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Getting to Know You

Deep Dives with Choueiri Group

Getting to Know You

There’s always a lot happening in the data ecosystem. MEmob’s Ihab El Yaman explains what’s coming next. 

The world of data can be a complex one for the people working outside of it – a world filled with acronyms like DSP, DMP, ASP and API, tech jargon and constantly changing practices.

Communicate sat with data enabler MEmob (Communicate’s sister company) to understand where the data business is headed – starting with what a data enabler is. “We help clients, agencies and any kinds of marketeers looking to find the right audience at the right place and the right time, using the data and people-based marketing approach that big players usually go to Facebook and Google to get,” says Co-founder and Managing Director Ihab El Yaman. Using data technologies and insights, a data enabler helps companies improve the efficiency of their marketing and, eventually, their ROI, by guiding them towards the right target audience. “We tell clients: ‘Instead of fishing in the hole, that’s the pond, that’s your audience. Get a small marketing budget that will reflect on these people with a higher ROI, so you can justify moving forward,’” adds El Yaman.

Data parties

The way a data enabler operates starts with data gathering – either harvesting data itself (that’s first-party data) or acquiring it from other companies (that’s third-party data). This means that, unless you are Facebook and Google, strategic partnerships are crucial in order to access the right data the right way.

MEmob, for example, has been building partnerships for the past three years, and now has JV partners that provide data from China, Europe, and the US, among other regions. However, the bulk of its data (60%) is first-party, obtained thanks to partnerships with SDKs developers. SDKs, or software development kits, can be found in each and every mobile application and have a very practical use for data companies and brands: they read and share users’ behaviors, interests, locations and more.

Overcoming limitations

However, concerns over data privacy are increasingly salient and translate into a growing number of hurdles for the industry.

For example, in recent years, SDKs have hit a bit of a speed bump in terms of accessing mobility and location data, due to the ability of mobile phone users to limit or even disable location tracking on their device. “The moment they do that, each and every technology in the world using this SDK to gather location data, shuts down,” says El Yaman.

Even more worrisome, Google’s plan to eliminate third-party cookies from its Chrome browser by 2022, is bad news for many digital advertisers and related industries: third-party cookies currently are the dominant tool to aggregate information and create digital profiles.

However, technological solutions can be developed to overcome, these obstacles, in an ethical manner. “MEmob is a unique device ID-based technology that has its own proprietary first-party data, independent from the cookie-based tracking business. We collect a ton of first-party data on Internet users through its many data touchpoints. This kind of data collection will not be affected by the [Google] ban and, in fact, could become more valuable as the third-party sources of ad targeting data dry up,” explains El Yaman, who adds that, thanks to technology JV partners, his company is also able to access location data regardless of whether SDKs are active or not. “These partners provide us with signals from the mobile device itself, a bit like telco companies do,” he says.

And this location data turns out to be extremely valuable.

It’s all about location, location, location

In an extremely competitive ecosystem, developing expertise and an edge can make all the difference in the world. This is why MEmob, that specializes in the footsteps business, developed its own in-house AI technology and location intelligence allowing it to map countries in a very unique way: “We don’t rely on Google Maps – it is faulty today and can be off up to 10-20 meters sometimes. We do geo-fencing by buying satellite imagery through our technology partner, pinpointing a location – like a store – and putting it on the system,” explains El Yaman. Using this technology, MEmob has mapped out more than 5.2 million points of interest in the market, from groceries and gyms to showrooms, nurseries, and schools.

This location data can be used in a multitude of ways, none more important than the fledgling ability to predict consumers’ behaviors. “For example, we have geofences all over Sheikh Zayed Road’s automotive showrooms. If we see device IDs that are frequently visiting these showrooms over a couple of weeks, clearly looking into buying a car, this data is repackaged and sent to clients who will then advertise to these people. It’s a predictive kind of analysis based on location,” explains El Yaman.

A data future

And the prospects only keep growing. MEmob expects to be able to access data on babies, delivering mothers and the age of children – something that no one can do at the moment – in a matter of months, thanks to new partnerships with hospitals and the like.

This expansion will further be propelled by the introduction of 5G, which will benefit digital marketing in all aspects. “Today, technology is booming – Facebook, Google, and small businesses like us. But when you look into conversions – the ROI of digital campaigns – there’s a lot of missed touchpoints because of the quality of the Internet connection and speed: the audience is interested, clicks on an ad, but the client’s landing page takes time to load. 5G will solve these problems,” says El Yaman who adds that, in addition, consumers will browse more on their mobile, everywhere, once the price of data packages is driven down by 5G and provides better and faster connectivity.

Data the right way

While this might all feel like an overreach – data has had a bad press in recent years –such information used the right way can prove beneficial not only to advertisers but also to consumers often snowed under irrelevant, intrusive online ads. “Our technology helps audiences know where the best offers are, and helps clients save money by actually understanding what people are looking for, instead of using the wrong kind of targeting that ends up frustrating the audience with irrelevant ad interruptions,” concludes El Yaman.

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