Venture Investing in Digital Media and Big Data

Don’t call it a “geofence.” UberMedia introduces the “Optimal GeoSpace”

“UberMedia has launched what it calls the “Optimal GeoSpace,” a dynamic targeting zone that changes by location, time of day and retail category. The company says it developed the approach to fight against the blunt, “one size fits all” approach of conventional geofences.

Several years ago, xAd introduced what it called SmartFencing, which is conceptually similar.

UberMedia’s Optimal GeoSpace was developed from a internal product used to help retailers make real estate site decisions. The collected data reflect consumer shopping foot-traffic patterns and retail “trade areas,” according to Michael Hayes, UberMedia’s CMO. The methodology was then translated into an advertising and offline attribution product. “We look at shopping patterns throughout the day to determine the optimal shopping area for each location,” he explained.

UberMedia says it’s analyzing “billions of high-quality location data points over a period of time” to define these Optimal GeoSpaces, which are then algorithmically adjusted based on actual consumer behavior. The analysis also factors in “where visitors likely live and/or work, and path-to-purchase data evaluates where store visitors were in the hours prior to arriving at a location.”

As indicated in the images above, the geospaces may change for the same location throughout the day or may be very different for the same retailer at different locations depending on consumer foot traffic.

I spoke with UberMedia’s Hayes at length about the efficacy of real-time location targeting vs. using location history and real-world behavior to define audiences for subsequent ad targeting. The example I discussed with him, among others, is one originally presented by David Staas of NinthDecimal: “Is the best time to target a golfer on the golf course?” The answer there is probably not.

While campaign-specific, Hayes agreed that much of the time marketers are not going to want to reach most mobile consumers in real time. The now-cliche Starbucks coupon example is unlikely to prompt me to change my behavior in the moment (I’m busy), though it might get me to come back later. However, well-timed campaigns and promotions that generate awareness — for example, xAd’s free Slurpee day ads or a pre-lunch promotion for Chipotle — can change what might be called “near-time” behavior. An in-venue promotion at a concert or sporting event, for example, might also prompt near real-time action.

Despite the varied scenarios, marketers tend to think about location and geofencing in terms of direct response in almost every case. Yet geofencing may actually be a more powerful branding and awareness tool. Regardless, a much more nuanced approach is required to make the most of the increasingly sophisticated location analytics and targeting capabilities that companies such as UberMedia are rolling out.”