Location analytics company Placed has just launched something really interesting: Placed Panels. Using a mobile app any retailer or merchant can track a consumer’s movements in the real world and/or monitor the offline impact of digital promotions or advertising.
Think of Placed Panels like comScore’s online panel — but for the offline world. It offers persistent location for a fixed period of time. The app is co-branded, but Placed handles the set up and recruitment. Currently the program is free. Thus it’s a complete no-brainier for retailers, brands and franchisors. (I’ll get to the privacy issues in a minute.)
Merchants gain insight into where their customers go and whether they actually visit the merchant’s locations, what competitive businesses are visited and what other real-world brand or merchant affinities their customers have have.
Here are the use cases and benefits that Placed lays out on its site:
- Better understand the connection between online and offline behavior, gain competitive insights and evaluate the offline effectiveness of advertising
- Gain insights into what key customers segments eat, shop and play
- Increase the value of your audience to marketers by providing visibility into offline behaviors (ex. most frequented department stores)
- Businesses can identify marketing opportunities based on offline behaviors across multiple customer segments
- Platform simplifies the panel design and development timeline to 15 minutes
Unlike other surreptitious tracking going on behind the scenes on mobile devices (e.g., CarrierIQ) Placed Panels requires a “triple opt-in” by consumers, according to CEO David Shim. They must download an app and consciously agree to participate in the program. The app and tracking only function for a limited time: 30, 60 or 90 days depending on the retailer or merchant’s goals and desires.
The app explicitly states that it will be monitoring user location. He or she can opt out at any point or uninstall the app. Shim says that merchants typically will need to create an incentive (e.g., $5 gift card) to gain consumer participation.
Shim told me that the company ran a pilot in August and had 36,000 consumer opt-ins. Consistent with the bullets above, Shim and I also spoke about a number of use cases. For example, an online only retailer can see where its customers shop in the real world. A traditional retailer such as a Best Buy can see whether and when its customers come into stores (or whether they respond to online, email or traditional advertising). They would also get to see which competitors’ stores are visited.
For sophisticated marketers this is a way to connect online customer segments and their offline behaviors. This has been possible in a more limited way in the past with coupons but training and redemption issues at the point of sale have been problematic for the accuracy of some of these programs.
Shim also brought up an interesting sales angle. Data revealed by Placed Panels can also be used to pitch specific advertisers or competitors based on actual user behavior and store or location visits.
As mentioned Placed Panels and its reports are currently free. Eventually Placed will create premium reports with additional data and will charge for those.
Shim told me all the data are presented in aggregate form; there’s no PII here. While some companies are tracking check-ins (e.g., MomentFeed) and specific location visits (e.g., ShopKick) this is persistent and more comprehensive information.
Placed Panels is part of a larger trend toward offline analytics and “closing the loop,” which have their ultimate expression in mobile payments but which are not yet mainstream. Skyhook Wireless, JiWire, Factual and PlaceIQ are also tracking offline location and offer an interesting variation on this data for marketing and advertising purposes.
Placed Panels, by comparison, is primarily about customer analytics. And the information available through the program I’m sure will be fascinating and eye-opening.