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Connecting your online self to your offline self

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Retailers have long tracked when we visit and what we purchased in stores. Then, they came up with ways to monitor what we did on their websites. Now, they’re using mobile devices to connect that offline and online activity into data-rich customer profiles. 

Monica Ho heads marketing at xAd. It has a map of America that shows real people visiting stores in real-time. On it, each individual person is a blinking yellow light. At 10 in the morning, the map is lit up like a Christmas tree. In two minutes, you can watch over a million people shop.

XAd creates this map with GPS data transmitted by the apps on people’s phones. The company gets data from sources that collect user information, like free and gps apps. XAd uses the data to help retailers tell if an ad they sent to your mobile phone actually led you into a store, an important metric to track offline conversions that begin with online advertising.

Matt DePratter is a VP of digital marketing at Catapult. He says if we use a retailer’s app, that company knows even more about you-like where you are in a store, what you browsed online, if you bought anything, or if you looked up an item on a competitor’s website. That can help stores target you with products, discounts, and personally-tailored communication.

Depratter says companies like Walmart and Target are trying to get people to use their apps, even in stores. He says Target “actually has little signs directing you to interact with your mobile device in some sort of way.” The company offers customers a coupon if they send it a text, thereby initiating contact between the store and the person’s phone.

Connecting to your mobile phone is key to integrating your offline and online data, which, in the end, will help retailers sell you more stuff.


 Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated how XAd acquires user information. XAd acquires user information from a variety of sources, including apps, navigation companies and mobile advertising exchanges. The text has been corrected.

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