How To Use Location To Find Black Friday Shoppers on Mobile

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cart for black fridayRetailers in the U.S. will debut their Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving this year in an attempt to expand the annual buying binge which accounted for $11.1 billion in sales last year, by a few more hours. For one-time events where consumers often break habitual patterns, a consumer’s proximity to a store may not be the best indicator of intent. But a deeper look into where shoppers go in the past may tell a more compelling story for marketers, according to new research from location analytics firm Placed.

The study, which surveyed nearly 15,000 users who allow the company to track their location as part of its core panel product, found that a little less than half of respondents (44%) plan to shop on Black Friday with 22% saying they plan to shop on Thanksgiving day. In October, these shoppers, who tended to be non-white females with children, frequented discount retailers like Burlington Coat Factory and TJ Maxx as well as luxury brands like Coach and the Apple Store far more than the average consumer, according to the research.

There’s a spatial element in Black Friday shoppers habits, but it’s not necessarily addressable through geo-targeting, says Placed founder David Shim. “Proximity can play a role: If someone’s already at a Best Buy or Walmart, and you want to reach that audience and remind them to come, that’s is a solid approach. But what’s more valuable is to go past the proximity marker. It’s not just about whether someone is nearby your store on Black Friday; marketers need to go to different places.”

In the Dallas, for instance, the study found that nearly a quarter of locations within five miles of the city center were high-affinity locations for Black Friday Shoppers, representing ideal locations to reach this shopper segment before they hit the stores.

While the majority of consumers plan to shop in physical stores during Black Friday, they’re not leaving the web behind them. The study found that 43% of Black Friday shoppers plan to showroom, or compare prices while in-store, and nearly half plan to find coupons or discounts on their smartphone while out shopping.

“Showrooming is no longer limited to a select group of retailers. Rather in 2013, every smartphone represents dozens of competitors,” says Shim. “At the same time, showrooming isn’t a one-way street — it’s two ways, where brick-and-mortar retailers can grab spend from their online competitors.”

With more funding, and interest from brands and agencies growing over the past 12-18 months, there’s been a push among location ad tech companies to expand beyond proximity-targeting. Earlier this year, a number of the larger startups like xAd, Verve, and PlaceIQ, as well as newer entrants like Placed, rolled out audience-centric capability, which use device profiling techniques to allow marketers to target ads to consumers based on where they’ve been in the past.

Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.