What is Niantic capturing about you while you're capturing Pokémon

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What is Niantic capturing about you while you’re capturing Pokémon
Harry Dewhirst

Pokémon Go is essentially taking over the free world. With a following that has outnumbered Twitter users and more downloads than Tinder, Pokémon Go is a smash hit. The game has been downloaded more than 75 million times, according to the latest stats from SensorTower. If you live anywhere that the game has officially launched, or even in a lot of places that it hasn’t, you can’t walk down the street without seeing Pokémon trainers with their eyes stuck on their mobile device, trying to catch a Cubone or battling an Ivysaur at the local gym.

But while you’re hatching a Sandshrew or catching a Pidgey, the game’s creator, Niantic, is catching a lot of information about you. As you stalk your Pokémon prey, Niantic can see and save where you go, when you went there, how you got there, how long you stayed, and who else was there.

Even after it fixed the not-so-tiny glitch that allowed the company to access your entire Google account without explicitly notifying you, Niantic may still collect your email address, IP address, the web page you were using before logging into Pokémon Go, your username, and your location according to the Pokémon Go privacy policy.

This isn’t that unusual for a mobile phone app, but with Pokémon Go’s detailed, street-by-street map and its incredible growth rate, the information compiled could become the most detailed location-based social graph ever collected. It has the power to define an entire user group, predict behavior, and even influence location migration.

With that great amount of location data and insight comes great responsibility, and we have to wonder what Niantic plans do with it.

Cost Per Visit to Pokestops

Niantic announced shortly after the fame of Pokémon Go exploded, that the company would soon host a sponsored locations product, one designed only to charge advertisers only when consumers, as a result of the Pokémon search, end up at their stores.

Essentially, retailers can pay-per-visit for a sponsored location and the Pokémon Go app will lead consumers to the retailer, restaurant, or grocery store via “pokestops” and the opportunity to catch Pokémon within the location. The pokestop becomes an in-game billboard for the business sponsoring it.

This begins to answer questions about how Niantic plans to monetize the game. Users can purchase virtual items on the game, but if Niantic and the Pokémon Co. plan to optimize profit on the game and live up to Nintendo’s $12 billion increase in public value since its launch, they likely have a bigger plan up their sleeve.

We can see the potential value of this model as many US retailers have already experienced a massive increase in footfall due to the accidental placement of pokestops in or near their stores. Restaurants have started to capitalize on this, offering special deals to Pokémon trainers that show up in search of the beasts.

Footfall traffic is an increasingly valuable asset to brick-and-mortar locations as they compete against their online counterparts, and location-based advertising opportunities will be an important tool in their success. With that in mind, sponsored pokestops is no doubt an intriguing concept for advertisers and a capital use of the game’s location capabilities.

Sell to Third Parties

Per the Pokémon privacy policy, we can assume that Niantic also plans to share with and potentially sell the location information collected to third parties. The policy explicitly states that the company can share any information collected with third-party service providers and third parties to conduct “research, and analysis, demographic profiling, and other similar purposes.” This includes, at the very least, The Pokémon Company, Nintendo, and Google.

If Niantic decides to sell the information to third parties, it will no doubt make a pretty penny from the sales. A collection of data from a user base as large as Pokémon Go is a gold mine of audience insight for marketers and advertisers, one they can use for advertising within the Pokémon Go environment as well as a manner of other ways as well.

The big question we have to ask is, is this a good thing? With user’s growing more and more concerned about privacy (91% only ever giving the minimum amount of personal information required due to security concerns according to a report by Ofcom) surely they would recoil from this tracking. However, users must enter into these arrangements with their eyes open to the exchange that is going on here, developing a game is not free, and the new servers being rolled out to deal with the increased user base aren’t free, in-app purchases alone will not cover these costs and provide the revenue a global company demands for ongoing development. User information from the game can be used to target players with highly relevant advertising through Google’s AdWords and other third party services. After playing Pokemon, they may find they are receiving more ads that are actually useful and relevant to them, as location data can be one of the most useful types of data when it comes to personalized targeted advertising. And what do users get from this trade? A world filled with Pokemon!

Profile Users for Pokémon Go and Future Games

The biggest benefit to Niantic is no doubt the ability to use the massive database to profile its users and further develop not only the Pokémon Go brand but other games and products that the company and partners have in the works.

The app has been downloaded more than 75 million times and nearly 3% of the entire U.S. are daily active users. With a pool of users that large and that active along with the information that Niantic can retrieve from those users, the company can define their users to a “T” to produce some of the most accurate demographic profiling on the market.

This research and analysis will give Niantic the behavioral insight it needs to enhance the Pokémon Go experience and regardless of what detractors will say, this is likely to be a primary use for the data. Niantic has launched a game that has captured a cross-generational audience, who are more than happy to have an excuse to get outside. Yet, to maintain this audience they will need to create new ways of interacting with the world, new gameplay modes, and new activities to keep people engaged especially through the winter months. The location data they collect and the contextualized information that this provides could be vital to this process, as it can tell them the demographics of their users and what is important to them. Simply put, Niantic feeds you a Razz Berry, catches you with one Pokeball and adds you to its Pokedex, so it can see your stats and what you need to evolve.

What we have here is the first large scale, wildly popular gamification of location data, with broad appeal across generations. This data will be vital to Niantic, for both building the future of the game and for generating revenue. It may also benefit users who find they are receiving better and more relevant advertising messages, and who get the game for free.

Of course, with large scale location data like this, concerns will arise about how the data is stored, where, and for how long. It’s a valid concern, and one that Niantic should be willing to address with users.

Can you imagine the potential hack in which all of this location data ends up in the wrong hands, tied to each user’s login or phone number? We can expect that Niantic has gone through a series of measures to ensure that this infinitely valuable information remains protected, but it would be nice to know what some of those measures are.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit, public interest research group that aims to protect consumer privacy, recently asked the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation on Niantic’s practices. The organization is urging the FTC to create definitive limits to the amount of information that Niantic collects and how long it stores that information, also making the claim that as the nature of the game attracts a wide age group, Niantic may also be illegally collecting data from school age children. Location data services provider InMobi was recently fined by the FTC for a similar violation.

These claims, while unconfirmed, are a testament to why Niantic needs to make it clear to users and the world how it’s storing, tracking and using gamer data. Location tracking and user data mining in themselves are not unusual or malevolent, but it’s important that companies doing so are explicit and upfront about it.

With 47% of Americans stating that they are not confident in understanding how their personal data is used, according to Pew Research, it’s important that users know what they are getting into when they decide to start training to become a Pokémon master. The data they share is up for grabs, and both the game’s creators and users must agree to make this consent clear.

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Harry Dewhirst is President at Blis. He is an adtech veteran and acclaimed entrepreneur.
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Question 1: How long have you been at RSi and what is your role?
For the past three years, I have been responsible for creating and scaling Ansa, a web-based solution from RSi – Retail Solutions, Inc., that has enabled over 75 of the world’s largest CPG companies and their agencies to build, measure and maximize the performance of their shopper marketing campaigns running in support of the nation’s leading retailers. I am responsible for all aspects of business development, partner and agency relationships and the overall revenue growth of Ansa.

Question 2: How does RSi help solve marketer challenges?
Shopper marketers’ biggest challenge is to connect their online campaigns to in-store results. RSi’s Ansa solution provides the intelligence they need, based on daily, store-level POS-data from the largest US retailers in order to plan, target, and measure the impact of their shopper marketing campaigns. Retail Solutions Inc. has partnered with the leading ad networks in Shopper Marketing, such as Blis, to make Ansa’s automated analytics available for the world’s largest CPG companies and their agencies. To measure and maximize their digital ad campaigns, all they need to do is ask for Ansa inside their next campaign.

Question 3: What benefits does the partnership with Blis bring to buyers as well as the adtech ecosystem?
With RSi’s Ansa solution, building, dynamically optimizing, and reviewing attribution measures for every digital ad campaign has never been so simple. Here is how it works:
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3. MEASUREMENT & INSIGHTS: get access via the online portal to end of campaign analysis just days after the media campaign is over. Visualizations give you a standardized set of analytics, such as sales lift, incremental dollars and units, confidence level, weekly lift, characteristics of high performing stores, etc. Prove and improve your media to help you fine-tune strategies for your future campaigns.

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If you are a shopper marketer, maximizing your budgets, understanding performance of your marketing tactics and generating key learnings from those marketing tactics are tasks that are essential to your business.

Running a digital marketing campaign with Blis, and Ansa’s daily, store-level sales intelligence helps make that extremely for the CPG community and shopper marketers specifically.

For existing products, Blis campaigns using Ansa targeting can reach a targeting efficiency of 2:1 vs. campaigns that do not use Ansa store-level targeting thereby ensuring that every dollar is spent driving sales to your most important retailer locations.

Blis campaigns optimized with Ansa typically identify and heavy up investment around 16% of stores that are trending significantly ahead of the average store during a campaign and identify and decrease investment around 14% of stores that are trending significantly behind the average store, therefore ensuring that your budget is being optimized surrounding stores that are over-performing during a given campaign.

After each Blis campaign, Ansa automatically generates measurement of Featured Item Lift and Halo Item Lift at both the total event and week levels. Results are completed 5 business days after the end of each campaign and allow you to learn quickly and improve continuously, all at an amazingly affordable price.

Question 5: What shopper marketing measurement trends do you predict for 2018?
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(Other than this blog post of course!)

Think with Google and Facebook IQ are two fantastic sources of resources. Articles, trends, case studies, POVs, insights, etc… pretty much everything you need to read to keep you up-to-speed in this very fast-paced environment.

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Our mobile devices give us more than just a way to call or text friends and family: Today, they are our maps, books, radios, and miniature shopping malls. We turn to them for news, entertainment and answers. And from dawn till dusk, we keep them at our sides like our most faithful companions.

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Win Over New Customers

One of the best ways for advertisers to identify new audiences is to see where they shop. But without access to a competitor’s first-party purchase data or information about their website traffic, how can advertisers find this out?

Mobile devices provide the answer. By revealing where consumers go, mobile location data can tell brands which consumers spend their time browsing similar products at a competitor’s store. Let’s say Target wants to reach out to consumers who usually shop at Walmart. They can use location data to identify—then target—those who frequently visit the competitor yet still live near a Target store.

But brands need to be careful before jumping to conclusions about consumers. Real-time location data provides important insights, but they can be strengthened when paired with historical location data.

For example, just because someone visits a high-end boutique like Chanel, it doesn’t mean that person has the budget to shop there—they could just be browsing. How can an upscale fashion brand find out which of those Chanel visitors are actually potential shoppers? Here, historical location data can help. It can reveal, for instance, which of those visitors go to private airports a few times a month or regularly visit Giorgio Armani or Versace stores. Chances are, these consumers will be a better bet for the fashion brand seeking to acquire new customers.

Keep Them Interested

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? For most of us, it’s look at our phones to turn off our alarms before checking the weather and scrolling through our Twitter feeds. And throughout the day, we continue to stare down into the faces of our mobile devices: checking the news on the train, sending an email between meetings, or watching videos from our living room sofas.

In order to engage consumers on the devices we use day in and day out, advertisers will need to serve ads that make sense for the consumer depending on where they are during the day. To do this, advertisers must first ask the question: What do consumers want to see on their mobile devices and when? Consumers spend a third of their time online watching videos, for instance, but they aren’t going to watch a 30-second video ad while walking down the street.

To boost engagement, brands can use knowledge about a consumer’s historical and real-time whereabouts to reach out at the time and place that will produce the greatest level of engagement. To effectively grab the attention of a consumer that’s out and about, a banner ad may work best. Later that evening, when the consumer is at home using a tablet or laptop, a longer video on a larger screen may work well.

Inspire Loyalty

How can brands make sure they retain the new and existing customers they’ve worked so hard to gain? They must first recognize and show appreciation for their most loyal customers.

Most advertisers identify loyal customers by looking at newsletter subscriptions and online purchase histories, but they may be missing other valuable customers who prefer to shop in stores. By identifying devices that frequently visit a brand’s store location, advertisers can make sure they are recognizing—and thanking—all their biggest fans. When an existing customer comes into a store a certain number of times, for example, advertisers can deliver a thank-you message—perhaps offering the loyal customer a generous coupon to redeem in-store.

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Interested in understanding how to connect mobile experiences to physical stores? Or how mobile can be the extension of a retailer’s store? Maybe you’ve wondered about the new Cost-Per-Visit metric? Look no further. Blis’ location data experts will be answering these questions on a weekly basis over the next few months in our ‘Retail Series’ which aims to equip retail marketers with the right insights and top tips to stay ahead of the game.

Following its decision to buy e-commerce company Jet.com last year, Walmart recently agreed to acquire Bonobos, a retailer with a strong online presence and generous shipping policies. If these moves weren’t sign enough that the physical and digital retail worlds are merging, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is the ultimate wake-up call.

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For instance, advertisers can deliver ads to shoppers already in the area to tell them about an in-store sale, or offer them a coupon they can only redeem in person. Retailers can also deliver ads that feature a handy map telling consumers how to find their store.

Sometimes, targeting consumers when they are walking by a store may be a little too late. A QSR wanting to boost its 10 am breakfast crowd, for instance, may want to target consumers when they wake up around 7a and begin planning their day. Otherwise, the consumer has most likely already made their breakfast choice.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for retailers looking to connect with consumers and drive in-store sales, a strong mobile strategy is key. As the digital and physical worlds continue to blend, retailers must harness the insights and capabilities of mobile to reach their unique brand objectives.

Tune in next week to read all about how mobile is fast becoming the extension of a retailer’s store.

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