Location, location, location – and its role in the mobile space

Location, location, location – and its role in the mobile space Charlie Johnson is Digital Element’s Vice President, UK and Ireland. Charlie brings over twelve years’ worth of digital expertise to the team including specialisation in the areas of eCommerce and Geographic Rights Management, and has experience working with clients in both the United Kingdom and throughout Continental Europe. Prior to joining Digital Element, Charlie served as Head of Sales EMEA for RealNetworks in the consumer division, focusing on the publishing, subscription and media player business. Charlie holds a BA in Business and outside of office hours enjoys spending time with her horses.


An individual’s geographic location doesn’t simply indicate where they are; it can also help paint a picture of what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

Geo-location data generated by mobile connections provides marketers with an invaluable level of insight into their audiences. With smartphones now found in the pockets of two thirds of UK adults, today’s ‘always on’ mobile users can be reached and engaged at any time in any location. The ubiquity of mobile devices provides a unique opportunity for marketers to build detailed profiles of their audiences and deliver contextually relevant content that is applicable to a specific moment in time.

But misconceptions about the value and function of IP geo-location in today’s digital ecosystem are rife, with marketers questioning whether it really has an effective role in the mobile space.

So let’s separate the truth from the talk as we dispel the myths around mobile location data:

Myth 1: Location data is too transient to use

Mobile users move quickly from place to place, so the window of opportunity for targeting by point-in-time geographic location is relatively small, especially when they are connected to Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes, shops or other public places. But no matter how fleeting the connection, location data still provides valuable insight that helps marketers build up a detailed picture of their audience. For example, an airport connection followed by a hotel login could assist in identifying business travellers. IP data can be used as part of a wider location targeting strategy and can be combined with demographic and lifestyle data – often referred to as geotextual or proximity intelligence – to provide deep insight into audiences.

Myth 2: IP intelligence is just about location

While geographic location is one valuable piece of information delivered by mobile data, marketers can find out far more about users than simply where they are at a given point in time. Mobile IP data allows marketers to determine connection type, distinguishing between Wi-Fi and cellular networks as well as home or business connections. It also enables them to identify the carrier – useful for advertisers looking to meet specific targeting criteria by delivering messaging to a particular network.

Myth 3: IP-based mobile targeting is inaccurate

Depending on the provider, IP geolocation data can now deliver an exceptional level of granularity and an outstanding degree of accuracy. Marketers can choose IP targeting at postcode level worldwide and in some areas can benefit from hyperlocal targeting down to city block, neighbourhood, office building, or delivery segment level. What’s more, mobile targeting at this level of accuracy can be achieved without invading user privacy.   

Myth 4: Users must opt into GPS tracking

Marketers often assume it is only possible to target smartphone users who have opted into location-based services (LBS) using GPS tracking apps, which many users are reluctant to do due to privacy or battery life concerns. In reality, it is also possible to locate and target mobile users via IP-based geolocation technology when they connect to Wi-Fi networks – to save mobile data and increase browsing speeds – even when LBS is switched off. Given Wi-Fi networks currently account for 80% of mobile traffic, IP-based geolocation is a viable alternative to LBS.

Myth 5: GPS coordinates provide all the data    

The wealth of geolocation information that can be obtained from GPS latitude / longitude coordinates is highly beneficial. But this data – which is generated when users opt into LBS – is virtually worthless if it can’t be translated into understandable geolocation information. To make full use of GPS coordinates marketers need to employ reverse geocoding to automatically convert the numbers into expanded, comprehensible insights, which can be applied to targeted advertising and content localisation.   

It’s clear mobile location data does have a key role to play in today’s digital ecosystem. Far from simply indicating where a user is at a given point in time, this highly accurate information can be used alongside other data such as demographic and lifestyle to understand audiences, empowering marketers to deliver location and context aware content, and create engaging, personalised interactions with mobile users.

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