Reach and relevancy matters: how major brands are tackling consumer data

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While Walmart sets itself up to rival fellow tech giant Amazon after agreeing to buy Jet.com last year for $3.3 billion and expanding its business operations in the US, smaller retailers and advertisers are still struggling to target consumers with relevant ads. So how can they become better?

Programmatic leader Xaxis and digital retail media expert Triad Retail Media attempted to answer this question by inviting top industry experts for a day of discussions at its special CES event in Las Vegas. Walmart gets around 140 million customers a week so it was only apt WPP’s chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell and panel moderator kick-started the discussion by focusing on Walmart’s consumer data strategy.

“How targeted and effective [is Walmart] and how far has [Walmart] got to go?” Sorrell asked.

“Like with anything we are always improving. We can tell you who's been exposed to ads online and ultimately if they [made a] purchase at Walmart stores either online or offline,” answered Neil Murphy, senior director of marketing at Walmart.

“There's no better predictor of future purchase than past purchase. We are harnessing all of that data to be able to target customers with effective media to improve the customer experience. I would say we are much further ahead than most people.”

Not everyone shops online

Global payments company Mastercard helps advertisers with data insights but comparatively to Walmart, is still new to the data scene. On another panel discussion moderated by Brian Lesser, CEO of North America at GroupM, Jay Sears, senior vice president of media solutions at Mastercard, talked about the company’s unique challenge in using data to bring customers online.

“Don't forget, 94% of all purchases happen offline,” said Sears. “Only 15% of things that are bought globally are bought with a credit or debit card. Mastercard's role is to bring the next 500 million consumers online.”

When it comes to understanding how people shop and what they are likely to buy in the future, Sears talked about the importance of analysing what consumers actually spend their money on.

“You are what you spend. So think about that and think about [how you can use] data science to predict future behaviours. Then you can actually measure real ROI. I think one of the challenges that we are all thinking about as a business is, how do we be more holistic and get beyond just measuring process and measure real outcomes so we get insights as we are doing our work.”

Don’t mention measurement

But measuring insights can be a tricky business when the metrics you are getting are all wrong. Facebook’s miscalculated metrics from some of its products came to light last year which led to some loss of trust amongst advertisers. Sorrell has repeatedly advocated for refining the process of ROI and he again referred to the problem of walled gardens.

“Our experience of these social media platforms like Google and Facebook is that they are very unwilling for some good reasons as well as bad reasons to share their data,” said Sorrell. “Is that something that worries you?”

“It’s not that much of a worry,” answered Mike Mangione, global head of digital marketing at Bose. “We don't rely as much on that data. We try to piece together several data points and if a decision cannot be based of that data, those activities are unlikely to continue.”

Creating data where ‘none exists’

While data has been given a lot of attention over the last 20 years, only a small portion of time has been spent thinking about how to generate creative. The one-size-fits-all campaigns will no longer do if brands really want to reach consumers in a personalised way.

Diaz Nesamoney, president and CEO at Jivox, tackled this challenge by “throwing away old notions of how creatives are built” and building a dynamic one for an individual instead.

“If we know they have purchased a product, we use machine-learning to look at recommended products and then show them similar products. If someone brought a toaster, we serve them bread!” said Nesamoney.

Sometimes it is about creating data “where none exists” added Brian Spencer, senior vice president and media directory at Geometry. Spencer said Geometry use geo-fencing technology to create data around physical locations to target customers with relevant messaging by the time they reach the store.

“We know [for instance] based on data they are probably [running out of] dog food and it's time for them to do a stock-up trip at their pet specialty retailer. We are able to remind them of that special offer when they enter the retail location.”

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