04 Jan What Is Location Data Management?
Location data management is the practice of ensuring that the unique information that defines a place of business is up to date and accurate inside an organization – and everywhere it’s referenced outside of the organization.
Best practice for managing location data internally is to use a centralized ‘system of record’ or master location database as the single source of truth for each business’ descriptive details, features, and attributes, so it can be accessed by staff and internal systems.
Information about every retail business is distributed across data providers and across the web, mobile maps, GPS & navigation systems, and social networks. This information may or may not be accurately represented by any one network based on their source of information. Location data needs to be managed proactively by the brand or owner of that information, so when consumers find it, the owner can be certain that it’s up to date. If a shop, branch, franchise, showroom, salon, or restaurant relies on consumers to transact at that physical location, the business details must be precise and accurate in order for that consumer to call or navigate there.
Third-party business information services like D&B, the White Pages and Yellow Pages have been publishing business listings for years, but now there are also hundreds of websites, web directories, mapping services and social media networks that use and publish this information – in a much higher level of detail than name, address, and phone number – to identify places of business for consumers.
The richness of location data has undergone a significant change in the span of just 5 years.
Once, managing location information for a business simply meant ensuring the business name, address and phone number were correct. This basic business information is referred to as NAP (name, address, phone number).
With the advent of digital maps and navigation systems, and with Google Maps and Apple Maps integrated into the operating system of every mobile phone, ensuring that the geo-coordinates of the business are also accurately represented has become equally important as NAP data. Latitude and longitude, not postal address, are used by most consumer maps and navigation systems today. The most popular consumer maps, apps, and websites operate under this geolocation “pin” format – as do OEM and aftermarket automotive navigation systems.
By ensuring geo-coordinates are accurate within 2-5 meters of the business’ front door, the details of every retail unit should help customers navigate to its precise location – even if it’s a kiosk or an ATM inside a mall that doesn’t have its own free-standing address.
Google’s pin format
The Evolution of Location Data Management
Unlike the phone book listing of yesteryear, mobile devices use their owner’s location to identify their location and the businesses around them. There’s no reason to even use a special website or app anymore – a voice search or home-screen search will access this information seamlessly for the consumer.
Search engines and both Android and iOS-based mobile devices make recommendations that prioritize businesses that are close in distance to the user, and Google uses the data from each location to determine whether that business should appear in results.
Maybe surprisingly, consumers are using their phones more to buy things – both online through e-commerce sites, and more often offline in physical stores. Mobile now influences more than 40% of offline purchases according to Deloitte.
And, according to Google, more than 40% of mobile phone searches have local intent –- meaning consumers are looking for information about something near them.
Location data management gives businesses the power to use their locations’ data to ensure their retail locations are found and are recommended by networks like Google, Bing and Facebook. Due to the size of the mobile screen, only the top 3 recommendations get real visibility. 70% or more of visitor clicks and mindshare goes to the top 3 results.
To be included in these search results, the information that defines the location of a business, along with a complete description of amenities, photos, consumer reviews needs to be available, be trusted, and must match that specific request. Accurate, consistent location information is one of the strongest signals for search engines.
For example, store managers can create independent “stories” about their own location on Yelp, Google and Facebook which builds local authenticity and brand awareness directly to the local community.
In a similar vein, restaurant chains can now upload their menus or daily specials for each individual restaurant. If the eatery is dog-friendly and has free Wi-Fi, those features can be listed now, too, so consumers can get an all-encompassing view of the brand and find the specific amenities they’re seeking. Brands that don’t add these details to their location data get immediately excluded and, unknown to them, don’t engage consumers who would have been perfect customers.
Google’s newly placed emphasis on local businesses, stores, restaurants, showrooms and branch offices means they are getting a much-needed boost in mobile visibility. Business recommendations on mobile phones are coming up first – even before listings from ecommerce companies or giants like Amazon.
A brand’s ability to optimize their digital presence with a location data management program that incorporates a variety of popular and relevant keywords based on what products, brands and services they offer, provides a powerful new way to find new customers. If a restaurant is open for breakfast, a consumer asking for a “breakfast” recommendation would find that restaurant. If the restaurant’s description simply says “American Food” or “Burgers” the opportunity to connect with hungry morning people is lost.
Location Data Mangement Improves Visibility
In addition to optimizing location data for specific keywords, businesses can make sure they’re featured in the right “categories” – Yelp, Google and other websites have standard lists of categories to choose from that help classify the business for consumers.
Location data can really enhance the online appearance of a business, as well. In addition to text descriptions, many networks enable the business to append visual media like photos and videos. This is particularly good for companies where product visuals make a big impact, like restaurants, or the building itself is an important consideration, like hotels. Restaurant customers can browse images of dishes before heading there, and again once they’re seated to see what menu items actually look like. All of this increases trust in the business and can increase average order value or basket size.
Detailed Location Data Builds Connections With Local Consumers
The more data a brand offers about each of its retail locations, the more search engines and recommendation engines value that business because its digital presence is consumer-friendly.
Consumers searching for real connections with businesses near them crave deeper relationships with the people they buy from. Nurturing that through more rich data only enhances that authentic connection. For example, something as simple as adding in the store manager’s name and/or photo can create a more personal connection.
Younger consumers, especially, expect this sort of intimacy. They share details of their lives all the time, and feel more connected to brands whose nearby locations demonstrate they are making an effort to be present in the digital world.
This new ability to dig really deep into local businesses through mobile devices means smaller businesses many times are getting more exposure than chains. It’s reversing that relationship – brands with many stores have more power when it comes to broadcast advertising, but as digital ad sales has outpaced TV in 2017, that relationship is being flipped on its head. Consumers are able to find and create more meaningful relationships with businesses that they care about on a personal level, not a brand-focused mass market level.
Consumers spend an increasing amount of time on their phones, and are asking for more and more real-world recommendations. Brands have an incredible opportunity to attract more consumers by taking an active approach to managing their location data. Consumers’ ability to find relevant results with the tap of a finger opens a world of opportunity for those brands.