Foursquare becomes first company to receive MRC location-data accreditation

New certification will soon become a must-have third party approval.

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As third-party cookies disappear, one of the candidates to replace them is mobile-location data. It can be used to understand real-world customer behavior, purchase intent, brand affinity and as a versatile targeting tool for online and mobile campaigns. But the quality and accuracy of location data has been a contentious issue in the industry for years.

Most vendors and marketers using location data get it from one or more of several sources:

  • First party mobile app-publisher data
  • Third party mobile-app data aggregated by vendors or purchased by marketers directly
  • The programmatic bidstream

Location-data quality issues. Dozens of studies on location-data accuracy have been published by location-intelligence companies over the past five years. Almost without exception they argue something very similar, making the case that most location data out there is of mediocre or dubious quality but their data is much better and more accurate.

This is a mirror and microcosm of a larger problem for marketers: how to tell location data vendors apart. Early last year we put together a short primer on how to choose a location data provider. It has a list of criteria and questions to ask, which can be incorporated into an RFP.

Challenges marketers face in measuring outcomes of programs using location-based data

Location Data Accuracy Concerns 1
Source: 451 Research (2020)

Data accuracy was the top issue expressed by enterprise marketers when recently surveyed about their use of location data by 451 Research. The question was: “What challenges do you encounter in measuring the outcomes of programs using location-based data?”

MRC location measurement guidelines. To bring some order to the chaos of location-data accuracy claims, in 2017 the Media Rating Council issued Location-Based Advertising Measurement Guidelines (.pdf) intended to establish standards around data accuracy and offline measurement.

After nearly three years, Foursquare has become the first MRC accredited location intelligence company: “Foursquare Visits has been found to comply with industry standards for its ability to estimate and validate real-world visits, and surface that data to customers through its Foursquare Visits offering,” the company said in a press release.

This comes after a lengthy MRC accreditation process that involved multiple audits of Foursquare Visits and subsequent review by a committee of industry practitioners.

Foursquare also recently started leveraging its recent acquisition of Factual and offering marketers the ability to combine online signals and offline data. Called “Audiences by Factual,” the new product lets marketers build and target custom audience segments using both online interests and offline visitation data.

Why we care. While I’m sure that some (or many) of Foursquare’s competitors are pursuing or contemplating MRC accreditation, this will become a must-have certification to do business with large agencies. The fact that Foursquare has this is a major competitive advantage for the time being.

We’re also likely to see the location-intelligence market consolidate over the next couple of years. To some degree it already has in Foursquare, which swallowed up Placed and then Factual. Enterprise location marketers definitely want choice but not the confusion and cacophony of too-many companies, which has defined this segment over the past half decade.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Greg Sterling
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.

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