Today Seattle-based location-based analytics service Placed announced the launch of Placed Panels, a new free service that helps businesses understand where their customers go in the physical world, so they can understand their buying behavior. Placed, which launched its Placed Analytics software development kit (SDK) for Android developers in June, aims to help developers understand where their customers are using their apps so they can better tailor features and cater to advertisers. The company has measured over five billion locations to date.
Placed helps developers understand if users constantly use their apps while in transit, or while sitting in a coffee shop, and how users’ patterns change based on the time of day or place they open the app. The idea is that developers could then personalize deals based on their location, deliver specialized content, and optimize their apps and website. The company added the ability to track mobile websites in August, allowing companies to track when and where users are browsing their website on the go.
Today’s Placed Panels product is a market research offering that lets businesses track the location behavior of opted-in-panelists. Companies can sign up panelists on a branded signup page on Placed.com, and then segment customers. For example Starbucks could break customers up into segments based on how often they purchase products, either daily, monthly, or once in a while. To start tracking panelists’ location, panelists install the co-branded Panels app for iOS or Android. The app tracks panelists’ location in the background and compiles that data into daily reports, for example showing marketers that people who made a purchase at their location also frequented another local business in the same day.
Founder David Shim said Placed Panels is a response to marketers wanting to know data on a user’s location beyond just when they’re interacting with their app. “That’s the driving force around the launch of Placed Panels, is being able to quantify the physical world on a more consistent basis,” Shim said in an interview.
Shim said the new product is targeted at market researchers, publishers, and brands. To encourage people to participate in panels, creators also have the option to offer incentives or rewards, for example offering an in-store discount or a gift card. “They can actually segment those users, shoot them an email and say ‘hey, we want you to install this application and go about your day as you normally would, no impact at all, and we’ll measure your location in the background, and in exchange for that data we’re going to give you this incentive.'”
Right now every panel has to be tied to a company, there are no general Placed Panels that companies can tap into to see which businesses the average consumer visits in their day. Eventually Shim said they will be introducing indexes, so marketers can see whether their customers’ behavior is normal vs. the larger population. As for what marketers can actually do with the data, Shim said it can help them to target specific sub-sets of their customers with deals. For example if Starbucks knows that customers are four times more likely to visit their location within two hours of visiting a McDonald’s, then can build a geo-fenced campaign to target customers when they’re in the vicinity of a McDonald’s.
As with Placed’s Analytics feature, the Panels product is free for companies. Shim said right now they’re just trying to introduce companies to the idea of location analytics, and eventually they will charge for premium reports.
As Placed’s marketing director Andrea Eatherly said in an earlier interview, the data it collects is anonymous, so developers can avoid privacy concerns. Shim said for the new Panels product, only panelists who opt in three times (when they sign up, when they download the app, when they open the app) will have their location information tracked. Another concern for users is battery life. Shim addressed the battery issue for developers using Placed’s SDK, but now says that with an ambient tracking app like Panel App, which runs in the background of a user’s phone collecting data, they only collect data while users are in transit, so it won’t drain battery while someone is sitting on their couch.
Over 36,000 people participated in a Placed Panels trial in August, though the company isn’t disclosing which companies held panels. The end goal for Placed Panels is to help marketers track not just demographic data, but behavioral data. Shim believes this will paint a more complete picture of a customer, showing not only their age and purchase history, but the fact that they like to eat at certain restaurants or go to sporting events. “We think this has the ability for any publisher or any marketer to understand the offline behaviors of their customers,” he said. “You can actually take those real-world attributes and start to layer it into your audience profile.”