria and start learning right away.

Long-lookback mobile data can show marketers how regularly someone visits a nearby mall, even if they don’t shop in their stores, which can inform a mobile push campaign.  Marketers can start to see foot traffic patterns to their own stores, as well as to competing or complimentary stores. Twelve months of data can help marketers understand if target consumers travel in the winter to go skiing or go far away for summer vacation, which allows for more accurate advanced campaign planning when traditional media buying takes place.

Understanding the journey for high-consideration products

Consumers move around in ways that are important for brands with much longer purchase cycles. People book distant travel months in advance, research cars for years and take months to save for considered purchase such as an iPhone or a designer purse. For these brands, location data can help construct a picture of long-term behaviors or customer journeys that are otherwise ignored. Longer lookback windows and an always-on measurement approach can help brands see if people travel frequently or if this is their first big trip in a while.

One Google study found that people planning an event touched more than 850 travel resources and messages over 90 days for a vacation from Nevada to San Diego. Imagine the number of touch points associated with someone traveling to Rome or Australia. People buy tickets for such a big trip months in advance, after planning for months before that.

For brands with long purchase cycles, long lookback windows can help with attribution. But in many cases, statistically significant attribution at a granular level for trips to Rome planned months in advance is difficult. There is unlikely to be a model to assign contribution value to more than 850 touch points as in the Google example.

But the better an airline or hotel marketer can understand this long and very important research journey, the better they can serve their customer when they arrive. In this case, channel-level attribution, for example comparing outdoor advertising with social media advertising, might be completely possible and deliver a big lift in performance.

Follow Arrivalist (@Arrivalist) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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