xAd Aims To Leave Larger ‘Footprints’ With New Funding
Can a $50 million investment help the geo-marketing specialist “pass” the beta test for its real-time analytics platform?
The first thing location-targeting provider xAd wants the marketers and agencies it works with to know is that it doesn’t really need outside investment. The company, which just completed a $50 million financing, says it has reached profitability and that its revenues have more than doubled since last year.
While it doesn’t reveal any dollar figures, xAd has certainly evolved since it raised $4 million in 2011, when it described itself as a mobile ad network with the ambition of being the “AdMob of local.”
These days, the New York-based company prefers to be viewed as a hyperlocal ad platform. It has struck high-profile partnerships with publisher-facing programmatic player PubMatic to advance its profile as a provider of real-time, geo-marketing ad placement and analytics.
In another sign of xAd staking out a wider berth in the analytics space, the company has just appointed Magid Abraham, the co-founder and executive chairman of online audience measurement provider comScore. Abraham will advise xAd as it continues to develop its location data-driven product offerings, including Footprints.
Having solidified its expertise with geo-fencing around retail locations, this past spring, the company unveiled its Footprints data tool, which features a digital display clients can access to view blips on a map showing smartphone activity at any given moment.
Currently, Footprints is designed to provide real-time data on consumers’ mobile visits at more than 14 million businesses. In part, that $50 million funding is intended to support the engineering and marketing needed to grow xAd’s Footprint, literally and figuratively. We spoke with Monica Ho, xAd’s SVP of Marketing, about the company’s moves to indoor analytics and targeting.
GeoMarketing: How does xAd plan to use the proceeds from the $50 million funding?
Monica Ho: We have enough self-generated profit to fuel our expansion and product leadership. As a result, we don’t have any immediate plans for the recent funding. However, we’re continually evaluating strategic acquisitions that have potential to further strengthen our market leadership and global scale.
Looking at this funding, as well as some of the other investments that have been announced in the space recently, does the $50 million amount say something in particular about the value of xAd? Or does it reflect the attraction of geo-marketing to investors and advertisers more generally?
IVP [Institutional Venture Partners, one of the investors in this round] is a focused, later-stage venture firm. They only invest in about 10 companies per year and are known for backing leading hyper-growth mobile companies such as Dropbox, Twitter, Shazam, Soundcloud, and Snapchat. We went through a rigorous vetting process in which they deeply evaluated our entire business, as well as our competitors.
We feel the partnership is a telling validation of what xAd has been able to achieve over the last few years and really speaks to the future potential of not only our company but location-based advertising in general.
What is Footprints and what is its value proposition to retailers and brands? My general sense is that xAd has been expert at advertising to consumers within a certain radius near a store; is this the first xAd product to go inside the store?
Yes. What we are essentially doing is allowing advertisers to take advantage of ad requests that we can confirm are coming from inside one of the 14 million businesses we are tracking in real-time.
How does it work? Is it an opt-in panel-based product like Placed’s mobile app? Or does it rely on signals from in-store digital tools like beacons to be aware of activity from smartphones and connected devices?
This is all based on real-time ad requests that are coming through our system that we have one, verified for location accuracy and two, defined the request as coming from within a place of business we are tracking via our Footprints platform.
How do you see the value of Footprint to marketers?
That’s the beauty of this product. The marketers automatically see the value themselves as we are visualizing real-time place-based behaviors as they are happening.
In every marketer meeting where we have shown this, brands immediately start throwing ideas around on how they would like to use it. Some want to capitalize on their own traffic in-store, while others are interested in traffic that can be seen and utilized around competitive locations or other points of interest. For instance, we were talking to a [consumer packaged goods] brand about the behaviors we can now see via the platform, and they asked us to use this data to serve their toothpaste ads to users who were at dentist offices.
Is this designed to be a Beacon-killer? Or is it a Beacon-booster?
This is something complimentary to beacons…as again, we are only visualizing ad requests that are happening in a store. Footprints will not be able to tell a marketer where in the store the user was exactly when the ad request was sent. We also have to remember that the ad request is using GPS data — typically, from the device — so we cannot get as granular as a beacon in terms of targeting.
How do you see the value of Beacons as the location-based ad space grows?
We are excited about beacon technology. However, we do not think there is scale there yet.
Where does Footprints fit in with the overall xAd product suite? Does Footprints complement products like SmartLocation, SmartAudiences, SmartFencing, and Real-World Retargeting? Does it primarily work with the In-Store Traffic Lift product more than the others? Does it replace In-Store Traffic Lift? Or does it work as a stand-alone?
It is a stand-alone product that provides two things. First, it brings the power of online marketing to the physical world through its ability to show real-world visitation behaviors as they are happening in real-time. Secondly, it provides a specific product that allows marketers to take advantage of a user while they are in the store. A future offering will be our ability to then retarget off of this behavior.
What are the chief ways you see Footprints being used? Do you see it as an integral part of every xAd client’s marketing program? Or do you see it as specialized?
We would love to see every client who is interested in driving in-store foot traffic and sales to eventually utilize Footprints to make more informed location-based ad buys.
What does the xAd product roadmap look like for the rest of the year? Is there an extensive list to come? Or one or two more special items?
We do have future releases planned for Footprints in order to get this platform ready for full roll-out release. We are also continuing to develop products that accommodate more programmatic buying.