In this episode of Marketing Circle, Manish Patel, CEO and founder of Where2GetIt, sits down with Vikas Gupta, Director of Marketing at Factual to discuss the importance of proper NAP data for multilocation brands and specifically why brands must take ownership of their data.
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Mireya: Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of Marketing Circle brought to you by Where2GetIt. Today we have a special guest, Vikas Gupta, Director of Marketing at Factual. Vikas joined Factual in 2011 and runs Factual’s Marketing department. He’s an active participant in trade organizations including co chairing the MMA’s location committee organization and the IAB mobile center’s location data working group. Vikas earned his BA and MBA at UCLA with a focus in Business economics and we are thrilled to have him today. Welcome Vikas and Manish.
Manish: Thank you. So Vikas, thanks for joining us today. Glad to have you here as our featured guest. So let’s just jump right in. You know, we’ve heard a lot about 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years alone. Today, we wanted to focus on why accurate online data is so important and what actual steps specifically brands can take to monetize their data. 50% of users, use social media every day and we’re getting all sorts of data, whether its posts, tweets, pictures, videos, location signals, purchase history and transactions. But specifically focusing in on brands and location data, one of the things that make their media spend more effective is location information. So Vikas, one of the goals for brick and mortar locations is to drive consumers from online to offline locations. So what would you say are some of the fundamentals brands need to first do to establish that?
Vikas: So it’s not a particularly profound thing to say today that increasingly the first interaction or the immediate preceding interactions showing up at a store locations happening in some sort of digital environment. That interaction can be driven by the user thinking “hey I want to go to a certain restaurant” searching for something or it can be driven by, as you mention, the brands marketing spend. They may have a marketing campaign, whether it’s online or offline. It could be out of home, but if that message actually resonates within the user, that user may, in all likelihood, start their engagement with some action on a mobile device or some action on digital. So generally, that’s on some sort of search whether it’s search for the branded self or search for a specific location or search for a product, it’s some sort of search. And increasingly that search activity is getting much more broadly distributed on mobile than it was in desktop, where the vast majority of all searches are with Google. So today’s “app worlds” we’re seeing hundreds, thousands of very focused specialized apps that focus on one specific product or one specific use case. Each one of these apps individually only reach thousands or a hundred thousand users so when you aggregate it is enough search activity to become interesting for a brand. So a brand needs to make sure of is that in any digital environment where a user may be looking to interact with that brand, that brand has a presence and that brand has an accurate and correct presence.
Manish: That’s great Vikas. So when you have a situation where you said thousands of apps reaching hundreds if not thousands of consumers at the same time, the problem seems to get overwhelming for the brands. How much control do you think national brands have over NAP data?
Vikas: So before we talk about control, I think it’s important to understand that regardless of how much control a brand has over its NAP data or how that data shows up in the ecosystem, ultimately it’s their responsibility to make sure that it’s correct. Because you know it has the biggest impact on their business and less on anyone else’s business, so they have to do everything that they can do to make sure that it’s correct out there in the wild. And that starts with them themselves internally having a accurate up to date comprehensive list of their locations with all the relevant attributes in there so the name the address the phone number the lat long the hours of operation and additional, every piece of information about a specific place that helps users make the decision about, ‘do I want to go here? How do I go here?’ And is it open? And it’s still surprising to me today how much trouble certain brands have just putting that piece of information together. Where are all my stores? When are they open? And obviously that’s significantly more challenging for national brands that operate in franchise models because they may not own every single one of their locations. But regardless, they have a centralized marketing function they need to have that information correct. So they don’t have that foundation it’s really hard to do sort of anything else properly in the digital world. Assuming they have that information themselves then they need to make sure that it’s getting propagated out there accurately and properly on just about every channel possible. And that is an incredibly challenging task to the number of various distribution channels that are out there. However, that’s where companies like Where2GetIt and Factual come in and provide intermediary services to help them not only submit data to all these various places, submit to data with sort of authority behind this mission and also making sure that they’re formatting the way that applies with whatever properties format requirements exists.
Manish: So you’re kind of starting with a brand’s taking ownership of their data obviously makes sense but beyond that, what do you think are some of the other reasons that account for inaccurate data that you see in the ecosystem so assuming that a brand had all that information correct ; number of locations, hours, what’s available at those locations, we then see that propagation but what are some of the reasons do you think that information remains inconsistent or inaccurate?
Vikas: So assuming that a brand has all of their own information correct and assuming that they are distributing it to all the proper channels formatted in a way that makes sense on an ongoing basis, it’s still could be possible that their information is inaccurate in certain properties that can be quite frustrating. At the beginning of the podcast you had mentioned sort of the amount of content that is getting generated via social via user generated content. And that’s certainly where a large portion of errors or mistakes happen with this data and it’s understandable that a user is not going to make sure that they put properly structured and formatted NAP information every single single mention of a place. They’re going to do as little as possible to communicate what they’re trying to communicate. So if contextually saying Q’s makes sense to people that are talking to, they’re going to say Q’s, they’re not going to say Q’s Bar and Restaurant Wilshire Boulevard with an address and a phone number that honestly I can’t even remember off the top of my head even though I frequent this place fairly often. And so that’s certainly a source for much inaccurate information and that’s a hard source to control but we can get into how you can try to mitigate those things. But the other thing is that I think these search companies and data providers, there’s a very complex inter-relationship between all of them, where they’re all trying to get the most accurate data possible and they’re all working with a variety of different sources for their data, not necessarily the brand directly. So it’s inevitable that they see conflicting pieces of information among all of these various sources and when they see a conflict, they have to decide for themselves what’s the right answer, what do I pick. And I think brands have historically made that more difficult than it had to be because they haven’t always provided the most accurate information. And so you’re in a situation where you had a relationship with a brand who was submitting you data but you couldn’t necessarily know that you could trust it so then you had to go out and find other sources of information and so you create this system where you have multiple strings of data and all of them have various trust ranks if you will, which is a term Factual uses. And the company itself has to choose for itself what’s accurate. So increasingly I think as brands get better about propagating accurate information it’ll become easier for companies to trust that their getting accurate information from the brand and thus the submissions from the brand will sort of overrule other mentions of information. Stepping back to the user generated piece, in terms of fixing that, I think there’s been a tremendous amount of investment in the past few years and it’s not going to go away by some of these social media platforms to make the content that’s being shared and created on their platform much more searchable and relevant beyond the moment of the post. One of the things they do to make that information more relevant is they want to make sure that any explicit reference to an actual entity whether that entity is a place or an object, or a thing gets tagged and indexed. So that they can easily assemble all the different pieces of content that talk about a specific entity. So with respect to places or locations, the major social platforms want to make sure that any time someone mentions Q’s and they’re talking about this one particular location, they can tag that or index that to the specific place entity record and that can all be searched. And so that is obviously a very complex problem that they’re working on, but the way that brands can make sure that it’s helpful is by making sure that that the social platforms are operating off of accurate up to date canonical database of places, so that when they are linking entities back to a definitive record, they’re linking it back to actually an accurate record.
Manish: So then if we leap forward a few years according to what you’re saying that we will get to a place of trust between the brands and the companies that are utilizing and serving up that information. But now we’re creating another problem, an emerging problem, on how to make that data actionable. I think we’ve heard the term being used around “Big Data” and “Small Data,” to make data accessible and actionable, so do you feel like at this point, given the level of information that‘s being changed on a place-side and it’s great that you mentioned entities: places, persons, objects or things. Given all that information that’s in flux, how does a company go about making data actionable , or is there a process again to fix that that inaccurate missing or duplicate information because social platforms are still trying to figure out the place person object or thing that we might be talking about?
Vikas: So even if all of the technological data data infrastructure doesn’t exist in an ideal state today to make this information as actionable as possible, the reality is that consumers are taking action off of whatever information they can find and so I think as a brand you would tier: what are the platforms that are driving most of the action? What are those actions out there driving? How do I engage with those platforms to make sure that I am in the best position to capture the actions that I want my users to take? And so, for local search and mapping that’s very much getting the core NAP information correct. But also getting the geocode correct. And just because the Name address and phone number is correct doesn’t necessarily mean that the brand is providing an accurate lat-long or that the company they provide the name address phone to is using a geocoding service that can be trusted with getting the right right geocode for that specific address. So if a user is putting that on a map, you want to make sure that it’s the right place on that map itself. So that’s a piece of information with respect to mapping that doesn’t necessarily fall under NAP but brands need to make sure they put it out there.
Now one thing that does fall under NAP, the phone number is also increasingly important as search actions are leading to sort of “click to call” call to actions as opposed to just leading to a website and there, different platforms have different preferences requirements around 800 numbers versus local numbers, one line for the entire brand versus local store store lines and there the brand just needs to make sure that they’re submitting the right information in a way that the platform wants to see it.
And with social, I think it’s very much incumbent upon brands to make sure that they have an active presence that they’re claiming to the extent possible that they can claim the listings the business profile pages, the location pages, sort of the structured pieces of content that exist out there they should certainly be engaging and making sure that they’re claiming, control and have accurate information. And then once they do that, they’ve sort of done everything they can do to help these social platforms have correct up to date entity database that they can then use to link all of the shared content.
Manish: Sounds good. So do you feel that, again back to submitting trusted information not only to directories but to social engines, but are there any additional challenges that a brand can take or other actions that they can take beyond making sure that their core data is right, that they’re using authoritative sources to submit that information, and make sure that they’re being claimed, controlled and that the information is accurate. Any additional steps that you might recommended at this point, to those brands before we move on to talk about some of the other topics?
Vikas: I think they need to be monitoring to the extent possible the effectiveness of their data strategy. So there’s a variety of properties that they will control that some of this data will drive action to so driving users to a mobile landing page that a brand owns, measuring where a user’s coming from, what are they doing next, and what does that tell about the effectiveness of that specific channel. If it’s click to call, there’s certainly analytics that some of the major search engines provide. There are call analytics providers out there so the brand should think about architecting a comprehensive data collection and analytics solution to measure the efficacy of these things, to make sure that when click to call does happen, it goes to the right number with the right information that users who think they’re trying to do. A: the user thinks that they’re calling a location that will tell them exactly hours of operation and where to go and the brand thinks that a user’s calling for customer service for a previous engagement. There’s a disconnect there, so measuring what users are expect what they’re getting into versus what you’re delivering is the next step to take to make sure that once this data’s out there, users are acting on it and you’re meeting them with the right method.
Manish: That’s great advice: to monitor the effectiveness of your data collection efforts and delivering what the consumer expects. So let’s talk about once we get to that monitoring and we look at the data, what do you think are some of the factors that would translate into a return on investment. What are the things I could be monitoring? Obviously that connection between what the consumer is expecting to what they experience, and so forth, that’s wonderful. But are there other aspects or other metrics that could translate into actionable recommendations?
Vikas: I think some of the things we just talked about are more end of the funnel. If you want to go higher up in the funnel, sort of those offline metrics around “what’s my organic search ranking? what are the efficacy of my paid campaigns around clicks or calls?” or any major metrics. On mobile itself, there’s some much more interesting things that we’ve done around measuring the efficacy of ad campaigns that drive foot traffic. Sorry I went back to the bottom of the funnel again. But there are certainly ways to measure beyond the caller, or beyond the search, or beyond the display ad campaign. Are you driving incremental lift in traffic to your stores with integrations with certain POS providers or other third party data providers? You actually start getting down to, ‘did my campaigns actually drive sales? what did they drive sales of?”. So today versus 5 years ago, there's certainly much more available to measure a complete funnel and that’s only going to improve.
Manish: That’s great. So Vikas, tell us a little bit about where Factual’s headed or also maybe why Factual’s an ideal destination for brands to get that correct and authoritative information.
Vikas: So we have our database of places with with sort of NAP plus a set of additional core attributes mainly around geo-coding, categorization, hours of operating. That we update and maintain for 50 countries around the world. And then we provide out to thousands of different companies for a variety of different use cases. The predominate use case for licensing that data out is for local search and discovery for social type engagement on desktop and on mobile. So there’s literally thousands of developers using our data build their apps, we have relationships with just about all of the largest names in local search. Unfortunately I can’t mention most of them, but two that I can mention our big being Yelp and a whole host of those in the mid-sized and then a whole set in the long-tail and a brand may ask itself’ why do i care about a long tail developer who’s just building their app or who has just built an app that has a few thousand users, I would say two things:
- In today’s world we’re increasingly seeing that the time it takes for an app to go from something no one’s ever heard of to millions upon millions of users, is getting smaller and smaller. And so, they want to make sure that their data is correct and every app that may present the possibility to break out.
- Any one of these apps on its own may not sound interesting, but when you aggregate up all the search activity across all of these thousands of apps, you start talking about meaningful search activity for a national brand. And a lot of these apps may specialize in a certain city, so if you’re a national brand manager, and you’re looking at the traffic like ‘well in the grand scheme of things this may feel like a lot’ but if you actually compare city-based search to other channels within that one region, it actually becomes much more meaningful. So the advantage with Factual is that you get entry points into not only the largest that everyone thinks about, but also a whole host of apps that collectively impact a fair bit of search traffic.
And the other thing I’d say is factual is increasingly becoming the standard for location data within the mobile ads ecosystem. So location -based mobile ads, whether its targeting or delivering an ad to mobile users who are your near your store or at competitive stores, or may have displayed traits over time that show that they could be valuable customer for you, all of this is underpinned by high quality location data and as brands shift budgets from offline to online and desktop to mobile, they’re increasingly taking advantage of these things and they want to use accurate data when they’re doing it and the quality of a location based campaign is only as good as the quality of the underlying data. So if they’re running an ad with their provider and using factual data, then it helps to make sure that they’re providing data to Factual. So we’re using the best data that’s out there.
Manish: Well Vikas, that’s fantastic. Thanks for an overview on how Factual can help brands. I’ll ask you one last question: if you had one wish in the local search ecosystem, what would that be?
Vikas: I mean I think, my one wish would be, or dare to be more clarity about where/how the largest platforms are making their decisions about which data to use and what data they’re using. Because I think that would make everyone’s life easier because that’s what’s driving most of the optimization discussions.
Manish:I think that’s a great point and it is definitely something that I would love to know more about. Well Vikas, wanted to thank you for taking the time to meet with us today, going over the importance proper NAP data for multilocation brands and specifically why brands must take ownership of their data.
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