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Leveraging POS Data and Location-Based Targeting for Mobile Advertising Success


By: Chen Wang

Mobile is not only becoming a prevalent mechanism for media consumption; it is also disrupting the advertising industry. Traditionally, mobile data was subject to cookie tracking, which has long dominated the digital media measurement/targeting ecosystem. Yet, cookie tracking as it is applied to mobile has come under scrutiny and been found wanting.

The most obvious issue is that neither iOS nor Android apps are cookie based. Furthermore, iOS does not even allow browser cookies. In the past, cookies were used for audience targeting in the digital displace space – if you wanted to activate a specific audience segment, you could do so by finding computer cookies associated with that segment. The lack of cookies in mobile renders this practice null and void; the sophisticated audience targeting tools used for web targeting cannot be leveraged in the mobile world.

But this isn’t news – the failure of traditional targeting practices in mobile is a well-known issue, and with billions of media dollars being reallocated to mobile, various stakeholders have started to address the problem. Almost all attempts to overcome this challenge have focused on creating a cookie-like mechanism to identify the users in scenarios when cookies cannot be dropped (such as wifi or statistical modeling). These attempts are quite laudable, but a clean, convincing solution has yet to be found. As mobile media spending grows, media practitioners cannot afford to simply wait for the industry to develop a workable ID-based targeting schema.

The bad news is that a solution is probably years away; the good news is that we’re not as helpless as it seems. If we dig a little deeper into our existing arsenal, we’ll find an established targeting mechanism that not only has mobile at its core, but is also already familiar: geo targeting.

In a nutshell, geo targeting allows advertisers to target users based on location, which, incidentally, is a cookie-free approach to targeting. When combined with POS data, this approach is well-suited for CPG. Combining geo targeting with POS data allows advertisers to target mobile devices at locations that have higher potential to generate sales. While the targeting precision is slightly less accurate than data based on activation at the cookie level, geo targeting remains a viable ID targeting solution at the user level. Plus, this approach can be implemented immediately to target selected geo locations via purchase data. Until the mobile industry develops a more comprehensive system, geo targeting combined with POS data is our most viable opportunity for success.  

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