How Beacon Data Helps Marketers Target Consumers Beyond Store Walls
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Beacons are most often thought of as a means to target ads to consumers on a hyperlocal level, but data gathered by beacons can also help to serve them better ads wherever they go. eMarketer’s Cathy Boyle discussed this advancement with Andrew Dubatowka, director of product strategy and marketing at mobile advertising and marketing platform Opera Mediaworks, and Thomas Walle, CEO and co-founder of proximity network Unacast, whose companies entered a partnership to allow beacon and proximity data to be used for retargeting.
eMarketer: Is the current ecosystem prepared for beacon data to fit neatly into the ad buying world?
Andrew Dubatowka: This data signal doesn’t fit nicely into any type of programmatic ad buying or standardized advertising—even the vernacular. Marketers are doing cool stuff with beacons, but everybody is doing it a little differently. They have to figure out how to tie it all together and make sense of the data.
The marketers that focus on it the most are those who own the beacons. The use of beacon data is similar to retargeting on a website. You’re not going to allow somebody to put a pixel on your website to retarget your users for their purposes. Why would you let somebody use your beacon to power their advertising?
“Industry players are starting to understand the value of the data and how they can use it to extend the communication into online channels.”
We’re in between those two steps right now with beacon data. Marketers are using it heavily for themselves. They’re just scraping the surface of how to monetize this data and fit it into the ad ecosystem.
Thomas Walle: The industry players have been focused on deploying beacons, sending push notifications and creating great use cases at the physical location. Now they are starting to understand the value of the data and how they can use it to extend the communication into online channels.
In the next two to three years, one of the challenges the industry will face is proving the value of proximity data and educating marketers about the opportunities that beacon data creates.
eMarketer: How important will beacon data be for location targeting? Will it be the holy grail for data accuracy?
Walle: It’s one of the technologies that will help advertisers and marketers understand the customer’s overall behavior. But other technologies are also contributing to that holistic customer view—Wi-Fi data, [near field communication] NFC data and QR codes. Online data can be as accurate as you want it to be. Now there is beacon technology in place that allows marketers to get that real-world physical data and understand the customer better.
Dubatowka: Are beacons the saving grace of location data and the end-all, be-all of digital advertising data? Not necessarily. But for the retailers and brands that have the resources and desire to deploy them and focus on them, beacons provide opportunities to revolutionize the way they think about online or location data.
eMarketer: How do you use beacon data to serve ads today?
Dubatowka: Say you’re a department store. You use all of the activity in the store for retargeting—similar to people going onto your website—and create an audience on that. Unacast works with the department store to make sense of all that data and help them scale it. Then they hand us a batch of anonymous user IDs that have been in that store. We send advertising to those individuals when they’re going about their daily life on their mobile phone.
“How do you increase the life and the power of that data for a month or so from a targeting perspective?”
The real [change] is how you use this data outside of the store. We’re not trying to do anything in the store—that’s already figured out. But the second customers leave the store, that data is dead. How do you increase the life and the power of that data for a month or so from a targeting perspective?
eMarketer: Will opportunities arise down the road for beacon data to be used in the ad ecosystem by not just the source of that data, but by the larger community?
Dubatowka: Absolutely. Right now we are focused on the sources—the brands that have the beacons—because it’s more tangible and easier to action upon. But we’ve also had opportunities come up where there is a turnkey solution for a marketer who doesn’t own beacons.
Brands and other location owners who may not have as many direct competitors and retailers that carry other brands are going to be open to that, because their store is already seen as a marketplace. If you’re a department store and you know when somebody is standing in front of one of your clients’ products, why wouldn’t you want that company to target folks who have been in front of their product in the last week?
Now, it takes that human element of people talking to each other and figuring it out. But in another year, we’re going to make progress on having taxonomies of different audience profiles built out, all sourced by beacon data.