ROBERT BLATT: We work with companies like JC Penney, 7-11, Home Depot and enable them to bring together all of their ‘localized’ information to form a digital identity around their physical store locations. Our application PinSync enables brands to bring together all of their photos, Facebook posts, and other social actions together that were taken at a local store. As a retailer, you want to make sure the representation of that data is accurate and supports the brand. If a consumer can’t find your store, it undercuts it. We enable brands to take content that was captured on an Instagram at a local store and match it to the local Facebook page, Twitter page, Yelp page and in effect, fill their ‘house’ with authentic, up-to-date content so when a consumer bumps into it, it drives awareness and accuracy.
This sounds great for discovery, but what paid component have you added?
While we’ve been doing earned and owned around Facebook local pages, Yelp and Foursquare, we’ve added a paid component. Generally, today, if you want to do a national campaign, you can target, but everybody gets the same message. We said, ‘What would happen if you instead got an individual message that looked different in Chicago than it did in New York?’ We take all of the information we have on the digital identity of every location and insert it into ad copy to make it personalized for thousands of unique campaigns.
We allow customers to organize their stores by location, region, type of product they may have, or a competitor, so they can organize their stores in myriad contextual ways. One customer wants us to incorporate daily weather as part of their digital identity so that when it’s above 80 degrees, it means it’s time to push iced mixed drinks, for instance. We take this information and know the demographics for every store, and create a unique targeting spec and content for ads the store will run on Facebook local pages. We then show our customers ‘How is this happening at the national campaign level?’
Can you give a use case?
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf does corporate open houses. They used our solution to advertise to their fans and friends of fans on local pages of 179 stores. They were able to get to 327,000 unique customers across these pages and they found that the click-through-rate is about 10 times higher than what the average CTR rate is on Facebook for exactly the same cost per click. It reinforced this notion that local pages were a powerful way to advertise to consumers, as opposed to the corporate page, which is stronger for corporate affinity. On the local level, stores can essentially use their employees as the emissaries for their ads, and make it much more personal, which is important as more and more people view these ads on their mobile devices.
Google recently launched local product listing ads and Microsoft’s investing in Foursquare. Do you foresee the larger players pushing local?
Google cares a ton about local. They have Google Places and Google+ Local pages. Ultimately, they want to compete against Facebook and Yelp. We look at Google like a network. If I’m a movie producer, I’m not only going to use a technology that one network has. The brands want a platform that is platform-agnostic, so we never see the networks as a potential competitor.
They do have some challenges, though. For Google+ Local and Place pages, there’s not yet an API that allows you to automatically update and make changes across those [at scale]... Google is moving down that path and as they get to that point where the API is open and spans all of their pages, their geo-targeted advertising will be a massive hit.
What about other platform APIs?
Foursquare is a great partner of ours and we support them in our platform. It seems like their advertising product is starting to do very well. We think Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare and Instagram, within nine to 12 months will all have open APIs for updating data, for publishing, and our customers won’t just say, ‘How much money do I want to spend on Facebook?’ but ‘How much do I want to spend on this ad campaign and what reach will I get on each of those platforms for my localized ads?’
What’s your focus in the next 12-24 months?
Dynamic content and targeting is now being applied to Facebook, but Pinterest and Twitter and Instagram are all developing their own APIs, so you will see us provide these dynamic ads on the ‘local’ page, in effect, for each and every one of those platforms. Social activity, if you organize it by location, can be tied to the business results, revenue, foot traffic, customer acquisition costs. The CFO asks the CMO how social helps their revenue, so that’s a big area of development for us. The third area we’re focusing on is, Miracle-Gro cares as much about marketing in and around Home Depot as Home Depot does. Our capability had been targeted at the retailer, so you’ll see us move into the CPGs, too.