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Location Intelligence for Effective Outdoor Advertising

Location Intelligence and Geographic Information Systems can help businesses improve the visibility of their brand, increase sales and make a host of business decisions based on valuable environmental insights, says Jonathan Matsheketsheke, Senior GIS Data Analyst at JCDecaux.

BY Pulkit Chaudhary

What is the role of Location Intelligence (LI) and Geographic Information System (GIS) in brand development?

Different businesses and brands use GIS and LI to understand consumer and buyer behaviour associated with their travel patterns and where they live and work. The application of such insights is vast and is being used by diverse industries to guide and inform a range of business decision-making ─ from property development to market planning. The type of applications where GIS helps guide businesses ranges from where to build a new garage or takeaway store or develop a new apartment complex, to understand migration patterns and where to target audiences with communications activities.

Through deep analysis of spatial data, businesses are empowered to make more informed decisions about distribution channels, communication strategies and pricing models. All of these help a company develop a competitive advantage in the market.

By analyzing a range of spatial datasets, brands and companies can gain location insights such as audience saturation, consumption of specific product categories, spending power, and even brand affinity.

With the pandemic ushering in a 'new normal’, how do you see outdoor advertising being impacted in the near future?

Our industry was severely impacted by the various lockdown restrictions last year. Outdoor advertising is based around one key element: people leaving their homes. I am fortunate to work with forward-thinking industry pioneers who recognize that information and insights are critical to restoring advertising and consumer confidence. Over the past year, I have worked on an industry-first mobility report, which makes use of the latest technology and location insights to inform, educate and empower our clients, so that they can make informed decisions with respect to communication tactics and strategies. We are looking for different MarTech (marketing technology) mobile insights companies. We know that mobile handsets can provide lots of valuable insights into understanding changes in consumer travel and purchasing behavior. For  example, we saw that people were shopping closer to where they live, doing very little travel for work, but their mobility around pre-urban areas was relatively unaffected. Imagine how valuable such insights are in informing and influencing supply chain decision-making. Location insights and GIS are the basis around which online and offline business decision-making can be supported and verified. However, this requires complex process and methodologies to conduct qualitative and quantitative research to understand spatial dynamics.

The important learning we can share is that in outdoor advertising, consumer insights are crucial to stay relevant, competitive and demonstrate value through attribution modeling, consumer panels and market research.

There is a bright future for outdoor advertising as the data available today enables analysts to plan campaigns centred around the right audience insights through data fusion of diverse sources. Having access to data through GIS and LI technologies, coupled with mobile audience movement, amplifies the value that outdoor advertising delivers, in particular as part of an omnichannel media strategy.

How have the demands of customers in retail and real estate sectors changed, and what kind of datasets are they using besides human mobility and mobile location data?

The industry’s data time frame was adversely influenced. It is difficult to make informed decisions when the market and industry have been disrupted to such an extent and the data sources being used are relatively dated. How do retail and real estate industries make decisions for the future when current information is deemed to be less relevant? Through satellite data and qualitative research studies that use the latest tech, this industry can start to model shifts in demand and consumption within the QSR industry and migration patterns associated with the need for different property types in the coming years. All of this has increased the demand and necessity for Location Intelligence. Businesses are becoming cognizant of the immense insights and value GIS can provide to their success and growth strategies.

Aside from the contribution of LI to human mobility, several customers in the retail and real estate sectors are also today using LI data more than ever before. In doing geospatial analyses of their primary and secondary catchment retail and real estate sectors, they can partner with Out-of-Home (OOH) media owners, who will then use the available OOH billboards within these catchments. This is targeting consumers in the place where they live. OOH billboards in the catchment area have proven to be effective in pushing customers and shoppers towards shopping centres.

In addition, location traffic indicator systems have also proven to be effective as they give insights into specific locations’ popular times, and retail and real estate demand times, which helps both sectors in targeting and addressing the demand of customers.

By analyzing a range of spatial datasets, brands and companies can gain location insights such as audience saturation, consumption of specific product categories, spending power, and even brand affinity

Out-of-Home companies often look for unique locations to put up billboards. How do you determine those locations?

In essence, billboards are not vastly different from any property development. We are looking to achieve higher rental and consistent demand to ‘rent’ our adverting platform.  There is a broad range of criteria influencing and guiding the development of property in the outdoor environment. At the core of such decision-making are multitudes of GIS insights and data sources. These enable us to understand current and future travel patterns, shopping patterns, migration and demand areas, and areas with high saturation of key demand audiences or consumer demographics. A key difference is the host of bi-laws and regulations that govern our industry, making it very complex, costly and challenging to develop such properties. At times, it takes up to a year or two to secure the correct approvals to build the right type and format of billboards in high-demand areas.

In the placement of a billboard, one ought to use LI and GIS, relying on recent data, such as almost real-time traffic data, mobile data, high profile Points of Interest (POIs), and areas with high traffic volume and high human congestion. Determination of billboard placement location has become more accessible as various regional billboard by-laws can be mapped in GIS systems, and LI experts can use these data coupled with other layers to determine the best approvable locations. As the sale of OOH inventory evolved from just selling site to selling audiences, it is critical to place a billboard within high audience areas that reaches diverse consumer segments to ensure consistent demand from the industry.

How do you use your datasets to address the challenges faced by your customers?

Working for a media owner, we are into knowledge and information sharing. We don’t actually ‘sell’ to clients. That is a dated and ineffective approach. We believe that we can address a broad range of communication goals and objectives by sharing our research and insights. I find it immensely exciting and rewarding to provide our clients with the type and scope of data layers we have access to, in order to make and deliver an advertising campaign that works and delivers on the clients’ goals. Sometimes, when I drive around the city and see an ad that has purposely been placed at a particular site and faces the right direction, guiding consumers to their desired destination, I get a lot of joy in the work that I do. Because that work  creates jobs, complements growth in our industry, and most importantly, helps our clients be more successful.

A critical step in addressing customer challenges is first to understand their pain points, needs, what they stand for and what they are trying to do. Using various research systems and datasets, we aggregate insights that address their communication challenges. By focusing on outputs and results, we are able to build trust and become their long-term preferred partners who they will turn to and rely on to assist in finding solutions to their sales and marketing needs. Using GIS and LI technologies, media owners can map areas where customers are doing well and areas where they are not, possibly where competitors are doing well.  The datasets in GIS and LI systems enable media owners to optimally select OOH inventory that places brands in areas where they hyper-target their consumers. Most media owners in South Africa adopt GIS and LI, believing that they bring forth unique insights and trends that drive strong decision-making in complex and ever-changing business challenges.

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