Using Location To Turn A Browser Into A Buyer

Driving foot traffic is retail vet Julie Bernard’s passion.

“That’s what converts the casual window shopper into a loyal customer,” said Bernard, who took the reins as CMO of location-based mobile ad platform Verve Mobile on Monday after more than seven years at Macy’s in several exec roles, most recently as SVP of customer strategy, loyalty and credit marketing.

Retailers have finally started to embrace location-based ad tech in their eternal quest for conversions and retention.

Although BIA/Kelsey forecasted that mobile location-targeted ads will account for more than 52% of overall mobile ad spend by 2018, “it’s only really this year that the market recognized that location is the sweet spot of mobile advertising,” said Bernard’s new boss, Verve CEO Nada Stirratt.

App install ads, especially among gaming companies, may still comprise an impressive portion of the overall mobile pie – according to estimates from BI Intelligence, app install ads were responsible for roughly 30% of mobile ad revenue, which clocked in at around $3.6 billion in 2014 – but the role of mobile in driving visits and customer engagement is indisputable, Bernard said.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a new appliance, lumber for a new deck or a new handbag, consumers still love the experience of shopping in-store,” Bernard said.

Retailers in particular are swimming in first-party data. They’ve just got to activate.

During her time at Macy’s and her previous 14-year stint at Saks Fifth Avenue before that, it became increasingly clear to Bernard that there was an opportunity for retailers to “reposition” their customer databases to inform a broader strategy beyond traditional direct marketing use cases.

“We’re seeing so many retailers making major investments in data and analytics capabilities to draw deeper insights about their consumers,” she said. “That allows them to deliver value to their customers on their phone in a retail location.”

Speaking of investment, Verve itself recently made a bet on beacons with its purchase of beacon tech platform Fosbury at the beginning of June.

Retailers also seem to be placing their eggs in the beacon basket. Estée Lauder and Michael Kors ran in-aisle campaigns in Lord & Taylor stores last holiday shopping season, GameStop is planning to roll out beacons nationally this summer and Macy’s announced in 2014 that it was planning to install more than 4,000 beacons in stores across the US.

Proximity marketing might not be the right fit for every brand, but Bernard advocates a test-and-learn philosophy before ruling beacons out.

“This is a fast-evolving space with new opportunities being brought to bear almost quarterly,” she said. “Don’t close your mind. Learn about it for yourself, test it out and observe the results of your own campaign executions.”

But just because you can doesn’t mean you should, a tenet that holds particularly true in the location ad space.

“New data is being invented daily, but you don’t need all of it all the time, rather, the right data at the right time,” Bernard said. “It comes back to looking at the data that can help a company deliver the relevance consumers are seeking and expecting.”

And, in most cases, that can be a pretty simple value exchange.

“You’re in a department store, you’re looking at linen for your bed and the store knows your past purchases and how much you spent, so they leverage first-party insights to deliver a promotion that transforms you from a browser into a sale,” Bernard said. “But it’s not just about traditional retail. Automotive, hospitality, QSR – it’s all about driving the visit and the transaction, it doesn’t matter where.”

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