Editor’s note: Stepping inside a store is not the same as it was before the COVID-19 mandatory quarantine regulations, but the optimism and appetite for elevated in-store services is beginning to reappear. We read many reports that homebound consumers crave the social interactions a shopping experience provides, and research results point towards increasing foot traffic in the coming months. For example, an upcoming report from GroundTruth discovered “17% of shoppers tried curbside pick-up for the first time ever after March 2020.” This trend could lead to more in-store visits, fostering customer loyalty, and galvanizing brand strength.
The most competitive in-store businesses today implement an omnichannel strategy, blending digital marketing efforts with geo-location data to measure campaign effectiveness for driving in-person shopping experiences. Foot traffic data might be the most powerful metric to inform future retail predictions and closes the information feedback loop advertisers and digital marketers need. But how can retailers reliably predict foot traffic to help them ramp up their own operations, managing human resources and inventory, in an efficient manner?
In hopes of answering these questions, we interviewed GroundTruth Senior Vice President Dan Silver to discuss different ways location data is being used today across a variety of business sectors. He shares predictions about the future of in-person shopping and much more.
Wise Marketer (WM): Foot traffic is a familiar term, but I have a sense that you may define it in your own way. Can you expand on this a bit?
Dan Silver (DS): For us, it's simple, foot traffic is a physical visit to a location. We take the precision one step further by tying foot traffic into our targeted ad platform. When they work together, we can tell decisively when a customer who viewed our ads ends up making an in-store visit, which is the missing piece of the digital marketing equation.
We have a great example of this in our Shopper Playbook of a client using GroundTruth shoppable online ads that directly drove 8% in incremental in-store sales.
WM: Location based marketing is evolving quickly. How did GroundTruth get started and what is your focus today?
DS: When you first start a company, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s hard to believe, but GroundTruth first opened its digital doors in 2009! You might remember that in 2009, Apple introduced the iPhone 3Gs (and now we’re on the iPhone 12!) and Zynga launched the social game Farmville.
Even then, we knew our focus had to be on offline data analysis, and that real-time analysis fuels our location-based advertising platform that over 7,000 retailers use to plan their marketing strategies and drive in-store visits.
WM: You mention the omnichannel strategy for location-based services. What are the most effective channels for engaging consumers?
DS: You know, Bill, visitation behavior is one of the most accurate strategies any marketer can use. There’s no question about it. The main reason is that it differentiates from actual behavior versus aspirational behavior — who we are versus who we want to be. For example, viewing vegan products online may reveal user interest and even some intent on purchasing vegan products, but if their visitation history shows consistent visits to steakhouses and not vegan spots, marketers could be wasting their marketing spend on shoppers that aren’t far along enough in the buyer’s journey to turn into real customers.
Given 46% of future big spenders predict they’ll be shopping in physical stores more in the future, having a solid, repeatable visitation behavior marketing system is critical to establish now.
WM: What is the scale of the data you use and how does it impact the effectiveness of your products?
DS: We spend a lot of time focused on scale and the accuracy and precision of our data. For one, the GroundTruth advertising platform draws on dozens of different data sources. This includes multiple SDK integrations and being vigilant about persistent pruning of low signal quality. By staying on top of this, we can say with confidence that we’re always providing an accurate, scalable, full picture of the shopper’s journey from the moment a shopper uses their mobile phone to when they’re browsing inside of a store.
To remind shoppers of the latest deals or product availability, we also employ real-time triggers depending on the product and place. In fact, our technology is the backbone behind more than 30 billion global physical visits annually.
WM: Do you leverage your offline behavioral data and insights or related services to help retailers launch and manage campaigns?
DS: Absolutely. Because visits are such an important KPI for retailers, our performance-based solutions have become a critical part of the marketing mix for many of our customers. To cover all our data bases, our platform integrates with a number of offline data sources to ensure ads served through our network reflect the consumer’s reality. For instance, as a part of our performance-driven marketing solutions, if a shopper is at a pharmacy location that has disinfectant wipes, but a few blocks away there is another pharmacy store that finished its disinfectant wipe inventory, our location-based mobile ads can show what products and services are available and nearby.
WM: How do you measure success for your customers? Do you use the same KPIs for most retailers and how do you decide what is most useful?
DS: I’ve learned over the years that each client has their own set of KPIs, which tends to differ depending on the industry. One of the more unique value propositions of GroundTruth is that we offer several different ways to measure the impact marketing has on a business.
One model we offer our clients is called Cost Per Visit. It’s highly unique because this model puts 100% of the burden on us to create and activate a compelling advertising campaign. We do this by serving ads to the audience that matters most to the business with near surgical precision so that it generates an in-store visit. It’s a simple, risk-free model that improves results for marketers — there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.
WM: Can you share some examples of retailers using the solutions referenced in your Shopper Playbook?
DS: Here’s a real-world example of how this works: A brand wanted to utilize GroundTruth’s Location Targeting technology to reach Walmart Loyalists and drive purchases of its product. The goal was to triple their Guaranteed Return on Ad Spend (gROAS).
After a deep dive into the brand’s KPIs and history, we deployed two GroundTruth strategies: Location Targeting and Audience Targeting. For Location, we devised that the most optimal plan would be to engage consumers in areas that show high affinity for visitation (or trade areas), at the actual store or parking lot, and in that retail shopping area.
For the Audience Targeting, we served ads to consumers who used Walmart’s pick-up lanes and ran display ads to customers that exhibited favorable past-purchase behavior or that fit certain custom demographic parameters.
What happened when we moved ahead with these GroundTruth recommended strategies? The brand’s ad campaign reached 1.5 million Unique Shoppers, produced 873,000 Verified Visits with a Visitation Rate of 5.65%, achieved 10.7 times Return on Ad Spend, and generated a 4% Sales Lift.
WM: What else?
DS: Any brand that isn’t sure which route to take can partner with GroundTruth to set a goal for gROAS. In this model, third-party sales measurements verify results, so there is no guessing game. You set the goal, and we make it happen. Similar to the Cost Per Visit model, clients are only billed in full if the guaranteed goal is met, shifting the full responsibility of high performance to our GroundTruth team.