Skyhook’s ‘Contextual’ Tool Exits Beta, Emphasizes Wi-Fi’s Primacy

The geo-location targeter aims to become a fixture within advertisers’ tech stack — and on consumers’ smartphones.

Skyhook's Mike Schneider
Skyhook’s Mike Schneider

Generally speaking, there are two main location-based ad targeting concepts weaving through the mainstream digital marketing world — Bluetooth beacons and cell phone tower signals. Yet Skyhook Wireless, which has been in the business of geo-data for over a decade, believes its primary focus on using wi-fi will lead the way.

The first trend involves wider adoption of beacons, which allow marketers to communicate over low-battery Bluetooth frequencies directly with consumers’ smartphones while in a store. The second trend involves the increased use of cell tower and satellite connections to draw geo-fences around specific businesses and areas to send advertising to people based on their general proximity.

After an unspecified period of beta testing, Skyhook has officially rolled out its Context Accelerator software, which builds on the Boston-based tech company’s collection of location data with “active contextual information” to let brands deliver targeted messages to mobile users.

“We’re offering marketers, agencies, publishers, ad networks, and others an added contextual layer for apps and devices,” says Mike Schneider, Skyhook’s VP of Marketing. “Context Accelerator can slide into any tech and data stack very easily and give customers the ability to create fuller geo-fence-based personas.”

Tracing Anonymous Patterns

In other words, the picture Skyhook’s Context Accelerator can provide contains fuller demographic profiles of consumers — anonymously, Schneider hastens to add — based on the patterns created by the activities in a given location.

“We’ve got a dashboard that clients can use to visualize traffic, and personas that can be used to manage a campaign and create geo-fences,” Schneider says. “The thing that we’ve noticed is that users are more and more demanding of relevancy when it comes to responding to a marketing message. Context Accelerator is how we’re trying to meet that demand.”

The Wi-Fi Way

While consumers may be more receptive to marketing that meets a specific need at a specific time, advertisers are more interested in the quality of the data that serves the ads to a geo-targeted audience.

The most reliable method of extracting precise location is with the A-GPS (assisted global positioning) chip in a connected device. A wi-fi signal is second strongest — but since most people use networks at home or work, as opposed to walking or driving near a retailer, location analytics companies like Thinknear argue that it’s not terribly effective.

Skyhook’s Schneider agrees — to an extent. While wi-fi signals are the main way the company targets consumers, it is also able to incorporate GPS and cell tower signals The wi-fi signal’s primacy for Skyhook comes from the fact that it requires a consumer to opt-in and accept a connection. By doing so, it also suggests openness to receiving a message, which is a promise that more general signals, like GPS or cell phone towers, can’t deliver.

“Skyhook’s founders noticed that in the early days of wi-fi, when they would be out in the world and connect to networks, there were multiple access points that would try to hit their phones and their computers,” Schneider says. “Fast, accurate, battery-friendly location is the root of this company. And that’s what wi-fi represents. It’s first-party data and it’s respectful of users’ privacy, plain and simple.”

Assembling The Dashboard

The Context Accelerator platform is made up of three features. The central element is called Infinite Geofences, which can set up a targeting perimeter around any number of brand locations or 2000+ venue categories in real-time. It includes Personas, which gathers anonymous views of users’ real-world behaviors and demographics profiles; and Apps, which allows advertisers and publishers to tap the Personas’ function in order to deliver the most engaging message to users’ smartphones.

Rounding out Context Accelerator is the Hyperlocal IP feature, which positions ads based on IP addresses, and My.Skyhook, a dashboard for building, managing and analyzing campaigns.

As for capitalizing on the current beacon craze, Skyhook is also ready to play up its CardStar loyalty/rewards offering. Though Schneider doesn’t provide specifics about CardStar yet, except to say it’s been “used by millions of consumers to easily store and use their loyalty cards on their phones.”

CardStar is now integrated into Context Accelerator’s SDK and has just received a redesign that automatically posts users’ loyalty cards based on their location. The update has improved user engagement metrics, Schneider says, claiming that, on average, the rewards app has resulted in a 2x lift in average session length, 57% growth in daily active users and 79% growth in sessions per day.

“The next level of differentiation for apps is knowing where their users are and matching the experience they desire to have at that specific place and time,” Schneider says. “Context Accelerator powers that location-based intelligence and actionability. For instance, when the application is in in-store mode, finding product sales and paying is easier. And when the app is in at-home mode, it can be geared toward making lists, e-commerce or browsing. It covers all the bases that marketers need.”

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.