PLACE Conference Recap: What’s Happening With Location-Based Marketing

Adam Reifsnyder Written by: Adam Reifsnyder

Brandmuscle Digital Marketing Manager Adam Reifsnyder shares his insights after attending the PLACE Conference held in Chicago last month, focused on helping global and national brands #OwnLocal through coordinated local digital marketing efforts.


At Brandmuscle we talk a lot about “local marketing,” but a flurry of terms has been introduced lately that fall squarely within our realm. For instance:

  • Location-based marketing: using a mobile device's location to serve the device owner an offering from a nearby business (via Tech Target)
  • Geo-Marketing: using geographical information (e.g., GPS, beacons, Wi-Fi, check-in data) to develop marketing content and targeting (via Wikipedia)
  • Hyper-local marketing: marketing to a designated local geographic area, typically a region, DMA, city, neighborhood, or zip code (via AmEx SMB forum)


Each of these approaches had a major role at the PLACE Conference, which was the perfect place to validate the solutions we’re currently offering and think about what’s next. For those of you who weren’t able to attend (or didn’t know about it!), here’s a quick briefing on what we heard:

"Near Me" Searches are the New Normal

place-conference-brandmuscleIn recent years, consumers’ desire to search for products and services nearby is increasing at an exponential rate. Raj Najjir of location-based technology company Yext, shared with the conference attendees that more than 50 percent of Google searches today are performed from a mobile device, and more than 30 percent of searches are related to location. If you’re a regular on the Brandmuscle blog, you already saw our video last year after Think with Google found that “Near me” searches had increased 34x since 2011, but it’s impressive to learn that this total nearly doubled between 2014 to 2015.

What’s more is that consumers are not only searching for businesses near them, but these searches are also leading to conversions (read: purchases). In fact, 76 percent of nearby searches result in a business visit, and 28 percent of nearby searches result in a purchase according to Najjir’s presentation.

So, what does this mean for your brand?

The dramatic increase in “near me” searches means it’s more important than ever for your business to have a healthy online footprint – all the way down to the local and hyperlocal level. A primary focus of businesses and their local marketing efforts today should be to make it as easy as possible for local consumers to find them, walk in the door and purchase what they’re searching for.

Location Data Accuracy and Health Are Key

Everyone at PLACE agreed: the accuracy of location data for businesses is essential to customers finding you. But this can prove to be an incredibly difficult task, especially if your business has hundreds or thousands of locations, as is the case for distributed brands.

Gib Olander of SIM Partners (a Brandmuscle partner) posits that “healthy” location data requires constant attention and “TLC” (that’s “tender loving care,” not TLC).  Location data is a dynamic asset and needs to be treated that way by regularly checking location databases for completeness and accuracy. The other step to ensuring healthy location data is to share location data with data aggregators and publishers like Google and Apple, making sure to meet their standards and keep them up-to-date.

Simple steps toward location data health and accuracy require a lot of attention but are essential to making those “near me” moments successful.  Because technology is needed to accomplish this at scale, we recommend reaching out to local marketing partners to run a diagnostic test so at least you know what you’re dealing with. (And yes, of course we’d be happy to help.)

Local Marketing Success Will Come When Brands Bridge the Gap Between Physical and Digital

Up until recently, location data has been primarily focused on the outdoor space through the use of GPS to track location up until the point a consumer enters an indoor space like a store, mall or airport. Historically, there haven't been many tools that show what happens with consumers once they’ve entered the indoor space, but that is rapidly changing.

Technology leaders like Google are attempting to bridge the gap between the digital and the physical worlds with the use of beacons: physical devices that output a signal for mobile apps to pick up and serve users hyper-contextual content based on their location. While beacon technology hasn’t been widely accepted by consumers (primarily due to the “creepy factor”), these devices are being placed in stores, airports and frequently in sports stadiums to serve up hyper-local content to visitors and attendees.  The beacons themselves are being integrated with lighting to reduce the maintenance and conspicuousness of the devices.

Beacons, Wi-Fi signals and other technologies are on the rise as marketers see a further need to get a sense for what consumers are doing once they enter a store. When done well, this indoor location data, in combination with outdoor location data and other metrics can help create more accurate and specific customer profiles to help businesses reach their customers with products and services they want, when they want it, and where they want it.

What do you think? Is location-based marketing the next phase of local marketing? Does “hyper-local” feel like local? Does the consumer in you agree with the marketer in you? Let us know in the comments below.


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