September 28, 2009
Shopping Meet Location, Location Meet Shopping
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Shopping Meet Location, Location Meet Shopping

By Susan Smith

Shopping is just one of the areas that the company 1020 Inc. hopes to revolutionize, capitalizing on the wealth of location information existing in the world of mobile phones. Founded in 2005 by Anne Bezancon, the location based ad network and online company has zeroed in on the advertising and marketing market.

“We started the company out of my passion for mapping and in an attempt to deliver location information in a way that was useful to people,” explained Bezancon in an interview. “It turned pretty quickly into building a platform called Placecast which really makes use of location information in order to deliver more relevant content to end users. The first embodiment is advertising and marketing. Location based marketing is the holy grail that marketers have been talking about for many years. We are starting research with this program and a new service in cooperation with Alcatel research which will enable marketers to enter relationships with their customers in a way
that is going to be a lot more efficient and more useful.”

Prior to forming 1020 Inc., Bezancon was working with WiFi where she discovered the power of positioning and what could be done once you knew where a user was connecting from. “Prior to that I was involved in various online startups and have been online for the last 20 years.”

The technology 1020 Placecast uses is “entirely proprietary,” built by the company from the ground up and is mostly open source. “It is very flexible in terms of integration,” said Bezancon. “We have a number of current customers with whom we have integrated into their own system.”

1020 Placecast is working with several hundred data providers; some of which are public sources and some commercial like Prism (segmentation of demographics) from Claritas.

As yet the company is not using crowd sourcing data, but since they can consume any type of data, it will be part of the future. “We can consume information from retail marketers who are giving us all their retail locations for example, so we really run the gamut of consuming data,” said Bezancon. “We can work with GPS fixed data coming from the device, and on the other end of the spectrum we can consume on a website a ZIP code that a user would enter or a barcode so we can understand location in all these different semantic expressions.”

Just recently, 1020 Inc launched the “Alert Shopper” research program which involves a survey by Harris Interactive combined with consumer interviews conducted by 1020 staff. The plan is to learn how consumers use their mobile phones and what they would like to have on their mobile devices.

According to press materials, as the research progresses, three clients—a specialty apparel retailer, an outdoor products retailer and a restaurant chain—will launch ad campaigns with 1020’s soon-to-be-debuted Shop Alerts program. This style of campaign will locate consumers visiting the sites within the network using various technologies—including the ZIP code and other data entered into sites, cell-tower triangulation, smartphone GPS, Wi-Fi hotspot location, and other means. Consumers can be pinpointed within what the company calls a “geo-fence,” a small or large geographic location, based on an advertiser’s needs.

A consumer that has signed up for a retailer’s Shop Alerts program may enter a geo-fence, then will receive a marketing text message from the retailer with store location information or a click-to-call store phone number, or an “ad creative that includes references to the neighborhood or city.” Those with Internet access can click on a hyperlink to send them to a page that will have an online display ad containing location-based material.

Alcatel-Lucent hosts the location based service for 1020 Placecast, leveraging its Geographic Messaging Services Platform (GMSP) as hosted service, tracks the location of subscribers who have asked for the service (“opt-in” subscribers) on behalf of the service provider and sends mobile content to the subscriber “when and where appropriate” based on the ad campaign that has been developed and managed by the 1020 Placecast platform.

The data coming to Placecast is owned by their respective owners. Bezancon said they have many requests to license data for reuse elsewhere. More importantly, she said, “We are creating our own data out of the aggregation of the data as it comes to us. It is raw data and we are transforming it into usable data for a lot of different purposes. Part of that proprietary platform is also that know-how about creating new data.”

Once created in their format, the data is used to “fuel” the Placecast engine. “So for example, when you want to target an ad to a particular geographic area, be it mobile or on the web, because our technology works across all platforms, you are going to consume an input of location that is going to express in latitude/longitude or express as an address which is going to be parsed and understood, or it’s going to be an airport code that will have to be defined as well as what big city it’s close to,” Bezancon explained. “So there is a whole aspect of what we do which is consuming location information and matching it to what it represents, and
then returning it to that particular user who is looking at the website, maybe looking for a property in San Francisco in a particularly affluent area. We will understand from that input to return an ad for a BMW rather than an ad for a MacDonald’s.”

Bezancon describes their business as a “technology licensing business” as well as a media business. They have their own sales force and sell directly to marketers who use the platform to distribute their messages more effectively. Among the marketers/customers are FedEx, Avis, Microsoft, with all sorts of brands to specific target audiences. The network service can support millions of subscribers, according to the company.

If customers buy advertising, it is sold by campaign and the campaign is a limited duration effort to communicate a particular message. An example, is if you have a company like Target who is publishing all the information about the back to school items they want to sell, that campaign is going to last for a few weeks, and is finite in time. “There’s a certain amount of money that they’re going to spend to reach the projected number of people.” In advertising, the unit is impressions which is one occurrence of looking at the map by one person. “That’s the currency that advertising has bought – the number of impressions of a particular
message,” Bezancon said.

On the marketing side, however, marketers want to maintain a relationship with customers that they’ve already built, so Placecast is used as a communication tool to customers. “In that case, it’s much more of a program that goes on for a long time, much like you have an email customer relationship management system that you would use to communicate with your customers. So we do both.”

Information about location is gathered from a number of different partners, so that the location of the user is aggregated to provide the marketer with an accurate piece of information. Marketers have their own business relationship with carriers, like Verizon who have access to the location of the devices that are used by their subscribers, and location information is aggregated from this source.

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.

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