Search engine optimization helps marketers deliver the right answers to inquisitive consumers in a timely fashion. Social media channels, on the other hand, let brands connect and engage consumers in real time. But while these twin marketing tools are excellent for reaching consumers at home, they have their fair share of limitations.

But as a recent Forbes Insights report, “Location: A Strategic Marketing Imperative,” sponsored by xAd, points out, location fills these gaps for marketers. Unlike search and social data, location taps into what’s actually happening “now” in the real world without requiring a keyword or explicit interest. After all, where consumers are located says a lot more about their needs and intent than the websites they visit or the apps they use.

No longer simply a complementary channel to search and
 social, location is fast becoming its own category—a powerful source of information about a customer’s position that can be used by marketers to deliver relevant and contextual messaging in a number of new and innovative ways. In the end, researching a car online may show a consumer’s initial intent. But visiting a car lot actually establishes that he is seriously considering a purchase, making location one of the most important indicators of intent, immediacy and context.

The result: a prime opportunity for marketers to carefully shape consumer behavior and significantly drive sales.

Moreover, the brick-and-mortar buying journey is very much alive and well. In fact, according to the Department of Commerce, 90% of retail transactions still happen in the real world. So the goal for marketers isn’t to replace the offline experience with an online one but to enable a faster, more seamless purchase process. The right mobile strategy can enhance customer experience by nurturing brand-customer connections in-store.

At the core of many of these new initiatives is location data. By tapping into what’s happening “now” with a customer, location allows marketers to deliver personalized and relevant in-store experiences in ways never before possible. Nowhere is this more evident than in today’s Quick-Service Restaurant (QSR) industry, where location-based mobile technology is rejuvenating the offline purchase experience. Although they’re offline by nature, QSRs are blazing new trails, revealing a deep understanding of consumer behavior based on how consumers interact in-store and when using a company’s app.

QSRs are even starting to predict when consumers are near a location to ask if they’d like to place their favorite order. Taco Bell is one of the first QSRs to launch a mobile order-ahead app that lets customers purchase food from the app and pick it up without waiting in line at a brick-and-mortar location. The mobile app topped 2 million downloads in its first four months, and three-quarters of Taco Bell chains processed a mobile order on the app’s first day.

Furthermore, experts agree that we’re approaching a time when brands will be able to use location data to not only measure how much foot traffic a mobile ad drives into a store but where shoppers are most likely to head next based on their previous buying patterns and behavior. Using this predictive information, brands can attempt to entice consumers away from competitors with location-targeted mobile campaigns. However, in order to get to that point, marketers need the right tools—tools that allow them to match real-time customer data to the correct context, whether that be location, time of day or any other crucial state-of-mind indicators. Only then will they be able to leverage real-time consumer intent in order to make educated predictions about future behavior.

View the entire article on Forbes here.