A sense of place
As the Internet of Things gathers momentum and we are propelled into a world where everything is connected, Business Review Europe asked Kate Owen - VP Northern Europe, of Digital Element, the leading provider of IP geolocation technology – to explain the role of location-based data, and how it can be used to best advantage
BRE: Consumers are spending more and more time online on mobile devices. Is location still relevant?
Kate Owen: To be honest, it’s probably more important than ever as markets become increasingly mobile. IP-based location data can enable highly specific audience targeting in advertising, and the exact location of an ad impression is an important value metric in automated bidding. In addition, brands can present the most relevant homepage to the user – varying the language and currency, and even displaying local store details without the user needing to enter any information. Advertisers can use this detailed geolocation data to promote wet weather gear when rain is forecast in a particular area, or offer special deals at local dealerships when an MoT is due, for example. Relationships can be built as brands vary their offering based on regional tastes, humour or topical issues.
Not only does this variation of content enable highly relevant campaigns, leading to high response rates, it also helps build brand awareness and loyalty – both key in competitive markets. And the closer a brand can get to their consumers, by understanding and acting on regional differences, the greater the potential for relevancy and campaign success. Location is a critical element in the cycle.
BRE: But aren’t people concerned about their privacy? Many don’t like having their location tracked.
Kate Owen: Our data does not track individual people. We provide information on location, connection type and carrier – without using any Personally Identifiable Information (PII). This is refined using anonymised feeds and permission-based data so that, without breaching user privacy rights, brands can reach their target audience with highly relevant and personalised content – without actually knowing who they are. Further down the line, once the consumer is engaged, promotions and other incentives can be used to encourage opt-in to other types of location-based services – including the provision of personal information.
In this way, consumers can be assured they are not traced personally without permission – but with IP geolocation technology they can still receive messaging that is relevant to them. This is a game of respect, caution and trust, and if it’s played right, both parties will profit.
BRE: How can you be certain the location data is reliable and accurate?
Kate Owen: Our technology uses the internet routing infrastructure to triangulate the geographic location of IP addresses – and then cross-references this with anonymised data from our global partners for further data intelligence. Our latest IP-based technology enables even more granular targeting to postcode level by incorporating mobile-derived data from wifi access points across the globe – further validating and fine-tuning results. This enables reliable targeting to within a 5-8 kilometre radius, and often even less.
To give some examples, with the latest mobile and wifi inputs closing gaps in IP targeting, the number of individual postcodes in The Netherlands able to be identified solely through the IP address has increased from 3,300 to 291,000! In Eastern Europe, postcode reporting in Poland has risen from 5,500 to 18,000, and in the Nordics, Sweden has experienced around a 50 percent increase, from 6,500 to 9,500. The UK has experienced dramatic increases in coverage across major cities, and even within particular districts. One neighbourhood in East London was able to target an additional two million IPs and our customers are benefitting from a more even distribution of postcodes across cities and regions generally. Actual results are constantly refined and improved as new datasets are incorporated – making true postcode-level targeting a reality.
BRE: When would this level of granularity actually be required?
Kate Owen: We can provide different levels of data precision, depending on our clients’ requirements. For instance, online gambling businesses need country-level location information to ensure regulatory compliance, and also to personalise website content by language and currency. In some countries, such as Germany, regulatory compliance requirements may even differ quite considerably by Federal state. In advertising and ecommerce, however, even more precise location data – city-level or even hyperlocal postcode or postcode sector data – is required to enable accurate analysis of consumer behaviour and preferences, optimal targeting and ROI.
In any application, however, the key to successful use of location data – at any level of accuracy – is to ensure it is reliable. Regular and automated updates to IP routing infrastructure and multi-layered verification techniques are essential. Accepting second-best could lead to poor customer experience – and no brand can afford to risk that.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”