This month, we want you to look inside of your phone. Hold on, though. Put the screwdriver down. This is a mental exercise. Inside of your phone, there’s a long string of letters and numbers known as a Device ID. These ID’s are essentially serial numbers that never change, a sort of fingerprint for your phone, if you will. And just like fingerprints, they can be tracked.

At the early onset of COVID-19, you might have seen a popular map circulating around the internet. It was a grid of the United States showing the number of people who went to Florida beaches in the opening weeks of safer-at-home orders. The map began with a concentration of dots along the coast of the Sunshine State, before morphing into a movie where those dots all spread out across the eastern United States. How did that map come about? It wasn’t science fiction. It was created by tracking the Device ID’s of smartphones at those beaches.

The map stirred controversy on Twitter. For many, it was the first realization that their locations were constantly being monitored by cell phone providers and third party services—even without giving permission for an app to do so. But those across the marketing landscape largely rolled their eyes.

Device ID’s, you see, have been used to track smartphone users for years.

Device ID’s are the easiest way to identify mobile users. They reveal crucial behavior for advertisers: not only which beaches potential customers are going to, but which restaurants and stores, along with which outdoor activities they might be enjoying. Does this cellphone owner spend time on the water? Is that water at sea or inland? Have they visited a tackle store lately? Have they been to a fishing expo?

All of this information can be gleaned from Device ID’s. And while they are not permanent—Device ID’s change when someone gets a new phone. You can effectively use Device ID’s to target a large percentage of highly qualified, future customers. Critically, the criteria for targeting customers can be dialed in to incredibly specific timeframes.

Let’s say you want to deliver social media ads to customers who attended in-house seminars at your tackle shop in Q1 of 2020? Done. How about customers who attended a Fred Hall Show in 2019? No problem. Or what about all of the people who simply walked into your store between July 1 of 2018 and July 1 of 2020? With Device ID targeting from FTR Decode’s team, you can do that.

The idea behind Device ID targeting is simple—deliver more value for your ad dollar. By narrowing the scope of your ad campaigns to the people most likely to interact with your business, you avoid diluting your ad dollars by sending ads to irrelevant parties. It’s a rifle shot approach to marketing, rather than a shotgun. Advanced marketing partners can use Device ID’s to create an advertising profile for each individual smartphone. Similar profiles can be sorted into like-minded groups. Think bass fishermen, inshore anglers, even bank anglers. 

Of course, simply targeting the right customers means nothing if your creative is falling on deaf ears. That’s why a competent creative partner like FTR’s Decode team is essential to making the most of your investment. Even the best ads grow stale, and even the most well-intentioned campaigns can fall by the wayside if the creative is flat. You can’t skimp on quality content just because you are targeting the right people. 

In the coming months, Device ID’s are likely to generate more mainstream news due to COVID-19. While America is reopening, it’s important to remember that this virus is not likely to go away anytime soon. With that in mind, other countries are already contemplating using Device ID’s to enable contact tracing. After all, it’s hard to get a more accurate picture of someone’s interactions than a three-foot radius that follows them around almost constantly.

If implemented without consent, that move would prove controversial. But already, countries across Asia and Europe are utilizing the technology to stem the tide of the pandemic. 

As your business navigates a way into the future, you can use the same technology to improve the effectiveness of your marketing materials by reactivating, retaining and reaching new customers.

For more information on Device ID marketing, contact our digital decode lead, Abby Nichols at [email protected].