Verve Builds A Bigger Geo-Fence With iBeacon Tools

The mobile ad-targeter presents locals with a seamless solution for the creative development, targeting, and distributing of smartphone ads and offers.

Verve Mobile CRO James Smith
Verve Mobile CRO James Smith

Instead of building its own virtual wallet in the hopes that consumers will download (and actually use) an app to collect special offers and coupons from local businesses, location-based ad targeter Verve Mobile is expecting to give clients’ a lift by connecting in-store Beacon wireless technology with the iPhone’s existing iOS receipts storage holder, Passbook.

In essence, Verve, which claims a reach of 50 million mobile monthly uniques US, is going to invite users to save the custom, geo-targeted ads it creates for the small-to-medium-sized businesses with Passbook, the wallet app that comes embedded in all iPhones.

Sending Out A Beacon

The ads and offers Verve sends to users’ Passbook is triggered via a Beacon, a small device a business plugs into a wall or countertop that sends messages via Bluetooth connections directly to a smartphone or tablet. By integrating its ad targeting software with Passbook and Apple’s iBeacon technology (which allows in-store Beacons to send messages to Bluetooth-enabled iPhones and iPads) Verve ceates a convenient place for consumers to find and keep offers from their favorite shops.

Bringing its ad targeting systems together with Apple’s services is intended to give Verve’s custom creative work a solid, accessible home on shoppers’ portable devices. The move also serves to advance its own targeting abilities, which are largely based on the standard geo-fencing strategies of using longitudinal and latitude to create a virtual perimeter around a store’s location. This technology enables Verve to zap users phones with marketing messages — a technique tha relies more on a scattershot approach than actual targeting of potential shoppers, notes Verve CRO James Smith.

“The premise is that since we have all this data about store locations and consumers, we can specifically and reliably target shoppers around specific retailers selling a particular product,” Smith says. “It’s the Holy Grail for advertisers: being able to target the right people and being able to prove it. But you can only do that if the location is smart enough, and if the integration and creative is good enough to activate the offer. And that what connecting Passbook and iBeacon to our targeting platform allows us to do.”

Breaking Past the Geo-Fence

The classic example of location-based marketing is to build a 100-meter geo-fence around a retailer and its competitors. For example, an automaker looking to push people who are in-market for a car into a local dealership will also build a geo-fence around its competitors’ lots in an effort to capture more shoppers. They will then retarget both sets of consumers with ads for 30 days on the off chance that they’re still car shopping.

The problem with geo-fencing is its imprecision, Its so-called “targets” could be random people who just so happen to be within 100-feet of a showroom, as opposed to actual targets: the people going inside the dealerships’ doors.

The Beacon ensures that people inside a business are being counted by dint of the low-energy Bluetooth signal, which stops at store’s entrances and exits. Meanwhile, the Passbook app verifies that shoppers are interested because they have to actively opt-in to accept or reject a message.

“The ultimate value of tying all these technologies together in one package is that we have our location data, which tells us where people have been, and we can then combine it with audience data from consumers picking up the Bluetooth signal of the iBeacon on their devices,” Smith says. “From there, we can pull third-party demographic data to develop consumer profiles and match them to households to help craft a more personalized ad and message.”

The company’s ads for Passbook and iBeacon was first rolled out in February through its Verve Local Merchant Offers program, which clients can use to access its wider creative and targeting tools. Verve doesn’t have a dedicated salesforce that goes to the local dry cleaners or auto dealers, for instance; instead it relies on reps around the country to sell the service to businesses in their respective areas.

The next phase in Verve’s attempt to develop a seamless ad targeting, distribution and creative business for its local ads is to bring what it learns from the Apple experience to Google Android-powered smartphones and tablets. Given the wide range of Android device-types from makers such as Samsung, Motorola, HTC and others, the Google Wallet launch could take some time, Smith concedes.

“The Google Android world is a much more fragmented one than iOS, but we’ll figure it out,” Smith says.

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.