Columbia Drives In-Store Sales With Location-Based Mobile Ads

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columbiaLocation data is a key component of many mobile ad strategies, but more is needed to make the ads relevant. Sportswear company Columbia wanted to reach people who were likely to be interested in its Omni-Heat jackets, but it knew that serving ads in cold climates wasn’t enough.

Through the ad agency BSSP, Columbia tapped mobile ad platform xAd to help it drive consumers to retailers that carried its Omni-Heat jackets. But instead of delivering ads to anyone who entered a geofence, Columbia only targeted users who had shown an interest in jackets and other criteria.

“We were looking for a smarter way to tell people about our jackets,” said Natalie Hayes, advertising and media manager for Columbia. “So based on whether you were within a certain range of one of our retailers and your previous search behavior, only then would we serve you an ad.”

Columbia ran the campaign between September and December last year in several cities with cold climates, including Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, Cleveland and Kansas City.

Using the lat/long data that comes from an ad request on a mobile device, the ad agency BSSP bid on impressions on Columbia’s behalf. The agency targeted smartphone users who were approximately within a one-mile radius of a retailer that carried the brand’s jackets and had performed certain actions, such as looking up a store or doing a keyword search for winter jackets.

Consumers who fit the criteria received a banner ad at the bottom of the screen on a mobile Web browser that directed them to a landing page. The landing page was designed specifically for the campaign and contained information about the nearest retailer, such as the address and phone number, and more information about the Omni-Heat technology.

“Location is an important part of mobile [advertising] but what also impressed us about xAd was that it lets you further target your ads and make them even more relevant based on what consumers are doing,” said Juli Johnson, associate media director at BSSP.

Columbia has experimented with a few mobile apps (it has an app that lets users record their outdoor experiences, an app for learning to tie knots and a shopping app that is a small-screen version of the Columbia.com site) but this was the company’s first geofenced mobile campaign.

Hayes declined to provide figures about the campaign’s results, but said the results were “encouraging.”

“We’re looking at click-through rates to some degree, but it’s still difficult to tie online campaigns directly to in-store sales,” Hayes said. “But anecdotal information from retailers and the number of phone calls to the stores and other analytics from xAd’s reports show that there was a positive impact.”

Hayes added that she is considering launching a similar campaign for warm weather products and eventually using geotargeted mobile ads on a continuous basis. With BSSP’s help, Columbia is also experimenting with weather-triggered ads that allow the brand to serve ads that are tailored according to a location’s weather forecast.

“As we move to this ‘always on’ approach where the consumer is always doing something, there’s an opportunity for a continuance of messaging,” said Hayes. “So we’re exploring weather and other opportunities in mobile as well.”

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