Big Data, Big Ideas: Verve Execs Forecast Location’s Impact On ‘Smart Packaging,’ Connected Cars, Beacons

"CMOs should be focusing on partnerships that emphasize first-party, clean and protected third-party, and even second-party data," says Verve CMO Julie Bernard.

Mobile marketing is continuing to evolve as connected cars, wearables, smart home devices, use consumers’ cell phones as a primary touchpoint linking data, content, and commerce across platforms,

Location ad platform Verve has produced a report called Big Ideas that explores the changes coming to mobile marketing in 2018 from the perspective of company executives who focus on those distinct tech disciplines and topics for brands and publishers. The report serves as a collection of capsule insights from CEO Tom Kenney, CRO Kevin Arrix, Marketing VP Rachel Pasqua, VP Creative Director Walter Geer III, CTO Brian Crook, CMO Julie Bernard, and VP Beacons/IoT/Indoor Activation Brian Dunphy, among others.

We followed up with Crook, Bernard, and Dunphy to get their takes on their respective areas of focus:

On Connected Experiences: Brian Crook

GeoMarketing:What does a $19.8 billion smart packaging sector figure represent?

Brian Crook: What we’re seeing is the smart-packaging sector on course to some very positive growth: QR codes, NFC smart labels, tags in the on-shelf packaging that can communicate with the mobile device and create meaningful in-store and product experiences for consumers. We also shouldn’t overlook the in-home potential: the conversation continues in whatever setting the customer uses the product. Net effect, these technologies are forecast to create a sector valued at nearly $20B by 2021.

In terms of smart products powered by location, is this something that will be limited to a specific set of products (media players focused on entertainment or things around the house: “smart lights,” thermostats, coffeemakers).

Technology developers are definitely going to push the limits. Yes, it’s already started with lights and screens and thermostats — and we know that the smart-speaker race is underway. It’s very likely that additional products that shape our lifestyles will become part of this conversation, too. Think about the potential of connected bicycles, connected sneakers, connected cookware — every item that can generate a useful and data-driven contextualized experience. We’re just getting started with smart products.

What are the current things marketers should be thinking about in terms of how the role of mobile will change?

Emerging interfaces are going to play an increasingly important role in the mobile conversation. Historically, we’re used to only a select range of user experiences. As far as what consumers see and hear when they interact with brands on mobile, these have been on-screen events. Now, we’re looking at voice as an incoming approach to addressing consumers in their digital lives. We know that AR and VR are around the corner, too. Mobile, in a sense, is breaking out of the confines of the screen and becoming mobile in the sense that the device is a hub for meaningful experiences in any space that the consumer inhabits.

How will the Connected Car alter the way consumers buy and discover products?

In small steps, at first. It’s a sensitive environment. For obvious reasons, we want to be very, very conscious about how much attention can we reasonably demand from drivers. But we can think more expansively about passengers — and we can imagine a wide range of experiences that motivate in-car consumers when the vehicle is not in motion, when it’s not in drive. As we’re seeing with voice, the way we define roles for marketers is going to expand to encompass these spaces: brands and marketers will eventually have voice marketers on their teams, for example, and they’ll potentially have specialized in-auto marketers too.

We’ve discussed the privacy concerns consumers have with location services data being accessed. How can brands be clear about the value associated with sharing location offers? Is it all about opt-in to sharing, or are there ways to craft location sharing controls that will ease consumers’ minds?

Every single mobile experience that a brand creates should demonstrate the value of the data granted. That means the delivered experience has to surprise, it has to anticipate the next great idea for the consumer, and it has to inspire on some level. The central idea is always that location sharing leads to positive outcomes. In addition to clear data disclosure and consent, we have to prove that we own our part of the script with every interaction. Brands and marketers are never off the hook on this point.

On Data Partnerships: Julie Bernard

In terms of that 60 percent of publishers working with a single third-party data partner, what are the most typical examples? Is it publishers working from a private marketplace or is it through some other general portal that can sift through the various DSPs, DMPs, and agency trading desks?

Julie Bernard: Just a short time ago, everybody wanted to scale their third-party partnerships from a single relationship to many partners. Now, however, we’ve learned a lot about RTB and the open exchange. Sadly, that push for scale fueled a race to the bottom when it came to third-party data. Happily, the drive for scale alone is being replaced by a drive for selective, verifiable, premium-quality data. So, yes, we’re going to see more and more emphasis on private marketplaces and private marketplace guaranteed (in which publishers and advertisers connect early-on with a higher degree of certainty). It’s very good for the industry to be turning to these models.

What should CMOs be thinking about when it comes to managing and refining the investments they have in mar tech and ad tech partners?

CMOs should be focusing on partnerships that emphasize first-party, clean and protected third-party, and even second-party data — meaning data that publishers share with advertisers (which is on the rise, according to recent reports). When we focus on data quality, it affords us the opportunity to responsibly match varying first-party data assets — first-party location and device data with first-party CRM data, for example — to best understand consumer needs for relevant activation across both owned and paid properties.

I recall some years ago that Oath CEO Tim Armstrong — then head of AOL — talked about a “tech tax” on publishers from all the various platform players in between them and ad buyers. What’s your take on where things stand for publishers who need platforms yet would like to cut down on splitting so many programmatic ad dollars?

Publishers — and advertisers, for that matter — do need partners that can help them deliver premium content to desired audiences, and that does take technology — platforms — but if the partner isn’t focusing on a premium, first-party data-forward approach, then publishers (and, again, advertisers) could really be spending their budgets in a better way for better outcomes. Reduce the number of partners; focus on the partnerships that deliver on data you can trust.

Can more than 60 percent of publishers realistically expect to get to “one single data partner” in this day and age?

Getting closer to the single-partner model is the wiser direction — even if we know that some “single” partner models aggregate data from numerous sources. The strategy is still the same: pick premium partners and get out of the RTB/open-exchange morass. Again, selectivity: I can’t say it enough.

In terms of publishers’ tech investments in 2018, what do you expect will attract sellers’ interests?

Publishers and advertisers want out of the rough waters that RTB represents. They’re looking for ways to get back to the publisher–advertiser direct relationship, and whatever helps them do that is the technology that will prove attractive.

Redefining Beacons: Brian Dunphy, VP Beacons/IOT/Indoor Activation, Verve

How might beacons be “redefined?”

Brian Dunphy: The redefinition of beacons happens as we add data collection and science to the in-store mission. When we do this, the beacon becomes a tool not just for the advertiser in the old sense of prompting an experience on a nearby mobile device — it’s now a measurement and metric powerhouse that can tell us at granular levels what consumers are doing within the physical-retail space.

What was Beacon 1.0 and what does Beacon 2.0 look like?

The challenges the industry ran into with the Beacon 1.0 phase was that marketers used beacons to trigger messaging and engagement with mobile users pervasively and they overwhelmed people with notifications before truly analyzing the visit-data and segmenting users into different audiences, aligning them with context. Sophisticated marketers have now evolved to using Beacon 2.0 as an insights and measurement tool for precisely monitoring visits to a store, department, or product display and then understanding the audience segments that are visiting at different times and frequencies. These marketers are gaining powerful insights based on visit data. It’s being used in a variety of ways, now, including measuring the success of digital marketing campaigns, retargeting for future campaigns, evaluating visit patterns with other data sets to understand operational efficiencies, and providing more personalized real-time engagement based on insights into specific customers.

How will beacons, which were typically positioned as a proximity marketing tool to send one-way messages via notifications about sales at the shelf to consumers, become a “data collection powerhouse?”

Beacons always provided rich data insights about user visits to indoor locations, but marketers are now applying more data science and analytics to the process. They’re combining them with other data sets to provide a more holistic view of the shopper journey experience, both in and out of stores. A retailer can put a beacon together with an SDK-powered mobile app, and, if they’ve got the right consumer permissions in place (which must always be the case), then they can combine consumer data that includes names, physical and e-mail addresses, birthdays, brand preferences, social-network information — asking the question, is this consumer a significant influencer? — and demographic details. Those are some of the possibilities. The bottom line is, beacons bring the whole customer picture into focus, and then they drive smarter, better, more meaningful strategies around the experiences retail can offer.

What does a typical use case and consumer look like in terms of the new approach beacons might take?

The use case is first and foremost a completely ethical and reliable approach to capturing in-store customer behavior — this is thanks to all the opt-in details you just highlighted. The details of use cases are deeply connected to understanding what happens in the store: in-aisle behaviors, dwell time, foot traffic, the chronology of visit patterns. If you’ve got beacons, you’re able to measure these things. And the hardware is changing, too. We used to deploy beacons as stick-on and plug-in standalone units but now we’re in the era of beacons arriving in basic store hardware — inside the light bulbs that stores need to deploy anyway, for example. As far as examples of how we have recently been working with brand marketers, one is that we’ve provided campaign attribution for mobile advertising — measuring incremental visits to product areas and comparing that data to metrics that show which consumers were exposed to mobile ads. Another example: we are working with fast-casual dining establishments to help them identify and segment mobile users based on frequency of dine-in visits, take-out visits, the frequency of non-customers who frequently walk past restaurants, and we’re looking for non-customers who frequently drive past restaurants as well. By understanding these four audience segments the restaurant chain can engage these users differently — creating incentives for them to come in or to come back based on what the data tell us about the users’ context.

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.