Marketers face a number of big challenges today. One is pinpointing and keeping up with their audiences as they move from device to device — and then from platform to platform on those different devices. Another is making sense of all the data consumers generate in the hundreds if not thousands of micro-interactions they have every day across all the devices and platforms they use. A third hurdle is online-to-offline (O2O) attribution.
The partnership that location intelligence firm PlaceIQ announced today with market research giant IRI takes aim at these hurdles. It marries PlaceIQ’s location data with IRI’s rich insights into shoppers’ retail and CPG affinities, preferences, and purchase choices, enabling marketers to develop deeper audience profiles and target more accurately across a range of channels and tactics. Achieving this level of insight without such a data alliance or an acquisition likely would prove difficult.
Greater reliance on smartphones is the current underlying these challenges. We know the path to purchase is more mobile than ever, and all the data we’ve seen about consumers’ shopping activity this holiday season suggests smartphones are playing a more prominent role than ever in omnichannel shopping, at all stages of the purchase process. Cross-device behavior and activity makes consumers more elusive, or at the very least, multiplies the amount of effort marketers must apply to effectively intersect them.
From a media perspective, programmatic buying, as we saw in our interview with NinthDecimal’s David Staas, helps marketers target ads more accurately — whether that’s a function of time or place or other contextual factors — by helping them better understand where their audiences have been. But as we’ve seen time and again, consumers’ omnichannel behavior frequently outpaces brands’ omnichannel marketing capabilities, making for tenuous links between all the media channels and devices in play, and often requiring marketers and their technology partners to cobble together solutions that assemble the data they need to make this behavior actionable and attributable.
Fragmentation, or more to the point, siloing between traditional and digital channels, complicates this evident market need, although the past year’s considerable merger and acquisition activity has begun to address this hurdle. For example, among measurement firms, comScore’s merger with Rentrak is designed to better understand when, how, and on what devices people are consuming media. On the media side, Verizon’s acquisition of AOL and AOL’s subsequent purchase of Millennial Media created an ad-targeting powerhouse.
Online-to-offline (O2O) attribution is another area where marketers’ capabilities continue to lag consumer behavior, again in part due to siloing in measurement capabilities. Firms that track offline shopping activity and in-store behavior tend to be weaker when it comes to mobile, and the large crop of location-based marketing firms typically have strength in the mobile component but blind spots in terms of capturing the more traditional behavior. Given the way consumers shop today, both components are important.
Think of PlaceIQ’s partnership with IRI as a step toward tackling this issue. “You can’t deliver a new model of consumer behavior without doing so in the way that brands or marketers like to talk about their customers,” PlaceIQ senior vice president of business development Nadya Kohl told me. “What our alliance with IRI allows us to do is help CPG brands and retailers speak in the language they are accustomed to speaking about category- and brand-level propensities and understand the impact of using those data sets to drive efficient media into the store as well as measure whether the cash register rang.”
Not surprisingly, this partnership has elicited considerable interest in the shopper-marketing category, particularly among CPG brands that want to see the correlation between store visits and sales. But Kohl emphasized the broader applications of the data alliance. “Think of us a data and a platform company,” she said. “The play is using this data to inform your overall marketing plan — not just cross-screen but also cross-channel.” PlaceIQ’s enterprise offering is designed to diffuse key data and analytics across an organization.
PlaceIQ is not alone in trying to solve the O2O challenge. Placed teamed with xAd earlier this year, for example, to track whether ads viewed on a mobile device led to a store visit or a purchase, and if so, to measure how much the consumer spent. NinthDecimal added partnerships with ZenithOptimedia and TiVo to measure ads’ real-world influence. More widespread implementation of beacons also may help marketers tackle the issue.
Noah Elkin is Street Fight’s managing editor.