Commentary

Location Tracking Is The New Attribution Engine

Mobile technology has had a direct impact on the way marketers can conceive and measure the idea of place. Leveraging a number of different methods and metrics, analytics startups have used LBS capabilities to profile locations, track user activities within spaces, and even tie that activity back to ad exposure.

The potential here for attribution modeling is vast. Digital advertisers have been looking every which way to “close the loop” still separating digital activity and in-store behavior and spend.

Among the providers that have captured agency attention, Placed has been using its large panel-based location tracking to make these connections. It already has a popular attribution product that connects mobile ad spend to store visits.

This week, the company expands that capability with the promise of tying ad exposures to purchase rate and even consumer spending level. According to CEO David Shim, Placed Revenue, the panel of double-opted in consumers constitutes “1 in 450” U.S. adults. The Placed app tracks not only panel members’ movements and ad experiences but can also send surveys to assess what the consumers actually spent. 

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“In addition to this first party data set, Placed has been working with a handful of retailers and restaurants to tune its data against their internal sales metrics,” he tells Mobile Marketing Daily.

To show off some of its capabilities, Placed has already tracked and polled over 2 million consumers to create indexes of the purchase rate and average spend of store visitors. 99 Cents Only, Dollar Tree and Dollar General top the purchase rate index — meaning that they have the highest rates of converting store visitors to buyers.

While the bargain pricing clearly drives conversion rates at dollar stores, big-box and wholesale providers lead in average spend. Placed’s average spend index finds Costco, Best Buy and B.J.’s indexing at over twice the industry average.

Being able to tie mobile ad spend to retail conversions conceivably helps to fill in one of the persistent blind spots in mobile. We know intuitively that mobile plays a role in driving people towards purchase decisions that they consummate either on the desktop Web or at retail. But connecting mobile users to their desktop behaviors has proven to be an attribution challenge all its own. Attributing retail behaviors to mobile exposures has been even tougher.

The accuracy of self-reported behaviors is always problematic. Shim tells us the company is working on that piece. “In addition to this first-party data set, Placed has been working with a handful of retailers and restaurants to tune its data against their internal sales metrics,” he says. The consumers are surveyed six to 18 hours after the visit, so as not to intrude on the shopping trip itself. Shim says that Placed runs test questions to identify “bad actors” who seem to be responding falsely.

The real hat trick of attribution is tying mobile exposures to Web and other ad exposures to get a more holistic sense of how to weight mobile advertising in the larger marketing mix. Placed is connected with cross-screen platforms like Drawbridge, distillery and Tapad, among others, to connect the dots -- or, users.

The ultimate aim is tracking individual user IDs from ad exposure to connected in-store sales operation that can attribute ad impact on a one-to-one basis across multiple connected media. Until then, mobile and location tracking of consumers will continue to be new tools in the attribution box.

By the way, attribution has become such a focus of marketer attention that we are launching our first show dedicated to the topic at Advertising Week. OMMA Attribution on Sept. 29 in New York will look especially at analysts lurching towards solutions that measure ad impact across online and offline media.  

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