This is a guest post by Edward Ramsey, Vice President Marketing, Data & Tech Strategy for Valassis.

Ed Ramsey-Edit“Worlds in Collision” is a popular book written by Immanuel Velikovsky that was first published April 3, 1950. The book hypothesizes that around the 15th century BCE, Venus was ejected from Jupiter as a comet or comet-like object and passed near Earth. The object changed Earth’s orbit and axis, causing innumerable disruptions that have been referenced in ancient writings.

We can draw an interesting comparison to the disruptive force that digital media has become over the past several years, its intersection with traditional media and the wave of new possibilities to engage consumers. While the “collision” of online and offline data allows us to enhance what we know about consumers, it presents a new level of complexity that is forcing brands and marketers to adapt to a rapidly changing, consumer-driven environment.

Here are a few observations of what’s happening across channels:

  • Not surprisingly, consumers are continuing their omni-channel approach to shopping.
    • According to a recent Shullman Research Center report, 76 percent of adults research products online (vs. 17 percent who research purchases in a store); 46 percent actually purchase online (vs. 47 percent in a store).1
    • Also not surprisingly, buying behavior varies by generation.2
      • Millennials rely more on a digital connection for shopping whereas boomers frequent more multi-channel retailers (those traditional retailers who have made the move online). Gen X falls somewhere in the middle.
  • Consumers are also providing personal information (email, name, links to social media accounts) to receive information and special offers from brands. Digital media providers access similar behavioral information and leverage additional sources for enhanced modeling.
  • Linkage of online and offline behavioral data enables marketers to deliver localized, individualized promotional messaging.


  • Behavior (act-a-likes) replaces demographics as the primary targeting/media planning resource;
  • Geo-behavioral replaces geo-demographic targeting; and
  • Database management and analytic practices incorporate more real-time/near real-time behavioral data (vs. building a static customer segmentation), closing the “engagement to re-engagement loop” faster.

Why is This Important?
The world of digital media is producing a steady stream of data about consumers, their interests, purchases and habits. Mobile devices add the ability to “follow” a consumer throughout the day, connecting their on-the-go (“digital world”) behaviors to their home (“physical world”) location. The ability to turn this data into actionable insights will fuel consumer segmentation, media planning and response analytics across advertising vehicles. Linking digital data to geography is one of the ways to create that bridge between the online and offline worlds. And while we often hear in the digital space “geography doesn’t matter,” that is not necessarily true. Smart phones, mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) have advanced our ability to identify and connect with consumers based on their location. Moreover, geo-location and geo-fencing capabilities are just extensions of the consumer geographic map, providing new opportunities to engage and activate consumers. A recent article citing Pew and eMarketer data3 revealed that approximately 90 percent of people keep the location services function on their smartphones switched to “on.” As the world becomes more mobile, users’ interests are becoming more local — and therefore, more reliant on geo-based tools. Tying this digital insight with offline data creates a powerful view of audiences.

Why Geography Still Matters
In traditional media channels such as direct mail, newspaper, radio and cable TV, geography has always played a critical role in its ability to drive relevant content. Geo-targeting-based methods that considered perimeter, proximity and potential were key drivers in delivering the right promotional media messages to the right consumer. With the rising influence of location-based technology, the importance of geography is amplified, because the dimension of “time” (reaching consumers at the right time) can be realized.
Moreover, geography will remain important because:

  • Majority of retail spend is in-store (over 90 percent in 2015)4;
  • Consumers live at a physical address and information about the neighborhood is still relevant and informative; and
  • Provides GUID (Globally Unique Identifier) for online and offline information, plus addresses privacy concerns via data aggregation (masking the information so that it is not tied back to an individual)

Key Takeaways
The more relevant an ad or offer, the more likely it is to drive a sale – which is why the “collision” of online and offline data is so important. With richer, multi-dimensional, customer profiles, the result is greater relevance, leading to engagement and ultimately, revenue.

In summary, consider the following:

  • Digital data streams can be tied back to the physical world and leveraged for non-digital media, including direct mail.
  • The tracking of consumers’ interests and daily journey, both online and around town, lead to greater insight into their path to purchase geography is still relevant. It simplifies the presentation of data, connects us to neighborhoods and store locations and helps address privacy concerns.

The “collision” of the online and offline worlds creates an opportunity for marketers and advertisers to enhance their consumer insights, deliver more relevant messages in the media of choice and ultimately harness this disruptive force to deliver meaningful results.