Offline is no longer off limits

In Unacast we believe online retargeting from offline data to be one of the large paradigm shifts to hit advertisers and media channels in the coming years

January 22, 2015

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Aftonbladet, the largest newspaper in Sweden announced today that they have been conducting small case testing of offline and online linking, and if you live in Sweden and have been close to the truck depicted above you just might have been part of a world premiere. The test was simple enough, with beacons placed in a truck promoting a new brand of soups, communicating with the newspaper app itself and user interest for soups was logged on the relevant profiles. No mention of how privacy was handled or how they intend to grow from test to commercial feasibility, but fingers crossed for those aspects being handled with care. And even though the test was small, it points to big things.

In Unacast we believe online retargeting from offline data to be one of the large paradigm shifts to hit advertisers and media channels in the coming years, and we observe with great interest when dominant local players like Aftonbladet engage in tests like this. That said, there are aspects that need to be handled with care to fully capitalize on the opportunities ahead.

"The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades" is a popular saying, and in this case the shades should be symbolic of the following:

1) Privacy as a feature

We are headed fast into a future where Internet of Things and Big Data enables "everyone", also individuals, to utilize collected customer data to own interests without the proper consent, and also in some cases for direct illegal activities.

Privacy has historically been something that companies has engaged in by demand, often from more and more detailed legal frameworks. As an example the European Union is about to enforce even stricter privacy laws in the coming years with the goal of removing the non legit and "non serious" companies from the marketplace. Our prediction is that new companies that aims to be a contender in these fields wants and need to take privacy out from the back room and into the legal departments, into the product departments and into the board rooms. The companies that does this the best, and can provide privacy products that are easy to understand, and that are the most powerful and the safest, will have a huge advantage going forward.

The consumer is increasingly willing to trade some personal data for the best and most value adding services, but will at the same time demand that these data sets are treated with care and not used outside the consents given, in addition to expecting safe storage and the ability to review and delete the data if wanted.

We therefore also predict that Chief Privacy Officer will be one the most important job titles the remainder of this decade, and that is one of the reasons that Unacast has policy and law makers within privacy onboard the team, and why we work closely with Føyen Lawyers to be on top of current and future privacy regulations.

2) No scale equals fail

It is fine to conduct small case testing of beacons and online advertising, and it is important to do so. The "bright future" is however all about scale. Online retargeting is a numbers game, and although it will take time and effort to get there, success will demand that we as an industry have a way of offering these services across various Proximity Solution Providers (PSP), and across various media and ad domains. Single silos of data will simply not contain enough information to be radically more interesting than the abundance of online data sets already flowing through the various online systems. In other words, there will be a need for companies that work across the various PSP's and the various media domains and ad platforms. Unacast is such a  company, currently aggregating data from some of the largest and most important PSP's globally, giving them the ability to offer online retargeting based on offline data to their customers.

On the other side, it's not scalable or wanted for publishers to directly deploy beacons at a large scale and/or collaborate with the 150 (and growing with new ones every week) PSP's that exist already. Aftonbladet is on to something, but operationally some fine tuning is still needed, as is typical in a young emerging market.

3) Proximity is not only beacons

This is a given for many, but let's repeat it. Proximity is not only beacons, although beacons are the flavour of the day. Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC, The Physical Web and Beacons, and the list goes on. The important word is "proximity", and proximity done right will forever change the future of physical retail and online retargeting.

If one can address these three points, and deliver engaging and perceived valuable end user experiences in both the offline and online domain that go beyond soups, we should right about now be witnessing the formation of a whole new industry: The Proximity Industry.

A single soup truck on the streets of Sweden might just point to the future of proximity. In Unacast we certainly believe so.

So, put on your shades now. It's about to get a lot brighter.