Marketers Are Getting More Sophisticated in Dissecting Foot Traffic

PlaceIQ launches mobile data dashboard

A few years ago, marketers touted the promise of location-based ads to zap smartphone-wielding consumers with relevant offers and coupons. Now armed with billions of data points, location firms are keen to sell their stats to let brands analyze the data for themselves.

Seven-year-old PlaceIQ is launching a dashboard called LandMark today that allows brands to dig into the firm’s foot traffic data collected from 165 million opted-in consumers. Marketers can zero in on specific markets and locations to see how many people are passing through a store versus going into a competitor’s stores, for example. Or an automaker can track dealership visits to examine consumers who own a vehicle made by a competitor. PlaceIQ began testing the tool with companies including Havas Media, The Media Kitchen, IPG-owned Ansible and Gas Station TV for about a year before making it widely available, said CEO and co-founder Duncan McCall.

“All this data that we’ve been working to make sense of for the last seven years—if you strip it away and say, ‘what is the ultimate value proposition?’ It’s really this data set that connects people, places and things,” he said. “It’s not just mobile. You can apply it across television, across out of home.”

Marketers use PlaceIQ’s software to slice up data by factors like DMA, category of business and date. For example, a marketer could home in on Florida to compare how busy Chick-fil-A and Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants are during spring break. More specifically, a stat called share of visit divides the total number of store visits by the number of locations to look at relative busyness at a store-specific level.

In another example, McCall compared Walmart and Costco’s holiday traffic. Overall, Walmart has more traffic because the brand has more stores, but Costco has a higher share of visits, particularly in the days leading up to big holidays like Thanksgiving or Black Friday when the chain is closed while Walmart remains open. “This allows you to see a very different strategy for Black Friday,” McCall explained. “Walmart wins on Black Friday for busyness but it actually loses a few days before Black Friday—Costco drives everyone into their stores a few days before.”

PlaceIQ is targeting agencies, analytics and data teams at brands and consultancies with LandMark. For media agencies, mobile data helps to plan traditional media. The firm has a deal with comScore that matches up location stats with census data collected from set tops to find people who watch a TV station and then come into a store, for example.

“Agencies are trying to understand, ‘how do I better plan media—do I plan analytics before I plan creative?’” McCall said. “They can query this system and see, ‘I’m winning against these brands and I’m losing against these brands here. Let’s construct a media campaign to heavy up on TV to hit these types of people.’”

Robert Lamberson, director of analytics at Ansible added, “LandMark allows us to understand potential customer segments in unique ways, such as ongoing visitation frequency to one brand against another, average distance traveled by customers to brands and visitation trends down to specific DMAs. These unique insights allow us to inform strategy for our clients on both a national and local level.”

When asked how much of PlaceIQ’s business is based on the more basic tactic of plugging location data into mobile ads, McCall said, “That’s a small part of our business—that’s become a simplistic, blunt instrument but the bigger piece in there is behavioral targeting.”

PlaceIQ faces tough competition in data and analytics as more location-minded firms move in on the space. In March, Foursquare launched a data dashboard and xAd has also recently played up the real-world potential of smartphone-collected stats.

Still, McCall is seemingly confident in his pitch, partly because he believes he’s following a stream of new money that brands are willing to pony up for location-based stats. After years of traditionally outsourcing data and analytics, brands are now staffing up internal teams with data and analytics experts tasked with larger goals of overhauling companies to be more digital and competitive.

“When you [used to] talk to people about foot-traffic analytics, they would say, ‘I have no budget to pay for this. Let me activate advertising and you give me the analytics on the back of advertising,’” McCall said. “It used to be that analytics and research were completely disjointed from advertising. In today’s world, you have that joint. People are spending money on the data and the analytics, but it’s really informing a much greater [type of] intelligent marketing.”