The ability to target consumers is important for many ecommerce businesses. Many businesses, in fact, could benefit greatly from knowing where a customer lives so that the offer, and even the language, can be tailored to that geographic area. There is a company that provides that level of targeting to online merchants. It’s called Digital Element and its co-founder and chief operating officer is Rob Friedman.
PeC: How can your company’s geo-targeting services help small- to medium-size ecommerce merchants?
Friedman: “We work with companies of all sizes, from the mom-and-pop businesses to some of the largest companies on the Internet. We allow sites and ad networks to know a lot about users based their IP addresses, without any user interaction or user submission of data. Just like in the real world where knowing your customer is important, it’s [also] important on the online world. It affects what you buy, the currency you may buy things in, the language of your site, what you can or cannot sell.
“For example, small businesses may not want to market in certain areas if there’s no distribution capability to get the product to that area or that country. We do things like allow sites to target on the four- or five-digit zip codes. A lot of smaller ecommerce sites struggle with how to deal with the local market and we can help them.”
PeC: Can an ecommerce site serve up a separate site or a separate landing page based on someone’s IP address?
Friedman: “Yes. In fact, that’s a great use of the technology. Our technology allows websites to instantly, on the fly, target different home pages to different segments. It could be based on location. It could be based on even demographic information, which we recently incorporated into our products through a partnership with Equifax [information solutions provider]; but you can use this data in real time to change the home page. Maybe you want to market your products differently to someone in Atlanta from someone in Alaska. You can do that instantly in under 0.03 milliseconds.”
PeC: Give a concrete example as to how your technology could help an online business, such as a clothing retailer.
Friedman: “If someone comes in from Miami, you’re probably not going to show him or her a parka. But if someone comes in from Alaska, you may him or her parkas or sweaters. If someone comes in from Spain, you can show him or her the site in their own language, in their own pricing with correct currency, and with products that may sell well in Spain. So, it varies within a country and also varies when you get outside the U.S. The Internet being a global medium, you’ve got to be prepared to get user traffic from everywhere.”
PeC: Can a merchant track an IP address from, say, Spain and serve up a Spanish language site?
Friedman: “Exactly. The other thing you can do, if you can’t do anything with that Spanish traffic, you may be able to set up some kind of marketing arrangement with somebody who does service that area of the world and route that traffic instantly saying, ‘Hey, we can’t serve you, but visit our partner who has the ability to serve you in Spain,’ and maybe receive some kind of payment for redirecting traffic to somebody who can help the customer.”
PeC: Tell us about your company, Digital Element.
Friedman: “Well, we started the company back in early 1999. We’re based in Atlanta. We have offices in California as well as the U.K., and we’re still going strong despite this economy. With the internalization of traffic, and folks trying to get the most out of their current websites, targeting is a hot area on the Internet, and we feel like we’re smack-dab in a sweet spot.”
PeC: How much does your geo-locating service cost?
Friedman: “For a start-up business, we typically can do as little as $500 a month. We pride ourselves in working with small businesses as they become large, so we are willing to work a pricing model with those customers as they grow.
“The pricing depends on what elements customers need. This could include country-level targeting versus city-level, for example. We can also help companies target other companies of interest. For example, if Walmart comes to your site, or IBM or any competitor company, we can help you show each of them a different message.
PeC: How does your technology work with the hundreds of ecommerce shopping carts available today?
Friedman: “As long as you have access to the code, [our service is] very easy to incorporate. We have APIs [application programming interfaces] that come in basically every programming language that communicates to our server. They either reside at the company’s web hosting facility or [within] our SaaS [software as a service] solution. So, it is very easy to just incorporate the code that would serve up localized content. We’re also approaching shopping cart vendors as partners.”
PeC: Anything else on your mind in reference to IP geo-locating or ecommerce in general?
Friedman: “The big trend seems to be really getting down to a very granular level. We have a new product line called NetAcuity Edge, which allows you to get targeting down further than has ever been done before. Customers are demanding far more granular data than traditionally has been done through IP targeting. So, that’s kind of a new trend and I think it will help mom-and-pop-type or smaller businesses compete with larger ones by attracting traffic that they need to monetize, and routing traffic that they can’t to other places.
“Additionally, because of this increased granularity, the layering on of demographic information in our new consumer insight engine has become a pretty big trend as well. Our partnership with Equifax allows people to know more about their users not just from a location but also if they happen to reside in a wealthy area, non-wealthy area; if they like gardening or don’t like gardening. Things like that will enable smaller businesses to compete with larger businesses by being able to tell instantly whether they can monetize this customer and what to show them. So, it is a really hot time for IP targeting.”