Placed, the location-based analytics company that made waves in June when it debuted its product for Android and later for iPhone developers, today announced that it would be adding mobile web monitoring tools to its platform. That means that anyone with a mobile website can use Placed’s API to check out where their visitors are when they’re browsing, adding another element to the typical picture provided by tools like Google Analytics which can doesn’t offer that level of specificity.
As with Placed’s mobile app-focused tools, website owners can see, for instance, when visitors are checking out their site near or in a Starbucks, while in transit or staying still, and how those patterns change depending on other factors like time of day. It’s a part of the picture that’s been largely missing, though cues like IP address can provide a much more general idea of where mobile traffic is coming from. Placed’s new tools can also extend to the desktop, though by default the product is only active for mobile versions of sites, and developers can choose to activate them for desktop users as well.
That’s good for a couple of reasons. First, users are more likely to be doing interesting things with regards to location when they’re on mobile. On the desktop, they’re likely stationary, and probably sitting in an office or at home. In those places, information like what fast food chains are nearby aren’t quite as interesting as it is when you’ve got a user who’s on the move, traveling or otherwise likely to actually take advantage of the businesses and locations nearby. Second, there’s the issue of privacy concerns, and user comfort levels with being asked for things like location information.
“People actually find a lot of websites today, and as things start to move to HTML5, are starting to actually request location information, so if you go to SFGate.com on an iPhone, it will ask for location permission,” Placed CEO David Shim explained in an interview. “Part of that is to tailor the content to you, and the other part is that businesses want to better understand where their audience is.” Shim points to examples like travel booking sites and weather sites as examples of websites that already frequently ask users for location permissions, and he believes that’s paving the way for more broadly asking for that kind of request in the future.
“I think it’s starting to become more of the norm, in terms of when a site actually does have a location component, people aren’t surprised when they see a request for location permission,” he said. Even so, companies hoping to gather these kinds of analytics might have to make very clear that their site uses location to offer them a benefit to make sure people opt-in to information sharing requests.
As with its other products, the new location data is also always anonymized, so it isn’t tied to anything that would reveal a user’s actual identity. Placed also hopes to alleviate battery life concerns by using the same kind of technology it employs in its app-focused solution to detect when a user has been at rest for a long period of time and stop collecting data around location, giving device power usage a considerable break.
Shim says that Placed will enable developers to do things like create targeted ad networks around certain website categories, so for instance they could find that travel apps are most often used in close proximity to Starbucks, making arranging a deal with ad inventory buyers at that chain easier.
So far, developers seem to be on board with what Placed promises. The startup has measured over one billion locations since its public beta debut in June 2012, and this new expansion of its program opens up a broad new audience of developers who are turning to the mobile web and HTML5 tech to give mobile visitors the app-style experience they’re looking for.