Here, There and Everywhere

People’s locations matter. People like telling the world where they are. And yet too few businesses take notice of their customers’ locations.

It’s easy to get stuck in an old-world style of thinking when it comes to location. Back in the day, all a company had to go on was a customer’s residential postcode and telephone area code. These can give some clues about likely demographics and social attitudes through tools such as CAMEO, but it’s not sufficient for today’s world in which location is becoming more blurry.

It may be working from home, shopping on eBay at work before picking the goods up from Argos, or socialising in the town centre while using a smartphone dating app to arrange a date with somebody in another city. Where people go during an average day or week is far from predictable.

The good news is that much of the technology that allows for this seemingly busier lifestyle also transmits all manner of location data, often intentionally broadcast by users. Most social media services have the location from which a user made a post displayed by default. That’s not even accounting for the human tendency to shout about where somebody is just as much as what they are doing or with whom they are doing it.

That makes it all the more surprising that a report in Raconteur last June entitled “The Data Economy” found that only around 40 percent of businesses use geospatial and location data for analytics, while more than a quarter couldn’t share any plans to use it even within three years.

It is hard to know why businesses are failing to grasp this opportunity. They might think it feels overly creepy and Big Brother-like, but it’s worth remembering that in most cases users are actively volunteering this information. In any case, customers are unlikely to complain if companies use the data in a positive manner, taking the knowledge and insight into people’s movements to offer genuinely useful products and services that make their lives easier. Or perhaps businesses wrongly believe location data is too complex to use – something that couldn’t be further from the truth, considering visualisation products and the way a map is far more intuitive to assess than a table full of numbers.

Whatever the holdup, it’s great news for firms which do make the most of location data and turn this into a competitive advantage.