For digital advertising – and nearly everyone else – 2016 was a tough year. “Fake news” became an issue, mistrust in agencies flared as transparency problems came to light and AT&T bought Time Warner. Despite these changes, disruption in the location data space is needed now more than ever.

As a result of the monumental change the tech world has experienced, new innovations in location intelligence have emerged. Based on Skyhook’s customer feedback, product growth and location data challenges in 2016, here’s our take on what’s next for the advertising industry.

Location knowledge matures

The importance of targeting audiences with personalised messaging and content is nothing new to advertisers, but the usefulness of mobile data is still being realised as advertisers get even more access to in-depth audience insights.

Advertisers know they need to use contextually precise location for targeting and to measure campaign effectiveness and ROI, so when it comes to location, “close enough” simply won’t cut it in 2017. As knowledge and understanding of location matures, “bad location” can no longer be passed off as real, accurate location.

Why? Location without accuracy or the appropriate context is meaningless. The use of “bad location” leads to inaccurate insights which would negatively impact otherwise successful campaigns. For advertisers, accurate location data allows them to target audiences based on demographic and behavioural data, deliver accurate personalisation, engage with the right target audience at the right time, improve brand loyalty, measure campaigns’ effectiveness at driving foot traffic and ROI, and even provide competitor brand intelligence.

Getting it right

Advertisers who settle for anything less than accurate and precise location data ultimately suffer the consequences: a hit to brand equity, wasted spend and overall ineffective campaigns. Using flawed location data seems like less of an issue from the 10,000-foot view of being behind a dashboard or spreadsheet, but the resulting delivery of inaccurate, or poorly-timed personalised messages has a wider impact.

For example, imagine that a gym and fast food restaurant are located next to each other. With inaccurate location data, an advertiser could easily mistake a person’s location and deliver fast food messaging to someone who is really at the gym. The domino effect of using “bad location” to fuel targeting ultimately leads to wasted campaign dollars and frustrated potential customers. Additionally, if the same incorrect location used in targeting is used in attribution, advertisers will be incapable of measuring their success in driving in-store foot traffic.

So just how abundant is inaccurate location data? According to Skyhook’s location filtering, up to 80-90% of mobile ad location data is wrong. Now that the ubiquity of data inaccuracies is coming to light, advertisers are starting to accept the fact that all latitude/longitude points need to be verified by a trusted location partner.

Accurate location data benefits both advertisers and consumers: consumers receive personalised content and campaigns relevant to their specific location, while advertisers see more dollars and trust come their way. The hope for the industry is that soon all advertisers will strive to implement best practices that guard against the use of faulty data. As advertisers’ understanding of location matures, we can expect to see more innovative and personalised ad campaigns in 2017.