Forrester Wave: The Location Intelligence Space Is Nascent, But Picking Up Steam

Forrester released a Wave last week examining the emergent location intelligence platform space and here’s your main takeaway: Companies want to apply location data to make decisions across all of their digital touchpoints – but the technology to do that is still in its early stages.

Although location data vendors are a dime a dozen – you can’t swing a cat around the mobile ad tech ecosystem without hitting a location data provider – full-stack technology solutions to embed spatial insights from the physical world into company-wide decision-making is just getting off the ground.

“We’re not looking at the data or even the insights here, but what you’re able to do with the data to drive optimized decisions, actions and experiences,” said James McCormick, a principal analyst at Forrester and lead author on the report.

Forrester defines location intelligence as a subcategory of digital intelligence. As businesses go through the ongoing process of digital transformation, they’ve got to share and orchestrate data – particularly contextual location data – across the organization. That means killing off silos and helping the enterprise use location-related insights to drive better business outcomes.

“With location intelligence, we’re actually able to understand how a customer interacts with the world,” McCormick said. “Where am I, what am I doing, what’s the temperature, who am I with? – these are not necessarily what people think about when they think about location, but leading firms are starting to do this well, and now everyone else is saying, ‘How can we do it, too?’”

Forrester analyzed platforms based on four criteria: their data capabilities, analytics, data management and execution. To be included in the Wave, location intelligence tech providers were required to have APIs and software development kits to enable activation, offer some form of a full stack platform solution, have market visibility in the location intelligence space and maintain a significant software business focus. Pure play location data providers were not considered.

In the leader category, Forrester gives top marks to two seriously old-school players, direct mail specialist Pitney Bowes and geographic info software provider Esri, because they offer full stack, fairly broad solutions that can help democratize location-based insights across the enterprise.

Pitney Bowes cut its teeth on legacy services, like asset management and mail tracking. Now Pitney is trying to use location intelligence for more digitally-minded use cases.

“This is a high-growth area and these companies are scrambling a bit at the moment to try and figure it out,” McCormick said. “We’re expecting the location intelligence space to become a lot more mature in the next couple of years and for it to focus on something the big vendors have not traditionally focused on, and that’s the marketing and advertising space.”

The strong performers, Oracle and location intelligence software company CARTO, got dinged for being close-but-no-cigar on at least one of Forrester’s main criteria. CARTO fell down on its data products and Oracle missed the mark on data visualization and analytics. Oracle, however, still got top marks for its data management capabilities, which isn’t surprising.

Trailing right behind in the contenders category are location-based ad company Ubimo, location consumer insights vendor Near (formerly AdNear) and mapping software provider MapLarge.

Ubimo and Near, both panel-based solutions, are the only two companies in the Wave explicitly focused on marketing and programmatic advertising, which can be a plus and a minus.

They’re very good at their niche offering, but they “lack platform appeal,” McCormick said.

“If we’d done a Wave on location intelligence for ad targeting and delivery specifically, Ubimo would probably be the leader, but the focus here is on differentiating as a location intelligence platform,” he said. “To do that, you’ve got to be able to deliver a platform of capabilities to the enterprise – and that’s still the exception rather than the rule.”

Even the established incumbents falter when it comes to moving beyond analytics toward something more holistic.

“The real opportunity here is around the entire customer lifecycle, which means there’s the need for a platform to do this across the organization,” McCormick said. “But to do this well and at scale with sustained difference – for that you need an overarching approach and to demand an underarching platform to help deliver it.”

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