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Location data will be critical to business recovery in the age of COVID and beyond
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Location data will be critical to business recovery in the age of COVID and beyond

The pandemic won't be over until the economy recovers. While cities, states and regions across the U.S. are grappling with new variants, shifting mask policies and other factors that directly impact businesses large and small, it is nevertheless time for brands and enterprises to jumpstart COVID-19 recovery strategies.

Data will undoubtedly be critical to such strategies, but there is one type of data in particular that is poised to yield greater impact than ever in the COVID-19 Recovery Era: location data.

Prior to the pandemic, location data — which primarily consists of point of interest (POI) data, geospatial data and foot-traffic data — was a core component of successful businesses that understood its previously untapped potential to inform and improve marketing strategies, optimize networks and supply chains, improve consumers' experiences and more. Indeed, in February 2020, over half of enterprises viewed location intelligence as critically important or very important to achieving their goals for 2020.

As of February 2021, roughly one year into the pandemic, the urgency around obtaining location intelligence had skyrocketed, with one survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group finding that 95% of executives view geospatial data/mapping as important to getting business results.

The pandemic accelerated location data's evolution from serving as a competitive advantage to becoming a competitive necessity:

  1. Drastically (and rapidly) shifting consumer behaviors : Even after formal lockdowns lifted, consumers' behaviors continued (and continue) to look significantly different than they did pre-pandemic. It's not just restaurants, airliners and beauty salons that are impacted — consumers descended upon home improvement stores, flocked to national parks and picked up new hobbies. But how long will such trends last?
  2. An altered map of the world : Tens of thousands of businesses permanently closed during the first year of the pandemic. But many new ones opened, meaning previous market analyses are now irrelevant. How can you quickly evaluate factors such as competitor saturation in changed markets?
  3. The rise of new consumer and business needs : All of the shifts mentioned above (and more) are changing priorities and expectations for businesses and consumers. Consider that foot traffic to coffee shops in corporate neighborhoods was down 59% compared to pre-pandemic levels as of June 25, 2021. With more people working from home long term, how can businesses that relied on commuters and lunch crowds adapt?

These are just a sampling of the crucial trends and questions facing businesses; other data sources (such as purchasing or inventory data) provide enterprises and brands with just parts of the answers. Location data offers a layer of intelligence that — whether layered with other first- or third-party data sets, analyzed by itself or integrated directly into an app via API or SDK — will change the way that businesses think about how they approach data.

Location intelligence's impact potential in the COVID-19 Recovery Era

  1. Consumer behavior intelligence : Accurate, high-quality and high-volume foot-traffic data can enhance everything from CRM management to demand forecasting to personalized marketing, and more.
  2. Market expansion : Knowing what businesses are located where (with precision) can enable more informed market and trade analyses, leading to smarter site selection. Additionally, foot-traffic analysis by market can provide insights around consumer habits and lifestyles in the area.
  3. More engaging and informative consumer/user experiences : Much of a modern business's success stems from the success of its apps and online presence. Location data — when integrated in SDK or API form — allows apps to enable features such as navigation and proximity-based advertising, and even generate reviews, images and other helpful information for users.
  4. Predictive analytics and modeling : The analysis of foot traffic and/or POI data can inform long-term strategies as well as real-time/more immediate decision-making. For example, hedge funds are using location data to predict outlooks for the economy, real estate investment trusts and more. Additionally, by examining how adjacent industries are faring, for example, enterprises can adjust their strategies accordingly. If, for instance, foot traffic to airports continues to rise, this will profoundly impact hotels, theme parks, and other hospitality and entertainment businesses.

Location data will also help keep the public safe and healthy. Last year, Foursquare partnered with LinkNYC to display foot traffic to essential businesses on kiosks around New York City. This allowed people to plan their shopping trips based on the least-busy windows, thus reducing their risk of exposure to the virus. Foursquare also provides data to the city of New York to assist as part of the NYC Recovery Data Partnership project.

The pandemic has likely catalyzed what was already set to be a rapid rise for location intelligence in the enterprise. Moving into a future where innovation is dependent on diverse, scalable data sources, the competitive necessity of location intelligence will only continue to accelerate across industries worldwide.