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Predictions for 2017 and Beyond: A Conversation from RampUp 2017

To promote our new partnership with LiveRamp, Factual’s Chris Yatrakis recently spoke at LiveRamp’s RampUp 2017. Chris described the biggest challenge facing marketers in 2017: data quality. Please enjoy the below guest post, also featured on LiveRamp’s blog here.

Q: What is the biggest challenge for marketers this year?
The biggest challenge plaguing data-driven marketers in 2017 is access to quality data.

Marketing today is undeniably data-driven. But marketers are now realizing that more data doesn’t automatically lead to better marketing. Poor quality data leads to misdirected messages and wasted dollars.

Q: Why do you believe this to be the case?
First, anecdotal evidence abounds. Our largest customers and partners regularly express their frustration with the current state of the marketing data ecosystem – which is filled with indistinguishable black-box “solutions” fueled by opaque methodologies. But Factual is a data company, so we can’t rest with just anecdotal evidence….

We recently partnered with the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and completed a research study to better understand how marketers are using location data within their mobile marketing campaigns. This research also addressed mobile marketers’ challenges and concerns. Topping the list were concerns about (1) data quality, (2) understandable differentiation among data providers, and (3) a lack of transparency. Specifically, the study found that 40% of marketers expressed concern regarding the quality of data.

And these concerns are not unfounded. Factual’s own primary research identified that up to 70% of mobile user location data in the adtech ecosystem is of insufficient quality for effective targeting.

Q: How do you think this problem can be solved?
The authors of the MMA study noted: “In the end… marketers need to find the right partners who can support their efforts and improve the ROI of their campaigns.”

I couldn’t agree more: ultimately, the onus is on data providers. We need to pull back the curtain on data sources and methodologies and promote transparency within the industry. Factual is working to address these issues head on, to help support the growth of location data-based targeting in mobile advertising.

Within mobile location data, there are three factors to consider. The first is the accuracy of the user’s location data. Often, the lat/long coordinates used to locate a mobile device user at specific location are incorrect; these coordinates must be validated before they can be applied for targeting. To help ensure our clients and partners are using reliable User Data, Factual’s Location Validation Stack validates each coordinate against a rigorous criteria, removing invalid or imprecise data.

But lat/long coordinates are useless without context. The lat/long coordinates must be associated with a real-world place. This, too, requires accurate data – and specifically, accurate places data. So the second consideration is quality places data. This is one of the areas in which Factual is different. We have our own, proprietary Global Places Data – which is refreshed constantly, in real time.

Finally, the two must be matched: the mobile device user’s location must be associated to a place. This is not as easy as it may sound… and this is where transparency about methodology is key. At Factual, we’ve developed a technology we call Place Attachment, which considers inputs like aggregate user behavior and location history to locate users at a specific place. Factual’s Observation Graph – a new way of understanding the real world behavior of mobile users – makes this possible. In internal testing, we’ve found this approach to be 33% more accurate than point-radius geofences (and 25% more accurate than point-in-polygon) at determining where users are.

Q: Where do you see location going in the next few years?
Today, location allows us to gain a better understanding of who people are based on where they have been in the past. Tomorrow, location data will help us predict consumers’ future needs, interests, and behavior – in order to deliver truly relevant messaging. Over the next 3-5 years, “right time” will take on a whole new meaning.