Asda will now give advertisers such as Lucozade access to its first party data after porting over parent company Walmart's Exchange (WMX) platform from the US.
It has been a much anticipated move and one which will mean UK brands can now harness Asda's shopper data to target ads across the retailer's myriad of properties - including the main grocery sites.
However, Asda has stressed that it's not simply handing over customer data. Rather, it does the targeting for the brand at customer groups that it believes may be interested in that product.
It's based on the offering Walmart launched in its heartland in 2014, pitching WMX to its suppliers (ie. the brands on Walmart’s shelves) as a way to better target online ads on its websites using its own shopper data, including buyer-habit data, key search term usage and browsing habits.
Walmart can then track the success of those ads - including impact on in-store sales - through the comparison of media-exposed shoppers versus non-exposed in real-time, allowing for campaign optimisation.
Bringing a version of this offering to the UK for Asda's suppliers has been on the cards for some time. The supermarket revealed to The Drum in early 2015 that it had begun selling ad units programmatically across three of its websites (although not Asda.com) via Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) ad server and Rubicon's supply-side platform. This was the first step towards launching a private ad exchange which would involve all of its properties, although it was very much a "test and learn" gambit and thoughts of taking WMX to the UK were not front of mind.
This changed with the hire of Triad Retail Media in May 2015 to lead its digital media sales. The agency, having already worked with Walmart for 12 years, was brought on board to embark on a 'roadshow' with Asda to take WMX across the pond to gauge interest amongst UK agencies and brands.
Despite being hit by delays with the departure of two senior executives at Asda who had been leading the project - Nick Bamber and Dom Burch - as well as Triad's sale to Xaxis last October, trials eventually began earlier this year ahead of the full roll out.
Early participants included Lucozade and FMCG-giant P&G, and Asda claims those brands have seen up to seven times the average click through rates (CTR) for standard banners when compared to the UK average.
“After establishing and refining the product in the US, the UK was the natural next market; Asda has a large scale online grocery business and advertisers are hungry to make use of first party data to reach their target audience,” Alex Crowe, head of Asda Media Partnerships told The Drum.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Both agencies and brands are enthused by WMX and it has been great to hear how creatively they were embracing data.”
Asda has made no secret of its ambition to rival traditional publishers for a share of online ad spend. And although Walmart said that revenue targets for this are not the key driver, it will none the less prove to be a compelling offering given the insight it can give on how ad spend is affecting sales.
Crowe added: “Data that is actionable and provides new insight is at the forefront of every advertiser’s mind. Our WMX solution puts our unique, valuable data in the hands of brands, allowing them to make informed, highly targeted decisions when building out their media strategies on our digital platforms.
“What’s more, we live by this too — it’s the same data that Asda uses to reach its own target audience.”