The Presence of Wi-Fi: Adding Context to Location

Posted on May 17, 2017

Location-targeted mobile advertising is going places. A report from BIA/Kelsey forecasts that spend on this form of advertising will grow from $12bn in 2016 to $32bn in 2021. With retailers and product brands striving to understand ever more about their customers’ movements and habits, the ability to boost relevance with location is increasingly highly prized.

As Google and Facebook continue to build their digital advertising duopoly (amid some speculation that Amazon could establish itself as a third serious contender), mobile operators still have a hand to play when it comes to location.

T-Mobile’s ‘Interest-based Advertising Program’ and Sprint’s ‘Mobile Advertising Program’ both use location information to enhance relevance and Verizon’s ‘Relevant Mobile Advertising’ offering appears to use location data gathered by AOL.

These operators and others like them have trusted relationships with millions of customers and they are largely brand- and sector- neutral; ideally positioned for the delivery of carefully targeted advertising to a wide audience.

The problem is that, while mobile networks generate a wealth of data on the movement of devices geographically, they are ineffective at establishing consumer’s presence in particular venues. This is precisely the information advertisers need in order to increase their relevance to shoppers, and to target them at the moments of greatest potential influence and mutual benefit.


Wi-Fi, on the other hand, can be used to do just that. Near ubiquitous at popular consumer destinations – transport, leisure, entertainment, hospitality and service as well as retail – Wi-Fi offers an altogether more detailed level of insight, provided you can understand it.

Understanding Wi-Fi is what Devicescape does; we have gathered data on the more than 300 million access points worldwide which combine to form our Curated Virtual Network (CVN). 

A highly effective complement to the mobile network in terms of automated connectivity for improved coverage, capacity, and offload, the CVN delivers an equally powerful boost to cellular when it comes to understanding customer movement.

By way of illustration, a recent investigation of Devicescape-enabled smartphone behavior in the US revealed the following about devices which visited an Apple store during the course of a month:*

  • Almost twice as many were seen at T-Mobile stores as at AT&T stores

  • Almost half were seen at a McDonald’s

  • 37% visited Target, compared to 31% for Walmart

  • 30% visited a Sephora cosmetics store

  • More than 20% visited Macy’s

The ability to use our network to establish consumer presence at these and countless other destinations drove the development of our proximity marketing solution, Devicescape Engage.

As used for Engage, The CVN functions as a location-based advertising network on a colossal scale; millions of Wi-Fi points, each able to act as a proximity beacon, triggering messages to consumers’ smartphones based on their location in the real world.

Already delivering live campaigns for our own advertising partners, Engage is returning an average click through rate of 13 per cent.

It is also a powerful enabler for organizations with established mobile advertising businesses looking to add genuine, venue-level context to their understanding of consumer location.

Location-based advertising is going mainstream and the requirements for precision and targeting are only going to get more strenuous. The reality is the same for understanding location as it is for delivering smartphone connectivity: Wi-Fi offers reach and capability complementary to, and beyond, the mobile network.
*Devicescape is unable to access, and does not record, any personal data. All devices are identified by anonymized IDs.