Ed. note: This article, by Louella Fernandes of Quocirca, originally
Companies face a growing choice of channels for connecting customers to
products and services. But in a world awash with thousands of marketing
messages, consumers are becoming increasingly discerning. They expect a
personalized experience regardless which contact channel they use. With
Web transactions taking a bigger share of overall sales for many
companies, offering a personal, relevant and convenient online
experience can attract business and maintain customer loyalty.
Targeted content makes websites more relevant and encourages visitors
to continue browsing and return more frequently. Amazon, eBay and
Google are all examples of websites that offer effective personalized
and dynamic content. These online brands are setting customer
expectations for more targeted and personalized online interactions
throughout the Internet.
One way of improving the online experience is to personalize
communications by understanding where the customer is located.
Geolocation technology is coming into wider use, moving away from its
origins as an anti-fraud measure. Geolocation has essentially dispelled
the myth of the borderless Internet by enabling geographic locations to
determine what content is displayed to whom.
The technology determines the geographic location and network
connection data for each IP address accessing a website. This approach
can provide such information as longitude, latitude, connection type
and speed, ISP, company name and domain name. Companies such as Quova
and Digital Element are gathering terabytes of data that further narrow
the identification process down to cities and ZIP Codes. Quova's
Internet Location Intelligence platform uses real-time,
permission-based techniques to locate Web visitors regardless of their
network connection or Internet access device.
The company's GeoPoint database is the central repository for all
Internet geolocation data gathered by Quova and contains up to 30
geographic and network attributes for almost two billion routable and
addressable IP addresses. The content distribution specialist Akamai
also has a geolocation product, EdgeScape.
So what are the benefits of understanding the location of users on the
Internet? In the physical world, almost every business decision is
influenced by geographic considerations. Whether those are customers,
property, products or any other asset, knowing their location is
usually essential for improving operational efficiency and gaining
Although the Internet was once considered borderless, businesses are
recognizing that understanding the location of their Web visitors has
an impact on advertising and marketing, compliance, fraud protection
and security. For instance, what is the local language and currency?
Where is the transaction occurring? How does this relate to the prior
patterns of behavior? What national regulations apply? Is this product
or broadcast licensed in this geography?
Geolocation can be used for delivering customized content, targeted
ads, Web analytics, digital rights management and regulatory
compliance. The use of geolocation in marketing cannot be understated.
Targeting advertising to a user's locality and providing localized
content such as local weather or directions improves the Web experience
by giving customers relevant advertising or content. For businesses,
this geo-targeting can improve click-through rates and increase
revenues from website traffic.
Knowing where and how Web visitors are accessing the Internet is
fundamental to preventing online fraud and complying with regulations.
For instance, online retailers and payment processors use geolocation
to detect possible credit card fraud by comparing the user's location
with the billing address on the account or the shipping address
provided, or identifying known IP addresses associated with known
Law enforcement and government agencies can use geolocation to trace
the Internet routes of cyber criminals, look at domains and investigate
the use-history of IP addresses associated with crimes to prosecute
criminals. Bringing geographic borders to the Internet in areas such as
online gambling or digital rights management has particularly driven
the need to geographically identify Web users. Geolocation can block
online gamblers from restricted countries while it can also be used to
deliver digital content to users within geographically restricted
As customers' expectations of a personalized experience grow,
businesses need to know more about their customers than ever before and
adjust and differentiate their communications accordingly. By combining
and correlating geolocation data with other data sources such as
reference geographic and demographic data, organizations can gain
greater insight into their customers' purchasing behavior.
For example, firms can analyze in which regions most online theft
occurs or identify the cities or regions where most online shopping for
books occurs. Geolocation can therefore add depth to current analytical
tools, offering new insights into customer segmentation.
But for firms to exploit geolocation technology to the full they have
to be able to integrate it with business intelligence tools that can
analyze and visualize the data for a rapid response to user activity.
Through analyzing Web interactions in real-time, businesses can
understand what customers are doing on their site and offer relevant
products and services and make changes dynamically. For instance,
Inflight from Radware, a supplier of real-time business intelligence
products, captures all transactional data to and from Web applications,
profiles the user and delivers identity-based, detailed information in
real-time to business applications.
Nevertheless, there are downsides to geolocation. When it comes to data
accuracy, Quova claims 99.9 per cent country level accuracy and 95 per
cent US state level accuracy. But error rates may increase when users
route their requests through a proxy for anonymity, or where mobile
users browsing the Internet may be given a central IP address by their
wireless carrier. This makes it difficult for businesses using
geolocation to be certain of levels of data accuracy for their
particular geolocation purposes.
Delivering local-oriented content by geolocation of users may not
always be what the user wants - for example consider the UK traveler in
Japan being sent a Japanese-language Web page, or experiencing
restricted content on a UK site that would be available in the UK.
These are areas where geolocation does not create the customized
experience for the Web visitor, so it should be possible to override
geolocation settings in these instances.
But geolocation certainly has a part to play in offering a personalized
and relevant online experience and ultimately relevancy translates into
more business and customer loyalty. Geolocation technology is an
essential element of understanding, analyzing and predicting the online
behavior and purchasing patterns of Web visitors.
As the bordered Internet becomes more commonplace and as customers'
expectations for an individualized service grow, businesses should look
to geolocation as a means of delivering relevant products and services
and enhancing customer relationships.