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How Brands Can Use Location to Ace Back-To-School Ad Campaigns

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As the summer winds down, parents are gearing up for back-to-school shopping, and brands are preparing to launch some of the most important advertising campaigns of the year. With the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) predicting the average back-to-school shopper will spend $353.20 in 2017, brands have good reason to boost their media spend.

But insights from a recently conducted Blis study reveal that brands could be throwing their back-to-school ad dollars to the wind if only taking a standard location approach. In fact, the study found that brands could wasting more than 80 percent of their back-to-school media on the wrong audience if location data isn’t used or used correctly .

How can brands make sure they are reaching the right parent audience this summer and making the most of their ad dollars? By rethinking how they identify, segment and target consumers.

We have 3 tips for brands looking to brush up their ad campaigns before school starts.

Identify the Parents
The first step for any brand looking to build relationships with potential customers is to identify them. So how can brands identify back-to-school shoppers? Well, by paying attention to the places they visit.

The most obvious place to look is in the stores themselves. The ICSC’s latest survey  finds that 89 percent of back to school shoppers plan to shop in physical store locations this summer. That’s why the majority of back to school briefs will be answered with a strategy to geofence stores to a 10 mile radius & target devices belonging to 28-54yr olds using mobile GPS in the hope that they’re parents of school-age children. With geofencing, brands identify shoppers by using 3- and 4G GPS or Wi-Fi data to collect device IDs located within the perimeter of a certain store.

But geofencing alone is not enough. Being 30 years old and near a Target doesn’t necessarily mean you’re interested in saving on a geometry set.  Failure to augment the geo-fence with other sources of behavioral & consumer data means brands will be wasting money on young adults who aren’t parents at all. That’s what Blis’ insights revealed when we geofenced 300 Target store locations across the U.S. for two weeks to identify women aged 28 to 48: a standard back to school advertising strategy to reach moms. But of the thousands of women shopping at Target stores, how many of them are actually parents? What proportion actually take their kids to school? Well, 19% actually. Less than 1 in 5 women, 28-48yrs old, in proximity to a Target store had also done the school-run in the previous 2 months.

How did we find this out?  We conducted a “look back” study to see if those women we had identified were seen within 500 feet of elementary schools, middle schools or high school over the past 2 months—proof they were indeed moms. The results demonstrated that if advertisers simply use basic geofencing without adding other sources of location data to the campaign, they could be wasting over 80 percent of their ad dollars. Using historical location data, advertisers can create detailed consumer profiles of women ages 28 to 48 who’ve been seen dropping off the kids at school: ideal back-to-school shoppers.

Segment by Demographics
Just as brands use multiple sources of data to identify their ideal audience, they can also use that data to segment audiences further. Rather than lumping all the mothers together, a brand can use historical location data to separate them into groups based on the age of their children. Women who visit the local elementary school likely have very young children, while women who visit the high school probably have teenagers.

Combining historical location data with other types of data like browsing histories and past purchase behavior allows advertisers to drill down even further. For example, a mother who visits the elementary school regularly and shops for boys’ clothing online likely has a son. And segmenting audiences in this way is critical. After all, there’s a big difference between mom looking for crayons for her kindergartener and one who’s treating her 15-year-old to a new autumn wardrobe.

Tailor the Message
With such detailed insight into their audiences, brands can create and serve ads that are tailored to each audience segment.

According to the ICSC, 40 percent of shoppers won’t begin their back-to-school shopping until they see ads or sales in stores. Moreover, almost 90 percent say that promotions influence their purchase decisions. That means how, where and when brands target back-to-school shoppers can make a big difference.

Once brands have identified and segmented their ideal audiences, they can begin targeting creatively in order to increase foot traffic and sales. This is what a large department store did for its back-to-school campaign. Last August and September, the brand served ads to parents with children under age 17 in real-time when they were at family restaurants, schools and theme parks. Consumers who saw the ad were 40% more likely to go into the brand’s department store than those who did not.

When consumers step foot inside, brands should continue the conversation. Since 81 percent of back-to-school shoppers use their mobile devices while shopping in stores, brands can serve ads designed to get shoppers to consider specific products or pick up a few more items beyond their list of school supplies. For example, advertisers can offer personalized promotions or make customized suggestions based on previous purchase intent to in-store shoppers.

With back-to-school sales at record highs, brands have a lot to gain from effective advertising. But before they pump money into their ad campaigns, they need to adopt this three-pronged strategy for identifying, segmenting and targeting the perfect audience.

Advertisers that do their homework before school starts will not only ace their back-to-school campaigns; they’ll also earn back their media spend.

Michael Buttigieg is Senior Sales Director at Blis, the global pioneer in location data. A Blis staffer since 2013, Buttigieg moved out to New York in 2016 to help establish Blis’ New York office where he specializes in the sales of Blis’ proprietary technology and platform.