Can Mobile Help TV Networks Track In-Store Visits? PlaceIQ Thinks So

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8548474293_dd32cd511a_qAmong the various media, television has remained relatively unaffected by the Internet. Marketers still spend billions on television advertising, and brands expect little measurement or performance in return. But that’s changing, and the big advertisers — often, the large retailers who sell mostly offline — now increasingly want proof of value.

Earlier this month, PlaceIQ teamed with Nielsen competitor Rentrak to provide an unnamed TV network with data that could connect viewership with foot traffic to an unnamed “large retailer.” According to data released by the firms, consumers who watched the television network were twice as likely to visit the store, and when the retailer also presented a mobile ad to the shopper, that rate  more than doubled.

“TV is going to drive performance — and while Coca Cola may never to tie media to an in-store visit, others will,” Duncan McCall, chief executive at PlaceIQ, told me in an interview. “The TV companies are going to go kicking and screaming into this new reality where they will be measured like everyone else. Whether it takes two months, two years or a decade, it’s inevitable.”

Here’s how the campaign worked. In February, PlaceIQ inked an agreement with Rentrack, an analytics firm that uses software installed in set top boxes to track the television habits of over 31 million household. The company matched the television analytics firm’s data — who watches what when — with the firm’s own hundred-square-meter “tiles” that serve as the containers for the deluge of location data it collects.

The company identified hundreds of “tiles” across the country with high rates of viewership for the unnamed television network, flagged devices that dwell in those geographies, and then measured when those devices appeared in the retailer’s stores. Then, it created a control group, devices that did not dwell in areas with high viewership, as well as an additional group of users whose device dwelled in tiles with high viewership and were served a mobile ad for the retailer.

A few things to consider before we get to the results. First, the correlations remain at an aggregate level: the company can only say that devices, which appear frequently in a “tile” with a high propensity to watch a given show ended up in a store. Second, the in-store visitation metric used by PlaceIQ and others is inherently limited: it only counts users who open an app which collects location data in-store. That means the sample size can be low, and the data can be both inaccurate and skewed depending on the audience.

The case study shows that devices which dwelled in areas with high viewership were twice as likely to go to a store as devices from areas with low viewership. But what’s fascinating is that when paired with a mobile ad, the the visitation rate doubled from around two of every thousand users to four of every thousand users.

Television is a massive, largely untapped market for ad tech companies — particularly those with tie-ins to location. A large portion of top television marketers, consumer goods and retail companies, sell in stores, and offline behavior influences a large portion of their revenue. As television networks offer deeper targeting, and web video grows, the need for offline analytics will increase as well.

Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.