Reputation Manager SOCi Brings In Location Tech Vet Monica Ho As CMO

Monica Ho, former CMO of location ad and analytics marketplace GroundTruth, is taking on the same title in a new role at SOCI, a software company that offers location-based social media marketing and reputation management.

A highly-respected marketing exec who was often the face and the voice of GroundTruth (formerly xAd), Ho left the company in December 2017 after six years to pursue “new opportunities closer to her home in Austin, Tx.”

For three years in a row, Business Insider named Ho as one of the “30 most powerful women in mobile advertising.”

“I am excited to join such an innovative and fast-moving company where I can leverage my expertise in marketing and B2B technology to help SOCi grow its business, reach new audiences and outperform the competition in the highly competitive social media and reputation management space,” Ho said.

GeoMarketing: What led you to join SOCI? Had you heard of them or worked with them before?

Monica Ho: SOCi ticked all of my boxes in regards to being 1) a fast growing early stage company, 2) a company that, although in a competitive market, had some “white space” they could take over and own and last but not least #3 a company with a solid leadership team in place.

In fact, the CRO [Warren Kay] and I go back 10-plus years, as I used to work with him when he was at Yahoo, and then at Under Armor. Also, the fact that they had a local office here in Austin, which made this a perfect fit.

Do you see SOCI’s role as a “location-based social media marketing” provider as looking beyond finite ad campaigns to powering brands’ wider, everyday use of social media to attract local business?

Although ads are an important part of any brand’s social strategy, SOCi was built to help brands and their local agents find and create engaging local content first as well as the ability to find and appropriately respond to local reviews and comments.

They’ve also created proprietary workflow management tools within the platform, which allow brands to allow their local agents and franchises to participate in a relevant and valuable way that scales.

What kinds of clients is SOCI intended for? Enterprise brands with multiple locations (or ones just looking to better reach social media users based on their location)? Do you also work with SMBs and independents?

SOCi was built for multi-location brands with Franchise and Property Management being some of our biggest verticals. We have also seen a lot of organic growth coming out of mid-tier digital agencies who are looking to manage social marketing for multiple SMBs/brands.

What are your initial goals as you get started?

My first goal is to gain a better grasp of SOCi’s business but in tandem with that really helping SOCi evangelize the amazing opportunity sitting in localized presence and content creation / management via social. Be on the look out later this year on some new first to market research and data around this.

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96 Percent Of Consumers Who Visit A Grocery Store Make At Least One CPG Purchase

Approximately 96 percent of consumers who visit a mass merchandiser or grocery store make at least one CPG purchase, according to research commissioned by GroundTruth — indicating a significant sales opportunity for the locations that most can effectively drive foot traffic.

The same trend appears to hold true for drug stores as well: 91 percent of consumers who visit pick up at least one CPG item.

These statistics indicate that once CPG marketers have gotten a shopper to a physical store location, there’s a near-guarantee of a sale — which is a good thing. But it’s important to separate correlation from causation here: Most customers don’t just decide stock up on toothpaste because they saw an ad when they were nearby a drugstore. Rather, people who have the intent to buy essential CPG items tend to visit a nearby retailer to fulfill this need.

Pharmacies and groceries aren’t locations for window shopping and browsing the same way a retailer like Nordstrom might be. That’s why, when it comes to driving foot traffic, it is crucial to target customer intent: Real-time location is one strong predictor of intent, but when combined with historical geo-data and behavior targeting, these businesses have a chance to win when it comes to driving foot traffic from shoppers who are predisposed to make a CPG purchase.

Additional insights from the study below.

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Vistar Hires Ex-GroundTruth Performance Strategist Matt Schuster As CRO

Vistar Media, seeking to deepen its cross-platform insights between out of home advertising and location technology, has named Matt Schuster, formerly of location ad marketplace GroundTruth, as its chief revenue officer.

he most recently was head of performance strategy, leading development and go-to-market strategy for all performance-based solutions. Before that Schuster was head of sales for GroundTruth, responsible for revenue growth from all major brand and holding companies in North America. Under his lead, the sales team achieved 100 percent growth in both revenue and headcount. Previously, Schuster was Sales Director at Undertone, a digital advertising company, where he oversaw a 300 percent increase in revenue over 18 months.

“Out-of-home is where the most innovation is happening in today’s media landscape, as mobile has largely become commoditized and centralized toward a few large industry players,” said Matt Schuster. “In out-of-home there is tremendous opportunity to bring targeting and concrete ROI measurement to advertisers that have never before been able to measure the impact of this channel.”

The company has called 2017 a “breakout year” for Vistar, and Schuster’s appointment follows a recent expansion into Canada.

“Matt joins Vistar at a time of rapid growth, and his experience scaling teams and revenue for innovative businesses will help our transition into additional international markets, as we bring in top talent to meet increasing global demand for our services,” said Michael Provenzano, CEO of Vistar Media.

We checked in with Provenzano about the evolution of OOH and the location tech connection amid the company’s growth plans.

GeoMarketing: What’s the state of “Digital Out of Home?” How has Vistar’s approach to DOOH evolved?

Michael Provenzano: The digital out-of-home industry is in an exciting spot today. At a basic inventory level, we’re seeing more and more media owners digitizing their networks, which is bringing opportunities for more dynamic content and creative executions to new contextual environments.

The biggest shift that we’re seeing in the OOH space is the push to tie OOH to measurable ROI (with programmatic being one of the mechanisms driving this shift). Digital buyers are increasingly looking to add OOH into their broader omnichannel media mix, and media owners are eager to tap into growing digital budgets. Transacting digital out-of-home programmatically requires systems that have been built to handle the complexities of OOH, such as measuring a 1-to-many medium, managing creative approvals (which have stricter regulations due to their public display), creative transcoding to fit the huge variety of screen displays, and much more. At the same time, programmatic systems that have been built from the ground up to handle these challenges are also offering new opportunities for buyers to reach their audiences in targeted, measurable ways across a very impactful medium.

Our approach to OOH has changed over time as we learned the ins-and-outs of the medium and got to see first hand the challenges that both media owners and advertisers were facing. The first challenge was simply building technology that would enable efficient transactions at scale. We focused on building those pipes and also aggregating supply by integrating and building partnerships with media owners across 90% of the available supply. As we ran more and more campaigns and learned more about the strategies of OOH buyers, we added in a focus on data and measurement, to demonstrate the ROI of OOH media. Today we have the ability to measure the impact of OOH advertising as never before and help marketers understand their consumers in amazing new ways, based on their movement patterns.

One thing we’ve been looking at is the rise of autonomous vehicles. What happens to billboards and radio when cars drive themselves?

There’s no question that the rise of automated vehicles will have a dramatic impact on the OOH industry, but ultimately we don’t see it as a damaging change. To start with, OOH is not really about billboards. It’s about using real estate assets – the physical locations that the OOH networks own – as opportunities to engage with consumers through compelling 1-to-many content. That opportunity doesn’t go away as people change how they move throughout the world, it just shifts the requirements for the content.

OOH media owners are also already starting to use their assets for multiple purposes – adding sensors to become a data collection point, working with telecom providers to support their networks, providing wifi, working with municipalities to become part of the citizen communication systems, etc. So there’s a lot of opportunity to diversify the use of the physical asset, which today might only be serving as a static billboard.

We also believe that mobile and OOH are perfect complements to each other, and the rise of autonomous vehicles will drive this connection further. Combining the impact of OOH media with the personal communication of mobile advertising is very powerful, and as consumer use of mobile devices increases during transportation moments, the interaction between OOH and mobile will be amplified.

How does geo-data and the use of location analytics factor into DOOH measurement for Vistar’s clients?

The biggest challenge of out-of-home historically has been that there was no real way to directly tie any impact results back to the actual campaign exposure. With location data, you can understand consumer movement enabling marketers to validate store visitation and household validation.

In-store visitation is a crucial KPI for retailers in a range of industries, from the big box retailers to telecom, QSR and casual dining. If they can invest in media and then see an increase in the number of people visiting their stores, and therefore increasing sales, that demonstrates the ROI of that ad spend and is a huge win for their business. Vistar measures foot traffic by using location data to identify audiences that have been exposed to a digital out-of-home campaign and then visited a physical store location. This provides a powerful view into the impact of OOH media exposure.

Visitation is great for retail marketers, but for some marketers in areas like automotive and CPG, sales are the final KPI that matters. In a similar way that location data tells us where someone went, it also can tell us where someone lives. Some of the largest transactional data sets for sales are stored at the household level. By combining location data with transactional data, we are able to understand what households are exposed to what ads and understand how sales were changed at a selection of households.

Are there any new programs or initiatives Vistar is planning to expand looking ahead to 2018?  

A major area of growth for us in 2018 will be expanding in international markets. We recently launched our business in Canada and are already seeing strong traction among leading brands, agencies and trading groups. We will be launching operations in the UK in January 2018 and expect to enter other European markets over the course of the year. The OOH industry in the EU is quite evolved, so we see tremendous opportunity to bring sophisticated targeting and measurement to this channel.

We will also be expanding our vertical solutions through key partnerships, to be able to extend our targeting and sales lift measurement capabilities to more industries (similar to our current solutions for automotive, retail and CPG).

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Why Location Targeting is Key for Both Local and National Brands

If marketers ever doubted the value of location intelligence, that time has long since passed. According to a recent BIA/Kelsey Industry Watch report, location-targeted advertising is on the rise. Today, it represents 38 percent of all mobile ad revenue — and by the year 2021 that number will have jumped to 45 percent, amounting to more than $32 billion.

In part, we have tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Snap — all of which are investing heavily in location marketing — to thank for this upswing. New Facebook features launched last year are designed to “connect store sales to Facebook ad campaigns.” Snap is actively working to help retailers follow the path to purchase from Snapchat to their brick-and-mortar stores. The focus, however, is often on local targeting. That leaves many marketers wondering about the benefits to their national brands.

As companies continue to increase their location-based ad spend, it’s time to address the local-national link. Here’s a look at what national brands can expect to gain from location intelligence, and why it’s crucial to your future campaigns.

Why location targeting is more than just local

Most marketers are well aware that location data provides richer, more accurate insights into consumer shopping behavior. Brands know they can refine their local ads to be more relevant, timely, and personalized. What they may not realize is that location targeting can deliver similar results on a national level when it’s used to identify foot traffic patterns and incite in-store sales.

Recently, GroundTruth worked with a national restaurant chain to run a test campaign in a local market. The campaign, which utilized a new pay-per-visit model, was so successful that the brand expanded it to 81 top-tier markets. We found that the brand was able to generate the same results beyond the original region. To date, the effort has produced more than 100,000 in-store visits nationwide.

A strategy like this one has other advantages as well. For instance, an analysis of the consumers that visited the restaurant chain revealed an unexpected crossover with unlikely competitor brands. While the brand believed it had its finger on the pulse of both its audience and its competition, location data that provided deep insight into consumer intent allowed the advertiser to identify new areas of opportunity that would otherwise have been overlooked.

On a national level, location insights also enables marketers to make smarter decisions about issues like expanding to new markets, closing existing locations in light of reduced foot traffic, and establishing a brand presence near a thriving competitor. With the help of location intelligence, brands can fine-tune their strategies for specific regions. Many brands has invested heavily in a national campaign only to discover that foot traffic in the region they had high hopes for has fallen flat, but this scenario can be avoided if a brand leverages the data at hand.

For a public company with a national footprint, location data is an absolute must. Earlier this year, Walmart reported earnings results that were higher than expected, due in part to increased foot traffic to its stores. Using mobile data to assess foot traffic trends and predict sales can better prepare both retailers and market analysts for what’s to come.

Location as an indicator of intent

When it comes to gauging what their customers want, marketers look to search terms, social media activity, and buying history, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that location data is a more reliable indicator of intent. As brands from Warby Parker to Amazon and Alibaba buck the trend and open brick-and-mortar stores, location data has become more vital than ever to creating a positive — and profitable — customer experience.

Imagine that an athletic apparel retailer is preparing to open multiple new locations nationwide. No amount of search or social media data can guarantee that customers will walk through the door. But location and shopping pattern data shows us which regions sports enthusiasts are most likely to live in, and which hotels and restaurants they’re most likely to visit. These indicators of intent paint a clear picture of where an athleisure company should open up shop.

The benefits to leveraging location targeting don’t end with your local campaign. As investments rise, it’s time to make the most of location data for your national brand.

**Dan Silver is the senior director of local marketing at GroundTruth.

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Snap Adds GroundTruth As Latest Location Ad Partner For Geofilters, Snapchat Ads

Snap has named GroundTruth (previously known as xAd) as its latest location technology partner, as the social messaging/”camera” company seeks to sharpen and broaden its advertising arsenal.

As an official partner, GroundTruth will make Snapchat’s Geofilters and Snap Ads available directly on the location marketplace’s platform through Snapchat’s API.

While Snapchat’s reach and engagement are fairly large — 166 million users who spend an average of 30 minutes on the app during 18 daily visits — GroundTruth boasts a first-party database of 95 million active monthly users and 17 million active daily users, across 100 million places and points of interest across 21 countries.

GroundTruth became part of Snap’s roughly 30 certified partners in early June. But apart from those partners, which includes a range of companies like data science specialist 4C to Kinetic Social to programmatic video ad platform TubeMogul, the company has been striking separate deals with location intelligence providers.

Over the past several months, Snap has signed up geo-data specialist Factual and location intelligence platform Foursquare, on top of acquiring attribution provider Placed and French social-location app Zenly, ahead of its debut of Snap Map.

That most recent feature is supported by a trio of location data visualization and geospatial tech providers: Mapbox, OpenStreetMaps, and satellite imagery vendor DigitalGlobe.

As Snap Map, which, for the moment, is not available for sponsorships, gets traction by letting users share and see what’s happening around them to their friends, the role of location to power its advertising is becoming clearer.

Snap has proven that it has engagement and that it can break new ground in terms of consumer-facing features. The big issue for the company is turning its ad models — the sponsored Lenses, Geofilers, and video Snap Ads — into a broadly viable business that can steal share away from Google and Facebook.

Expanding Models for Snap — And GroundTruth

Among the questions its asking its growing roster of partners: What are the other ad models Snap can generate based on maps?

The other thing that seems to be key, is if it can see what kind of topics and places its users are interested it, that provides a great deal of context for the kinds of ads it can serve.

And that’s where GroundTruth, which has geofencing and ad targeting at its core, even as it seeks to become known for its analytics and insights separate from advertising purposes, comes in.

Specifically, when xAd rebranded as GroundTruth last week, part of the reason was that the company wanted its name to reflect that its location technology was was focused on more than just advertising.

“With our ability to offer clients targeted Geofilters, this expands our location targeted media offering,” GroundTruth CMO Monica Ho told GeoMarketing. “In regards to our new expansion into data and insights — the ability to use our location-based audiences in Snap for targeted video content is part of our new focus and strategy, and something we hope to offer in other platforms shortly.”

By working with Snap, GroundTruth expects to see how its capabilities can further promote the role of geo-data in enhancing that platform’s own ad products.

“[GroundTruth clients] can work with our team to create or upload designs, select broadcast areas, access GroundTruth’s custom Location Audience segments, and more,” adds Ted Babitz, VP -Supply at GroundTruth, in a blog post announcing the deal. “The potential for delighting customers is limitless and we’re excited to see what our client partners come up with. Will they shock and awe customers with Snap Ads that are so relevant that they feel completely personalized? Will businesses create unique Geofilters and send consumers scouring far and wide to collect and share them? Time will have to tell.”

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xAd Rebrands As GroundTruth In Expansion Effort To Broaden Location Data Services Beyond Ads

As the location technology landscape continues to grow amid rising demand to power technologies such as artificial intelligence and a wider array of industries such as real estate and healthcare, xAd has decided to rebrand itself and will now be known as “GroundTruth.”

The new name reflects the 8-year-old company’s evolution from its origins as a hyperlocal ad mobile ad network to a programmatic location marketplace.

Now, with the rechristening, the company seeks to broaden its vision amid an international expansion and last February’s acquisition of its first consumer-facing tech property, the meteorological info service Weatherbug.

As GroundTruth, xAd is also vowing to “decouple” its advertising and media sales services from its location data analysis so that its insights can stand on their own.

“The name xAd was too limiting for our business,” said Dipanshu “D” Sharma, CEO of GroundTruth. “The power of location data doesn’t have to be limited to media and can be realized in other applications from real estate, traffic and out-of-home planning to layering in weather to determine its impact on visits, something we recognized after acquiring WeatherBug. As GroundTruth, we’re able to realize our ambitions beyond media.”

xAd’s transformed into GroundTruth

According to the plan, GroundTruth will continue to support marketers and agencies through products like its geofencing data visualization tool Blueprints, which debuted in 2015, and Footprints, which rolled out in 2014 to provide real-time data on consumers’ mobile movements near brick-and-mortar businesses.

Just last month, xAd initiated its new performance-based ad format, dubbed Cost-Per-Visit, which guarantees marketers’ ROI, since they don’t have to pay unless their ad generated a walk-in.

“As a brand, xAd represented ‘location advertising’ with ‘x’ being ‘x marks the spot for advertising,’” GroundTruth CMO Monica Ho told GeoMarketing. “But we found over the last year-and-a-half it actually became limiting. People, especially those professionals who were not often involved in our category, struggled with what the name was.

“When we explained the vision of the company, we always focused on advertising primarily,” Ho continued. “But the rebrand signifies the evolution of our product set and our offerings. It also represents where we want to go as a company in terms of making core investments and sharpening our strategic focus.”

GroundTruth’s dictim: Build off something real.

The Rebranding Process

The rebrand was produced in collaboration with global brand strategy firm, Siegel+Gale. Aside from the new name, visual identity and there is something of a brand position in the form of a dictim: Build off something real.

While the challenge of switching gears is always a daunting gamble for an established brand, the company says the timing couldn’t be better: GroundTruth picks up from xAd with a first-party database of 95 million active monthly users and 17 million active daily users, across 100 million places and points of interest across 21 countries — in other words, it has significant reach and scale.

In terms of employee growth, xAd had 83 employees at the end of 2013 and 450 employees at the end of 2016 — before the purchase of Weatherbug. Meanwhile, since its launch in 2009, the company now known as GroundTruth has raised about $116 million over six funding rounds, according to Crunchbase.

The process for remaking the brand name and positioning began about 10 months ago, Ho told us.

“We needed a brand and a platform that represented our larger story and gave us the room to grow in the future,” Ho said. “But we also thought long and hard about name that would accurately and fully represent the ideals and values of the company.”

And how was GroundTruth decided on as the new name?

“We thought GroundTruth was perfect, simply because it represented a ‘fundamental truth’ about seeing things from the ground level and up,” Ho said.

Third-Party Verification Secured From InfoScout

In addition to widening its view on serving clients outside of the confines of ad campaigns, GroundTruth commissioned market researcher InfoScout to verify “the precision and coverage of its data” at select retailers.

According to the independent survey based on a representative U.S. panel, GroundTruth is able to interpret physical location with more than a 90 percent accuracy rate.  The “Accuracy Audit” analyzed 10,000 matched panelists who shopped at a sample of key retailers, consistently submitted receipts to InfoScout, and used location-based services via GroundTruth.

“InfoScout has the largest purchase panel in the U.S.,” Ho said. “We matched our data with InfoScout’s purchase panel, which represents 1 out of every 500 retail visits in the U.S. We were able to see 1 out of 3 retail visits that we saw in our platform and matched it to their purchase receipts.”

The importance of third-party verification was a crucial step in the process of transforming xAd as a media sales marketplace based on location to being a provider of data and insights based on consumers’ geospatial patterns. After all, clients don’t trust a partner who simply “grades their own homework.”

As a media seller, xAd relied on its five-year partnership with attribution specialist Placed — which last week was acquired by Snap — as well as online audience measurement firm comScore to verify its the location data that powered its ads. But as it looks to build a business beyond those industry ad metrics, it needs to maintain an ongoing system that can say whether or not its location tech is accurate.

“When we’re interpreting the location data that comes across our system, you need to be able to differentiate whether that person is in a Target store or if they’re nail salon next door,” Ho said.

In just its early trial period, GroundTruth has “made significant headway” in brand safety, assessing viewability, and guarding against ad fraud, Ho said. The company will to continue to investment in third-party verification and validation of not just its data, but GroundTruth’s entire platform.

“InfoScout is just the first step in that process,” Ho said. “There will be more coming,” she added, possibly hinting that GroundTruth may be accredited by the Media Ratings Council, which was established by Congress in the 1960s to serve as a watchdog for TV ratings’ validity in the use of broadcast advertising. The MRC has since gone on to serve as a clearinghouse for all manner of ad measurement procedures, including online and mobile, and recently oversaw the IAB’s geo-data and location ad standards.

(Location) Data As Service

The emergence of Data-as-a-Service, as a more narrow adjunct to software business models, is particularly important in the location space. As different signals provide varying levels of actionable intelligence, data quality and accuracy remains a major issue for tech company’s clients.

Perhaps more than any other targeting or analytics capability, getting location wrong even by several feet can severely diminish the value of geo-data.

As Sharma, who also founded xAd, has described it, location technology is a utility that can not only tell all kinds of vital details about a business’s place, as well as who’s been there, but it can intently extrapolate deep knowledge about consumers’ behavior and shopping profiles as well as power connected intelligence devices’ responses to users’ queries.

“Data and insights have always been a part of the company,” Ho said. “But in the past, we’ve always forced the data/insights together with a media and ad sales component. The rebrand marks the fact that we’re ready to decouple data/insights from ad sales.

“We will always offer a data and targeting solution” Ho said, referring to the above-mentioned products like Blueprint. “But the way the category is unfolding, and marketers and agencies, as well as areas outside of those buckets, such as analysts, can use our data on its own. And this is about allowing that flexibility.”

xAd’s Footprints

Scratching The Surface

Both Blueprint and Footprints were core technologies at xAd and they’ll certainly remain so at GroundTruth, Ho said.

“We only scratched the surface in the past, because these technologies were always tied to media purposes,” she said. “So we want to continue to invest in our core tech, but in different ways based on the variety of audiences we see as potential customers.”

As for how products like Blueprints will evolve under GroundTruth, Ho described it as something that’s always been an internal tool that to integrate accurate mapping data with its location targeting.

“In the future, we’ll expand Blueprints to be more open, more crowdsourced,” Ho said. “In those future cases, one of our partners or someone outside our category could look at location data and unique segments, we’ll let them identify the area they’re looking at. From there, they’ll be able to pull unique, custom data sets and behavioral insights from something like Blueprints.”

Next Steps

As it has in recent years, GroundTruth will have a presence at this coming week’s international gathering of the global ad industry in Cannes.

But don’t expect a heavy marketing effort to ensure the name is known far and wide, Ho said.

“We’re going to communicate to our existing client base,” Ho when asked about the communications effort around this move. “But the next few months will be an internal focus for the most part.”

In the meantime, GroundTruth will steadily seek to expand its work in non-ad areas. While real estate,  health care, traffic/smart city planning has generally been far afield from the company’s purview, Ho is quick to note that projects in those categories is not at all unfamiliar work.

“Real estate is not necessarily a new area for us,” Ho said. “But we’ve have certain scenarios come up in the past, where we’ve been asked to provide store planning. Or analysts have asked us for behavioral data and insights tied to certain places. We’ve had so many opportunities, but at the time, we chose not to invest further. Now, with the new brand, and the new technology focus on data-based solutions, we’re really diving in to coming to market with a new set of offerings and products that can address issues not tied to advertising.”

Just as with its promotion of the new brand and direction, GroundTruth is not in a feverish rush to get its positioning solidified within a month or two. As Ho noted, it will take time to sink in both for its staff and the wider marketplace of new and existing clients and allies.

“This is a big change,” Ho added. “Our move into data and insights is an important one. And until our employees really embody and feel empowered by the brand, that’s when we can make good on this new promise and direction. There will be a bigger marketing push later in the year. There is a lot more to come.”

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