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xAd Builds A Better Geofence With Blueprints

Location accuracy demands specific physical boundaries around a business, not “circles.”

xAd's Blueprints focuses on physical boundaries, not vague circles drawn around a location.
xAd’s Blueprints focuses on physical boundaries, not vague circles drawn around a location.

Location marketplace xAd is updating the way it creates geofences with “Blueprints,” a data visualization tool that draws upon the exact physical boundaries of business locations instead of using the typical circular radius positioned in proximity to a street address.

By basing geofences on the actual outline — i.e., “the blueprint” — of a building’s outside structure, xAd is attempting to conquer several problems that plague location-based marketing. The paucity of high quality geo-data is one area Blueprints is meant to combat. The second area involves the development of attribution models around online-to-offline marketing.

In other words: xAd wants to be able to show it can deliver ads to specific audience segments around a brick-and-mortar retailer. Then, it wants to show that those ads not only reached the right consumer targets on their mobile devices, but that its marketing efforts spurred shoppers to go into an advertiser’s store.

xAd's George Rekouts
xAd’s George Rekouts

“Place data accuracy is paramount when using location data to define audiences, or even to use as a form of attribution,” said George Rekouts, xAd’s head of Technology Infrastructure, in a statement. “Knowing the actual physical area of a store can help make the crucial determination of a consumer who visited an actual store versus just passing by.”

Data Visualization Is Believing

For the past few years, xAd, along with its geomarketing peers such as YPFactual, NinthDecimal, Thinknear, PlaceIQ, Verve Mobile, and Placed, among others, have been working on managing the challenge of determining signal quality to smartphones. There are a variety of ways to pinpoint the location of a smartphone for geo-targeting and geo-data/analytics purposes.

Marketers and agencies don’t want to rely on vague, after-the-fact responses about geo-data quality and attribution models from their software partners. They want to know in real-time if a data point is emanating from an A-GPS (assisted global positioning) chip in a connected device, which is regarded as delivering the clearest signal about where an object happens to be in a given moment, or from wifi, which is widely deemed the second most accurate connection.

“Typically, companies use navigation and GPS data based on the street address to fence the business using a circle — like what you see when you’re using a map application,” an xAd rep said. “This is bad for two reasons. First, research reports indicate that many business locations are actually set back from the street — some as far as over 100 meters — more than the length of a football field, which indicates that many fences could be completely inaccurate – not covering any part of the brick and mortar location.”

For the most part, there is little companies like xAd can do about improving signal quality — that’s up to internet service providers to enhance the infrastructure of their connections.

Since every major company in the space has access to roughly the same sort of real-time data, xAd’s point of differentiation, in addition to its increasingly global reach, has been in how it presents clients with the data so that it can be understood by the least tech savvy marketer.

In that sense, xAd’s focus on data visualization — the packaging of data into digital displays and graphics in an aesthetically appealing, user-friendly manner, represents a major part of its practice. Last 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.

Footprints And Blueprints

Footprints shows real-time traffic to business locations. Anytime someone at a business location opens up one of the 30,000-plus apps in xAd’s platform, that creates an instant data point that xAd can see and visualize on Footprints in “near real-time,” according to a company spokesperson.

Blueprints is being positioned as the next step in that data visualization and presentation, said the xAd spokesperson. The Blueprints software is being baked into xAd’s complete marketing suite. In essence, the xAd rep said, “Blueprints is the technology that creates xAd’s place data, which underlies xAd’s marketplace. It’s the technology that automates the creation of our place data.”

Better Geofences Make Better Marketers

A standard geofence.
A standard geofence.

Appearance and clarity are at the heart of xAd’s Blueprints tool as the company aims to prove that it has the data to show ROI for location-based ad campaigns, which will ultimately lead to larger mobile ad spending.

From the media buyer’s perspective, before Blueprints technology, only one out of four media dollars spent to target audiences based on store visitation was actually reaching the right person, the xAd rep noted.

“This inaccuracy may be sufficient for marketers who are trying to reach people in the proximity of particular locations, however, it severely impacts the integrity of audience and/or attribution models that are built based on the places people visit and frequent,” the rep said.

As xAd prepares to open up Blueprints’ visual mapping program more widely, the company said that it has already covered 12 million brick and mortar business locations in the US.

Also, the algorithm is currently automating 70 percent of Blueprints’ place creation and corresponding updates in order to keep up with the over 130,000 new address listings and changes processed by the U.S. Postal Service on a daily basis.

This technology goes beyond standalone business locations as well, the company said, adding that xAd automatically processed in-store polygons (those different shaped boxes that are filled in with shades and raised objects to highlight particular places and structures, such as, in this case, individual retailers) for roughly 4,000 malls worldwide, including 1,900 in the US and 200 in the UK.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.