13 Jun Who Owns Location in Your Organization? A Brief History
Once upon a time, “Location” was simple, even in large enterprises that had lots of them. But the purpose of a big company is to make people unsure who is responsible for stuff, so let’s take a look at how location evolved to become increasingly strategic, and how lots of people got involved along the way.
The Early Days – A Map on Your Site
Back in the 90s, Boyz II Men ruled the charts, and the Internet and physical world were two different things. Your company’s website had nothing to do with place, and users thought the “location” of the internet was the desk in their office where a bulky PC sat.
If your company had multiple retail locations out in the real world, location started its digital life as a “Store Locator” tucked somewhere on your website. Type in an address or zip code and get back a list and maybe a map.
In those days, the locator was a utility and had little to do with digital marketing. The locator might live with ops, IT, or just the webmaster, and the location data behind it might have been owned by some retail operations group.
Here Comes the Web and SEO
Then companies started to get more serious about the overall flow and UI of their sites, and maps started to get more interactive. Now groups responsible for the website might get involved. This could include the interactive group, web designers, and product teams.
Then came SEO Voodoo time, and things started to get more interesting. (I say that with affection, I love the SEO.) Companies with relevant physical locations (bank branches, retail outlets) started getting hip to the fact that search engines like Google were indexing the individual location pages, and that 3rd party directories and scrapers were beating them in rankings for their own locations.
The location pages become landing page assets in themselves. Your website and locator were not always the entry point as search engines were the “side door” through which your location landing pages could capture traffic directly. Now the SEO experts were involved, maybe in-house and maybe an agency. And the SEOs, designers, and developers had yet another topic they could argue about.
Just when those groups were starting to get their arms around things, the CMO came back from a digital conference with a tan and proclaimed that SoLoMo (SocialLocalMobile) was the next big thing. Her revelatory insights included:
- People are doing lots of social media! Looks at Facebook’s crazy traffic numbers.
- Local marketing was going to be big, everything would be hyperlocally targeted.
- Lots of people have mobile phones. And the phones are becoming smartphones, where people do searches and use all kinds of location-aware apps.
After you and your colleagues got a few snarky comments out of your system, you were actually excited that the higher-ups were on board.
Now LOTS of people are involved and a lot is going on.
- Mobile might have its own marketing vertical or separate app development group.
- Since Facebook now has locations and maps, maybe there are Social Media folks who manage those pages.
- And what about sites like FourSquare and Yelp, they need location data. Are those social or local or both?
- You’re reading about new Google Maps and Google buying a company called Waze for $1.1 Billion, where does that fit?
- All this also means that there could be multiple groups with separate, inconsistent location databases floating around out there.
Now that I’m done trying to be dramatic and make this all sound confusing, the reality is that this kind of evolution is fairly typical. A new technology starts its life as a shiny new thing that gets its own silo. Then it turns out that marketing is still marketing and the new thing is welcomed home and re-integrated. We saw this with the web in general and it’s happening with social too. Location is going through this transition too as it becomes a layer across many other activities.
In larger organizations it’s good to have some single keeper of the authoritative data around locations, including geo-type data (address, lat/long geocoding) and related business data (hours, services, offers). This clean, official, updated source can then feed other internal uses and downstream 3rd party uses. It’s good to have an easy way to access, manage and deliver this data.
More on this to come in future posts. How does your organization handle location? What types of challenges are you facing? What solutions are you coming up with and who is working together?