Like breadcrumbs, ads can lead travelers to visit new destinations — but figuring out whether or not a specific marketing campaign brought them to a particular city or even country has largely been antiquated guesswork.
In the past, destination marketers relied on active input from visitors who shared comments on what made them book a trip to a particular place. The ability to anonymously track devices, however, has opened the door to new ways to get real data on such trips. Gathering such metrics for the travel market was a ripe opportunity, says Cree Lawson, CEO of startup Arrivalist.
Thanks to the ability to see in relative real-time when a device connects to a local network, he says data can show if that same device was used to interact with a travel ad to that place. This has the potential to shakeup the way destination marketers gauge the effectiveness of their campaigns.
Lawson previously co-founded Travel Ad Network, which became Travora Networks and then was acquired by MediaShift. He says Arrivalist is growing, so far, without raising capital by providing destination marketers with the data -driven means to better understand the reach and pull their campaigns have.
Why did you take this approach to location data, travel, and ad exposure with Arrivalist?
Most marketers have been drawn to retail implementations. In other words, measuring the way ads influence people to walk into a particular store. It’s an opportunity we saw and decided to take a different tack on. There is a huge need for independent, holistic insights into the way media influences people to go places.
Who does this data speak to; who is looking for metrics at these particular levels?
From my more than 20 years with the industry, I noticed that one niche of travel marketers has not been increasing their budgets the way everybody else was. That niche was destination marketers, such as the City of Chicago, the City of New York, the State of California. Canada or Australia. These guys had the same budgets, year-over-year, whereas their peers in online travel advertising, such as Expedia, JetBlue, and Marriott, were quadrupling their digital marketing spend.
We identified a need among destination marketers. These are quasi-government organizations that produce the ads you see saying “Visit the Bahamas” or “Visit Florida.” All they’ve ever had as a metric was the ability to interview people six or nine months later and ask them if they recall seeing the ad or visiting the place. It was just a really inefficient measurement environment. We saw an opportunity to disrupt that with immediate, actionable, tangible, ways to close the loop for destination marketers.
For our clients, we can tell them up to the hour the way their media is impacting visitation to their city, and give them insight into which ad views or page views or video views or clicks are resulting in visits to their places. And conversely, which of those media exposures are less likely to result in visits.
It was a dark spot in the attribution spectrum. We found a way to shine a light into that. Last year, we grew from seven clients to 35 — this year, from 35 to nearly 90 clients.
What are your expectations going into 2017?
The first step is inspiring our customers to take even further action based off the data they are seeing. Many of our clients saw dramatic results within the first year. We want to make sure all the customers we are signing up now see such efficiencies in their marketing programs.
The second thing we’re going to do is go international. In 2017, we’ll almost certainly surpass 100 customers.
The final thing, we brought on a special advisor, Scott Joslin, head of global marketing effectiveness for comScore, to plot our path into other verticals as well.
Where do you get the data from and how do you bring it together in a meaningful, and useful way?
Our technology is based on such a simple concept — can we measure devices, whether its laptop, smartphone, or tablet, that sees your marketing message shows up at your place? It’s a really simple concept that is unfortunately complicated in practice. We spent years applying for patents and unique approaches to solve that problem. Our current methodology includes distributing pixels that are placed in media, or other identifiers for ads. Our technology looks for those devices when they log in to a public network at the destination.
Think about a device that sees a video that contains our pixel, and then that device connects to Wi-Fi in a hotel at the destination. We connect those dots and data points, along with other media exposures. We can tell a marketer, in real-time, which media exposures influenced that visit.
If I had to put in a nutshell, it’s Google Analytics for who shows up. It’s a live reporting dashboard of 18 different charts, updated hourly, that show the way media influences people to visit our client’s place.
Are you using any third-party resources on the technology side?
We’ve been expanding our roster of location services providers. In 2015, we started with location information on about 20 million devices. Today, we have monthly updated information on about 180 million devices. Adding clients like California, Canada, Brand USA, Orlando, and Los Angeles has really built out our base of devices we measure. We work with 24 of the 50 states. We have a pretty large swathe of coverage in the US.
What does this all mean for local marketing and ad exposure? How does this information turn into strategic action?
For the clients we work with, this fundamentally changes the way they market their places. Over five, 10, 15 years, this type of technology will categorically change marketing. In the past, all we had were proxy metrics to indicate that a user intends to visit. We’ve had clicks. We’ve had open rates on emails. We’ve had viewability on banners. We never had anything to indicate or measure true response except the customer’s recollection of visiting. To be able to see people showing up in real time as a function of their devices movements is a profoundly more effective way to measure the marketing impact of programs.
João-Pierre Ruth is a Street Fight contributor.