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xAd CEO Dipanshu Sharma: Location Has Become A Utility

At xAd's On Location, Sharma discussed the launch of GeoBlocks — and why location should be the core component of, well, everything.

At its On Location event last week, xAd rolled out GeoBlocks, a neighborhood-level targeting tool that aims to show businesses exactly where their customers are coming from on a block-by-block basis — and then target them accordingly.

GeoBlocks uses store visitation data to paint a more complete picture of where certain consumers reside, and it isn’t always within the zip codes a brand expects based on demographics. In one example from the xAd event, an upscale grocery store had identified key geographic areas to target based on income, but GeoBlocks revealed that a bulk of its customers came from a lower-income zip code several miles away. Why? That zip code represented a college campus, where college students who didn’t make as much money themselves were shopping with their parents’ credit cards.

Essentially, GeoBlocks “enables brands and marketers to garner substantial insight on their consumer, as well as enabling efficient audience targeting,” xAd said in a statement. “Marketers no longer have to guess how consumers from different areas of a city visit and interact with their store.”

After the event, we talked with xAd CEO Dipanshu Sharma to learn more about GeoBlocks — and why he believes location has become a utility.

GeoMarketing: Tell me a little bit more about the launch of GeoBlocks. What will this technology allow marketers to do that they couldn’t before?

Dipanshu Sharma: Here’s the way we look at ad performance driven from location: If you’re targeting people near a business — which we call the proximity product — that is actually the lowest performing method. I can say that I want to target people near a BMW dealership, but a lot of them are just driving back and forth on the freeway with no intention of going in the dealership. They’re just going about their daily life.

The best performing is actually location-based audience, which is if you went into a BMW dealership and I re-target you because I know you went there [but didn’t] buy a car.

So there is a spectrum. In the middle is GeoBlocks, which is determining if you went to BMW dealership and then extrapolating from that which neighborhoods people that can buy a BMW tend to live in.

Our tests have shown us that this method is over three times better performing than just proximity targeting. But its strength, actually, is that it is able to provide scale while not diminishing quality as it relates to proximity. I think marketers will be very excited about it.

The biggest complaint you get about location is that “location” means no scale; if it’s hyperlocal, how are you going to get scale? I think we’re trying to solve for that, and it’s the first time anybody has done it.

In your opening remarks today, you said that location has essentially become a utility, like internet or electricity. Can you expand upon that statement? Why is location technology like this such a necessity?

I do think of location as a utility, and we don’t even know how much more it is going to do for us.

One example I would give is that if I am looking at the phone and reading news, why is it not giving me results by where I am? Everything should have location as its core component, and I think in the future it will be very critical. I think what PokemonGo did was really bring location and mobile to the center of everything.

It’s always been “location, location, location,” but finally our location is being transmitted back, and not just one way. I do think that location will be a big way to improve content and the user experience — if you’re actually at a car dealership, you should be getting something that says, “hey, here are offers from nearby car dealerships,” and you can just go shop around.

It’s all about driving that relevancy.

Exactly. There is a lot of relevancy that is not being used, but it will all happen in our lifetimes.