Social Media Marketing

Advertisers are closer to knowing exactly where you are

Last year, people around the world made $140bn of purchases on their mobiles and this figure is expected to rocket over the next two years.

According to VB Insight in its latest report, Mobile Commerce and AI: Consumer affinities, challenges and the future of chatbots, this future is also going to depend on how advertisers use artificial intelligence (AI) in pinpointing customers’ locations.

It appears that advertisers are finally beginning to learn where we are, what we want and how we navigate our way in and around retail stores. For some this is creepy while others welcome it, but a lot more are sceptical as to whether it even works.

Geolocation appears to have some way to go before the technology catches up with customer demand. Currently, geolocation data is “80 to 90 per cent” inaccurate, according to US geolocation company Skyhook.

Recently, Apple, Starcom MediaVest, Facebook and Google set up the Media Rating Council to finally attempt to install regulation in the industry. The companies have produced a 45-page guide with approved sources for geolocation data for ads served to smartphones, towers, beacons, Wi-Fi and beacons.

This is a welcome step in the right direction, but as posited in the VB Insight report, it will be those companies that harness AI that will finally understand consumer habits based on accurate data.

One London-based company doing just that is Mobsta, a geolocation company that was spun out from its inception as a mobile advertising company. It has produced an AI product called Optio that it hopes will transform the way advertisers target and, more importantly, understand their customers. Optio is a Deep Learning-based technology platform that creates simulations of the real world in which Mobsta can test advertising campaigns. Mobsta says that it is “not just your usual probability stuff masquerading as AI, this is multi-layered Artificial Neural Networks”.

It has many uses beyond advertising, Mobsta says, in being able to predict anything in the future would be an advantage. It currently helps brands as diverse as American express and Red Bull to find and understand their customers.

“Over the last year Optio has enabled Mobsta to run campaigns based on audience’s behaviour rather than just profiling demographics; this is revolutionising how we approach campaigns,” says George Dixon, Mobsta strategy director. “We are identifying potential trends that are affecting people's location behaviour that empowers advertisers, but also anyone who wants to understand and influence what happens in the real world.”

But is this just more hype in an unregulated industry or a real game-changer?

Regina Joseph is the founder of US decision science consultancies and Sibylink. She describes herself as a predictive systems designer and so-called “superforecaster”, with a background in advertising and media.

“Any system, such as Optio, that has as part of its feature sets a mechanism by which rigorous forensics delivers evidence-based performance accountability is playing the prediction game of today. Systems without it are doomed,” she says.

But what of the advertisers and brands themselves? How do they think, and more pertinently believe, geolocation companies can improve their offering with AI?

Chris Clarke is chief creative officer at International DigitasLBi and he has strong words about what is an increasingly important part of his agency’s business.

“The whole industry is talking data, and yet there remains a huge gulf between promise and proof,” he says. “Basic accuracy has been a huge issue with geolocation and elsewhere there's the issue of insight. The smartest operators are bringing multiple data sources together and looking for anomalies that lead to creative insight. Get this right and the outcome is relevant, useful and charming. Get it wrong and it's spooky, or just wrong.”

Another interesting London company in the space is LoopMe, a mobile video platform that is driven by AI, employing algorithms that optimise ad placements in real time. It claims it can reach three billion consumers worldwide. LoopMe recently launched PurchaseLoop Foot Traffic, which uses AI to deliver video advertising at the moment customers are most likely to head to a store.

“Location is one of the many data points that our AI considers. This results in better customer experience through relevance, using opt-in, anonymous data, while brands don’t waste their budgets on disengaged customers,” says Stephen Upstone, CEO and co-founder.

While AI is finally improving customers’ trust in the m-commerce world, there is no doubt that the market is there. The VB Insight report based on 2,500 respondents goes on to say that 48 per cent of US consumers had made a mobile purchase on their smartphone in the past week. Compare that to recent research on this side of the Atlantic from eMarketer, which says UK m-commerce sales will grow regularly from £5.5bn ($7bn) in 2016 to almost £26bn ($33.3bn) by 2020.

Factor in current smartphone penetration of almost 80 per cent to night on 100 per cent over the next four years, intelligent use of AI and geolocation accuracy and the marketers have you just where they want you… wherever you are.


Also read:
Yext maps location world of opportunities


« Real Madrid leads football's rush to digital transformation


IoT security: How serious is the problem? »
Monty Munford

Monty Munford has written about digital innovation for Wired, the Daily Telegraph and many other titles, often looking at the impact technology has on Africa and Asia. He runs his own site at and has also starred in Bollywood films.

  • Mail


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?