How Brands Can Resist The ‘Commodification’ Of Proximity Marketing Data

Marketers are having a tough time differentiating one location business services provider from another. Here’s ShopAdvisor’s plan to set itself apart from the pack.

The demand for the actionable location intelligence — from geofencing surrounding shops to managing indoor proximity and attribution — has never been greater. It’s also never been more difficult to sort out one location specialist from another.

While all major players are promising data that ties together the on-the-go mobile shopping experience with all the touchpoints that influences the purchase path, the proximity-based shopping guide ShopAdvisor has been working on broadening its point of differentiation.

Six months after purchasing attribution and in-store analytics platform Retailigence, ShopAdvisor has revamped its Product Intelligence, Context Intelligence and Shopper Intelligence offerings. It’s also unveiled updated to its appNET and its Retail Partner Program, “which extend the scope and value of the ShopAdvisor ecosystem for all participants — consumers, media/publishers, brands, retailers, agencies, and mall operators,” the Concord, MA.-based company says in a press release.

While the multiple changes might initially seem confusing, the solution its attempting to present to its clients promises to be simple: to make it more efficient to create and deliver targeted, personalized marketing messages in a store environment. Accompanying that is a promise to determine how well those efforts did the job.

“Proximity marketing has developed to a point where location awareness and basic shopper information has become a commodity,” said Jeff Papows, CEO ShopAdvisor. “Our customers are excited about the new version of our platform because it provides them with vastly deeper intelligence about shopper affinities that are contextually relevant based on shopper activity from our appNET partners and near real-time details on millions of products across hundreds of thousands retail locations… To date, this has been something the vast majority of proximity marketing campaigns have failed to deliver, but the success our customers are seeing indicates that we’ve solved this problem.”

We spoke with Papows this summer about the targeted deals company’s work on carving out its own role amid a wide array of partnerships, including a particularly notable one involving its intricate alliance with coupons marketplace RetailMeNot and beacon platform Swirl on behalf of Elle magazine advertisers, which helped drive half-a-million store visits to brands such as Vince Camuto and Levi’s.

GeoMarketing: Looking at the Elle magazine program, what was it that ShopAdvisor brought to the table along with those other companies? How do the product enhancements intended to strengthen your position in future proximity marketing efforts?

Jeff Papows: The Elle project was a clear and simple illustration of basically what ShopAdvisor does. What was missing, entirely missing from that success, was the product intelligence. We knew, for example, that somebody had a particular proclivity for women’s handbags in a particular price range and preferred Coach over something else. We got them to the store. We don’t know whether we got them to the right store that happened to have in inventory that particular handbag or that particular SKU in the right color, and size, and price point.

That’s why we bought Retailigence. You take our ability to instrument content, our analytics engine and our ability to gather signals and score your particular interest in a given product category and now we add to it product and proximity intelligence.

How does the process work when it comes to connecting a product to a person through proximity intelligence?

If you’re looking at Men’s Health on your phone, and we’re watching you over time, we can know that you have a preference for Nike over New Balance. We can also determine that you need a wide toe box and that you’re likely to want it in a particular color. Your price point is between $100 and $135 dollars. In the past, you walk through a mall and we’d send you an alert that says, “Hey those Nike running shoes you indicated an interest in this month are in the Athletic Attic around the corner 200 feet down the hall.”

Now we can say, “Hey those blue size eight and a half extra wide Nike cross trainers that you looked at are available in the Athletic Attic and they’re priced 15 percent below the national average.”

So we can be very, very specific. The more preference, context, location, and product intelligent we can deliver, the more effective we can be.

All major companies in this space are trying to address the “commodification” issue — the idea that all the data is basically the same. How does ShopAdvisor ultimately present what it does as different?

The difference between ShopAdvisor and the $52 billion worth of online advertising that’s in pop-ups and banner ads — at least 50 percent of which, I would argue, is useless — is we’re not sending people generic information. We’re sending people actionable information about specific interests that we gleaned and learned from over time when they’re in a place and a location and when there’s product inventory to support something that’s going to make efficient use of their time.

I’d say roughly 80 percent of shoppers today use their phone at one point in the product discovery or shopping experience. Whether it’s an in-store app or something in the way of a wish list. It’s obviously much more useful when people are out and about and in the real world. The reason for the partnership we struck this past spring with [venue attendee verification platform] Gravy partnership is that ShopAdvisor has millions of profiles on millions of people because they’ve downloaded the our app that we can then extend with other shopper data.

We have a larger number of profiles from people that don’t have the ShopAdvisor app, but are using an app in our partner network. It could be a news app, or a weather app, or an in-store loyalty program app. If I’m running a campaign for the Nike store to stick with that example, and it’s specifically in a New England region where lets say there’s 64 stores, my ability to deliver the maximum number of qualified purchases to that doorstep goes up dramatically the more mobile signals I’m collecting and monitoring. has twelve and a half million global IDs.

Whereas the Retailigence acquisition gave us real-time product intelligence, the Gravy partnership gives us “point-in-time” intelligence. Yes, I know that you’re size eight and a half. I know you want a style in blue with a wide toe box. And I know a Nike Cross Trainer that meets those needs is available.

Factor in that I know where you are at a pre-defined time in a pre-defined location, it all comes down to just adding to the layers of specificity, so that the odds of my telling you something that you really want to know, at a point in time where it’s really actionable, goes up by orders of magnitude. And that’s where we can offer a distinct advantage.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.