Saturday, August 17, 2019

County to fund new tracking software for TA marketing

Creepy… but cool?

By Cayla Vidmar

The Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association (GCBTA) requested $100,000 from the county to fund a new marketing and tracking software called Arrivalist 3.0. The county directed staff to make the funds available to the GCBTA to purchase the software.

The new software will allow for more in-depth tracking of visitors using device GPS tracking, browser history, and data from cell phone apps for more targeted marketing. It will also track data on what tourists in the valley are doing during their stay and what marketing campaigns are effective.

Laurel Runcie, marketing director with the GCBTA, spoke to the county about the advantages of the software and how it will help shape their marketing efforts. According to a letter drafted by John Norton, GCBTA executive director, “The final, and until now elusive, piece of the puzzle is identifying when people who have actually seen our ads or content then show up here in the Valley.”

Norton continues, “With Arrivalist, we’ll be able to see what internet travels our visitors actually took and look back through their histories to see if we showed them an ad at some point.”

The idea behind the software, writes Runcie via email, is “we will be able to use the intelligence we glean from this process to improve the targeting and creative on our ads,” among other things. During the commissioners meeting, she explained some of the features the software is capable of, including cross-device tracking, the ability to view device browser history, and the ability to “fence off” specific areas to pinpoint.

“Arrivalist 3.0 allows for cross-device tracking,” said Runcie, “so if you schedule your trip on your computer, and you only take your phone on vacation with you, [the software] can tell it’s the same person.” As Runcie explains, this makes tracking more accurate and useful.

Arrivalist is also “backward looking,” explains Runcie, meaning “They pick up on the devices that come into the valley and then can look back through the devices’ browsing history.” Runcie explains this will help the GCBTA compare groups of people. “So we can say ‘These people from Denver never saw our advertising and came here, and these people saw our advertising and came,’ and we can see if they stay longer, or they’re more likely to come versus ones who don’t [see advertising].”

The GPS will allow the GCBTA to “fence in” specific areas in the valley, as Runcie explains. “For example, the airport, or a representative sample of lodging properties in Gunnison, in Crested Butte, bike shops, the Center for the Arts, the ski area … we can see what percentage of people go to the airport and also go to the Center for the Arts, or to the ski area, so we can see what is really driving the air travel into the Gunnison airport and then reinvest more in that type of advertising,” she says.

Questions concerning privacy came up, when commissioner Jonathan Houck stated “It’s creepy but cool at the same time,” to which county manager Matthew Birnie replied, “It seems like it raises some privacy and civil liberty concerns.”

Runcie responded, stating “They mask the data, and from my understanding …they typically get the data from apps where you’ve given the app permission, somewhere in the terms and conditions, to share data.” Which, as Runcie explains, means that the data they receive isn’t specific to an individual, but rather an aggregate of data. The TA, for example, can’t tell if “Jane Doe from Houston went to the Gunnison Airport and the Center for the Arts,” explains Runcie.

Birnie replied, “Yes, you’ve given the app permission to use data, but I think it’s at a level that folks don’t understand, so just from a public policy perspective, I think that’s something worth mentioning.”

Later he said, “People are supposed to be reading the 37 pages of terms and conditions on their phones,” when they download apps.

The county commissioners directed the staff to make the funds available for the GCBTA to purchase the software, so they can begin using it this fall on their winter marketing campaigns. The cost of the software is $93,750, and the remaining funds will be used to “update tracking on the website, agency costs and web development, to make sure it’s all syncing properly on our websites,” says Runcie.

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