With New Ad Product, Placed Connects Dots for In-Store Visits

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placed_logo_square_analyticsSlowly but surely, technology firms are finding direct links between the ads we see on mobile devices and the places we visit in the real world.

The latest solution comes from Placed, a Seattle-based startup that tracks the whereabouts of over 100,000 consumers who have opted-in to a program with the company. The firm has partnered with mobile-local ad network xAD to launch a new product called Placed Attribution, which uses that river of data to determine whether users who were shown an ad on a mobile device went on to visit an advertiser’s store. The metric only accounts for the sliver of mobile users who have also downloaded the company’s tracking app, but it’s a technique that might remind media buyers of another tool: Nielsen.

Here’s how it works: The company tracks the locations of users each day, some of whom have downloaded the company’s mobile app in return for a small incentive, and others who opted-in through one of the startup’s affiliate applications. The company hashes (essentially, anonymizes) the device identifier for every participating user, and when an advertiser serves an ad to a participating user’s device, the system logs that user’s whereabouts for the next 14 days. Then, the system uses its own proprietary tech to determine whether that user visited a store location within that period.

The program, which the company plans to expand to other ad networks in coming months, is currently only live with xAd. Advertisers that work with xAd can opt-in for the additional reporting tool, which shows the number and demographics of users who visited a store location. The tool also shows the lift that a campaign drove by comparing the rates for affected users against the average engagement with a brand’s location across Placed’s entire base of users.

“With mobile ads, we can start to say with confidence what was the offline activity a campaign drove,” David Shim, founder and chief executive at Placed, told Street Fight. “If you saw an ad for Walmart, we can say whether you actually went to a Walmart.”

The product is the latest salvo in a race to find a way to measure the performance of locally targeted mobile ads, the value of which is often lost as consumers convert in-store and offline. In the spring, PlaceIQ partnered with marketing agency SMG to launch its own mobile key performance indicator (KPI). The tool measures in-store visits by recording the device identifier for users who were shown an add, and then monitors a number of ad exchanges to see when the same device identifier appears in ad request later on. If that ad request includes location, and that location happens to be within the advertisers store, then the tool registers a conversion.

Sense Networks, another New York-based ad tech firm, launched a similar product in March.

The problem with the tactic, says Shim, is that the location data collected is often inaccurate and is few and far between. Shim says that the direct link which Placed has to its users gives the company the ability to draw from a much larger, and more accurate, set of locations for each user.

“How often is someone opening an ad, which has location permissions; then, how often are you going to see that same person throughout a day open another ad with location permission? Maybe twice a day,” Shim said about the limitations of the technique. “In a 30-day period we see 30,000 locations per user; someone who relies on the ad exchanges might see 30 [locations per user.] The chances are a lot higher that we’ll catch them while they’re in a store.”

Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.