SMG to Track How Mobile Ads Lead to In-store Visits

The Agency Has Teamed up With Startup PlaceIQ to Create Place Visit Rate

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Starcom MediaVest Group has partnered with New York City-based startup PlaceIQ to unlock mobile marketing's great mystery: when someone shown a mobile banner ad is enticed to walk into a store.

The metric, which PlaceIQ calls Place Visit Rate, uses location data to illustrate what percentage of customers served a mobile banner ad for a retailer subsequently visited one of that retailer's stores.

PlaceIQ conducted a case study on the technology for one of SMG's retail clients that showed a correlation between customers being a shown an ad and ending up in store. Neither PlaceIQ or SMG would disclose which retailer was involved. SMG's retail clients include Best Buy and Walmart.

The case study was apparently convincing enough for SMG to make the new metric one of its many marketing products. Derek Thompson, the global managing director of SMG's mobile practice, said that although the new metric may not be appropriate for all of the agency's clients, using location data to inform marketing is essential regardless of whether you're trying to direct customers to a physical store.

"It's not just about trying to move people from point A to point B. Local targeting has a broader appeal than that," he said. "It's about developing large audience pools that are more qualified to be certain types of consumers."

PlaceIQ tracks consumers' locations by analyzing information collected from data partners or bought from publishers and ad networks.

Whenever an in-app ad request is served through a network, the network assigns the device a hash ID--a string of numbers and letters designed to anonymize the phone and its user. By tracking individual hash IDs, PlaceIQ can map the various locations a mobile phone was served an ad.

The targeting goes beyond simply identifying a smartphone's latitude and longitude, however. PlaceIQ's data science team has drawn maps of stores, car dealerships, parks, landmarks and other notable locations. PlaceIQ then pins hash device locations to these maps, which in turn can help marketers demographically profile smartphone users.

REI could use PlaceIQ to recognize people who routinely visit national parks and subsequently serve them ads about a deal on hiking boots available at a nearby store, for example. If a smartphone user opens a weather app after arriving in Grand Central to discover its raining outside, a Midtown retailer can serve him or her an ad for discounted umbrellas.

The process involves PlaceIQ placing a 100 square meter grid on top of certain geographic locations and targeting them within one of those squares. In some cases, PlaceIQ hand-draws a bird's eye outline of a building or landmass.

PlaceIQ CEO and co-founder Duncan McCall said that PlaceIQ has drawn car lots in order to identify if users have visited a car dealership and are thus in the market for a car.

He cited this as a way PlaceIQ's location data can be used to lure potential customers away from a competitor's location. Lexus could potentially identify a mobile phone user at an Audi dealership and serve them a mobile ad directing them to the nearest Lexus lot.

The tracking is far from perfect, though. Because each mobile ad network assigns its own hash ID to devices served through its network, effectively tracking a phone from one location to the next is dependent upon them accessing the same ad network. This results in PlaceIQ being able to effectively traffic only 15% to 25% of all the mobile ad traffic it monitors.

Place Visit Rate is much like the mobile ad tracking sector at large, then: it's a crude measurement, but definitely an improvement.

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