Location Tracking: Google Offers Deeper Insight on Customer Conversion

Jessica Carol
by Jessica Carol 17 Dec, 2013

Advertisers have always been interested in knowing the impact of their ads on their potential customers, but much to their dismay, there was no easy way of doing it. The situation, however, has begun to change, with Google using its smartphone location data to determine an estimate of customer conversions driven by the online marketing efforts of businesses.

Pairing location data with customer conversion

The idea of being tracked by Google may be making millions of cellphone users uneasy, but this has hardly discouraged the tech giant from exploring the uses of its location services even further. Banking on the habit of people to keep their cellphones with them wherever they go and connect to the Internet when the opportunity is there, the company has begun linking the location data with user's online searches in order to draw a relevant connection between the two. The basic idea is to determine and highlight the extent to which users are influenced by the ads they come across on the Internet when shopping.

Google offers businesses a helping hand

For an average user, this may not be anything important. For businesses, however, this is of great significance because it can reveal whether and to what extent is online visibility drawing conversions, e.g. attracting customers. With the connection between visibility and customer conversions evident, they will be able to decide whether it would be worth it to invest even more in their online marketing efforts.

Google is aiming to help businesses reach their potential customers by letting them bid for greater visibility to the user when a search for a relevant item is made. With the impact of online visibility highlighted by Google through the estimate of customer conversion, the bids are likely to be pretty high, something that the tech giant would definitely be hoping for.

Location services is the key to gathering data

In order to draw a meaningful link between ads and customer conversions, Google needs to collect data through its location services. Therefore, it is only possible to monitor the location of users who have either opted to keep the location services enabled, or those who are not even aware of being tracked by Google.

It is considerably easier for Google to track users of Android devices than other platforms because the privacy settings are buried under layers of menus, thus making it less likely for the users to stumble upon them. Furthermore, many users wrongly assume that by turning off the GPS services, they have succeeded in getting off the grid. However, the company continues to retrieve their location information via radio signals and Wi-Fi.

To add to the complication, there are separate switches for controlling GPS and other wireless networks, thus requiring an extra bit of vigilance on part of the user to get out of Google's vision. With a market share of 45.9 percent and install-base of 20.3 percent in the U.S. in 2013 as per the report by eMarketer, the platform is serving as the primary source of data collection for Google and thus helping it determine an estimate of conversions.

iOS users also find themselves under Google's radar if they use the company's apps such as Google mobile search, Chrome, Gmail or Google Maps on their Apple device. The apps connect with its parent company to transmit information such as current location. With a market share of 38.3 percent and install-base of 17 percent in the US in 2013, it's apparent that both Google and businesses alike will be very much interested in reaching out to iOS users as well.

Using the collected location data to determine the influence of ads on users and their shopping habits may result in Google getting dragged in hot water yet again. The company has been accused of breaching the privacy of its users a few times already. It may have a hard time explaining to users of both Android and iOS platform why it's utilizing location data for helping businesses and generating even more revenues in the process.

Author bio: Jessica has been working on privacy and security issues in terms of both cell phones and PC. Her most recent work revolves around issues relating to cell phone tracking. Her articles have mostly landed on the Mobistealth blog, where she's covered several aspects of technology. She tweets @Jcarol429.