What Can A Tomato Teach Us About Location Data?

Well, summer has officially started and at my house the telltale signs of summer are everywhere. One huge sign is that we’ve planted our vegetable garden and we’re already seeing big, strong tomato plants start to take root and grow. In the event that you’re wondering, yes, you’re on the Swirl blog, not some hobbyist, gardener blog about tomatoes.  So, intrepid reader, read on. I wanted to share some thoughts with you about what we can learn from the glorious tomato, and how we might be able to better understand location data through a long (and maybe arduous, even forced) tomato metaphor.  After all, location data is often hard to make sense of; maybe if we contemplate it through the lens of something intuitive and simple – the tomato – we’ll clear a few things up.

Still with me?  Good.  A few thoughts on tomatoes…

To start, let’s all agree they’re a delicious and key ingredient in so many things – the BLT sandwich rests not only on bacon, but is equally dependent on the tomato.  Don’t even get me started on spaghetti sauce; my Italian surname is a dead give away for my love of the tomato.  Let’s also agree that you can get lots of different tomatoes, some small, some big, some purple, some even green, some fresh, and some crushed and in a can!  And, based on the season, you can get them from your garden or you can get them from a store.

For me, the best tomato is the one I grow myself.  It simply tastes better and it’s the key to so much of what my wife, kids, and I will cook and enjoy together this coming summer.  No matter what sort of fancy tomato I find at Whole Foods, I will always prefer what I picked myself from my own garden.

Okay, so what does this have to do with location data?

The best location data that you can leverage in the marketplace is “home grown” – in data-driven ad speak, that’s first party. The market is flooded with third party data from companies who have lat/long insights, geo-spatial mapping tools, mobile consumer panels and a host of other things that are explained in 40 page slide decks – and, like the canned tomato that I rely on in the dark winter months, it’s pretty good and it certainly has a place at the table – thanks for allowing me the pun!  In fact, a combination of first and third party data offers marketers the best solution. But, who can argue the fact that the tomato that is yours is always better, and more rewarding than the one you (and EVERYONE ELSE) can buy at the store?

Of course some marketers have the ability to grow lots of records and others only a small amount; but whether you have a big backyard with great sun and you can grow loads of tomatoes or you only have room for a single container tomato on the fire escape – no matter what you can do, the key is to get started.  The opportunities to direct and leverage your own first party location data are enormous and expanding every day.

When you boil down (keep it coming!) what Swirl does for retailers, it’s pretty simple. We help them originate and take advantage of their own first party location data. More specifically, we help them recognize and manage thousands of “presence events” across their stores on any given day, recording how individual consumers spend time in physical locations. This data then enables the retailer or location owner to enable new capabilities and experiences for their associates and their consumers across any touchpoint.

Now that I’ve put a stake in the ground (I swear that’s my last pun), I hope you’ve found this simple metaphor helpful. Mobile advertising and omni-channel business are becoming more and more dependent on data, and those who learn how to grow their own create advantage and autonomy while everyone else waits in line at the store.


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