Commentary: Driving Business with Localized Mobile Advertising


This article originally appeared in Direct Marketing Magazine.

By: Ryan Horn, Senior Vice President, Marketing at

The days of mass marketing are over. Consumers are demanding more targeted and relevant advertising. Enter mobile. Mobile advertising’s appeal is that it allows advertisers to leverage location data to better understand people’s real-world behaviour and to target and serve ads that reflect this knowledge.

A customer’s geographic location influences myriad factors that matter to an advertiser’s targeting and creative strategy. They include habits, buying preferences, local competitors, weather patterns and even the nomenclature of the products: e.g. think of the many names of a sub sandwich: hero, hoagie, grinder, wedge, po’boy, sous-marin…the list goes on.

Choose the wrong keyword for your targeting strategy and you won’t reach the intended audience. Choose the wrong term in your messaging and your ads won’t resonate.

Accounting for these differences is challenging when you are launching national campaigns but focused on different markets. Measuring results across locations is also difficult, especially if you are a multi-location retailer trying to drive in-store metrics.

Swimco, a leading Canadian swimwear retailer has solved these challenges, conquesting competitors and increasing foot traffic to more than 20 of its locations. Let’s take a look at its approach and consider what other retailers can learn from it.

Geo-fencing Solutions

To drive traffic to its stores in the months leading up to summer, Swimco partnered with its agency, Bloom, and, a local programmatic advertising company, to leverage geolocation data, which is information on a mobile user’s exact physical whereabouts. Location-based data is so powerful, in part, because of its link to intent. Searching online for “new swimsuit” is one thing. Showing up at a swimsuit retailer is another. This action is a strong signal that a prospect is making his or her way down the purchasing funnel.

Next, built geo-fences around direct and indirect competitors’ stores, swimming pools and big-box retailers in strategic areas because people who visit these places are probably in the market for bathing suits. Over the course of a five-month campaign, Swimco and its partners served mobile ads to people who visited these places, either while they were at the targeted location or up to 30 days after they had left.

To measure the campaign, drew “conversion zones” — virtual boundaries drawn around an advertiser’s business location on a GPS map — around Swimco stores, allowing the team to track the number of users who visited a conversion zone after being served an ad. Swimco received granular reporting and worked with its partners to optimize the campaign mid-flight by shifting advertising spending to the highest performing geo-fences. This drove more qualified buyers to the stores and curbed wasted expenditure.

At the end of the campaign, Swimco measured a 43.6% increase or an average of 40 campaign converters per store across all its locations.’s reporting also has the ability to remove repeat visitors such as employees or even the mail or delivery person, to ensure they were not counted as campaign conversions. Swimco can also apply its learnings about audience preferences and campaign performance in specific regions to future marketing efforts.

Mobile Advertising Tips

The success of the campaign demonstrates the effectiveness of using granular localization in your advertising and measuring and optimizing at a local level to understand online-to-offline conversions. Other retailers could certainly mirror Swimco’s approach. Just be sure to bear in mind a few best practices:

  • Use a broad enough set of keywords at the start of your targeting strategy and be open to adjusting them based on campaign performance. For example, a moniker like “trunk,” or “brief,” may be useful in one of your markets and not in others. The real-time data will show these nuances;
  • Understand competitors at a local level. As challenging as it might be to identify every independent retailer that is competing for your prospect’s wallet, it is worth it to be able to launch nuanced conquesting strategies; and
  • Have the right technology in place, namely conversion zones, so you can measure the impact of your mobile ad campaign on foot traffic. Foot traffic attribution is key to proving out the return on investment (ROI) of your campaigns.

Every brand can benefit from mobile advertising, but geo-fencing solutions make it uniquely valuable for advertisers with bricks-and-mortar locations, as they can use mobile ads to drive in-store results. The measurement capabilities are also important, especially as a growing number of retailers move beyond views and clicks in an effort to measure the true ROI of their ad spends. Most retailers know what percentage of visitors convert to purchasers, so metrics like the percent increase in foot traffic and the number of new converters are quantifiable.

Mobile technology has the potential to allow advertisers to connect with a precise audience with hyper-targeted messages and to measure the impact of that advertising, online and off. But its potential won’t be realized if retailers gloss over the nuances of local markets.

The takeaway is this: to be successful, localize your national campaigns to account for these differences in every stage of your advertising, from targeting, to creative messaging, measurement and to optimization.