Rocket Fuel: The possibilities of programmatic

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Rocket Fuel client strategy director Joel Christie on the many benefits of prospecting and retargeting for retailers.

Joel Christie

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Retailers use big data in many ways to ensure they are delivering the best customer service and experience and to ultimately drive business performance. Loyalty programmes capture data that provides an understanding of what a customer purchases regularly and patterns in their purchase behaviour. Point-of-sale data determines when customers are shopping and if they are taking advantage of deals and sales. And overall sales figures can point towards whether an advertising campaign is having the desired effect. All of this data can be combined to help retailers make important and effective business decisions. 

But it is not just about using this data to change future marketing strategies or assess previous performance, it is now possible to take all of this data and turn it into strategies for growth, retention and upsell in real time. A programmatic solution has access to so much data – purchase behaviour, demographics, psychographics, geographic data and so on – and can make crucial decisions on which customer should be targeted with which product in a split second. Some companies can access data segments from multiple third-party data providers, as well as leverage retailers’ owned first-hand data, allowing for the creation of custom audiences – whether you are looking to retarget lapsed or previous shoppers or prospect for brand new customers. 

Retailers have long known the benefits of retargeting and many are revisiting their strategies to make sure they are getting the best. This means leveraging data on what a consumer is in the market for, targeting them with a reason for purchasing and then tying that back to their purchase data to cease marketing the purchased product. This leads to either resting marketing to that consumer or looking at cluster analysis of purchases or buying behaviour to cross-sell other products. All this can be automated and provides increased revenue opportunities at lower costs. 

Topically, with a growing number of retailers listing on the stock exchange or moving towards an IPO this year, there has been a renewed focus on utilising the full spectrum of online marketing to achieve the growth required to meet analysts’ expectations to enable a successful IPO. Programmatic can play a huge role in driving performance and retailers have quickly come to realise that a programmatic strategy enables true one-to-one marketing by reaching the right audience, at the right time, with the right message and in an environment most likely to drive a consumer to purchase, through every biddable digital channel, such as display, mobile, social and video, not only within the UK but across 241 countries around the world.

While the focus has generally been on retargeting customers who have previously shopped or showed interest in their products, retailers are now looking to programmatic to help them identify new opportunities. Prospecting strategies are helping retailers to find new customers based on modelling a current customer’s behaviour and finding prospects who display similar behaviours. 

A programmatic solution has access to so much data it can make crucial decisions on which customer should be targeted with which product in a split second

This works well in retail when consumer behaviour is seasonal and patterns shift regularly. Take men’s clothing retailers. Their target customer mostly behaves a certain way. But with a seasonal event such as Father’s Day, you open yourself up to hundreds of potential customers who look nothing like your traditional customer – daughters, sons, young mothers, all purchasing Father’s Day gifts. How do you factor this in to your plans for all those macro events that will lead to your brand generating more sales? Employing micro-targeting strategies in real time enables you to maximise these pockets of opportunity at much less risk than deploying a strategy to each group you think represents a sales opportunity. 

These arguments are also getting recognised across the business, not just in marketing departments. Finance and planning teams are being sold on the great strides being made in the analytics and attribution models that are being put into practice. Many retailers employ audience segmentation specialists, which are powering analytics for major blue-chip firms to help them understand how prospecting activity is incremental and then how much return on investment they get on the back of it.

Programmatic technology does not just provide rich insight on how campaigns perform, it also provides a full breakdown of every pound spent in the system. Advertisers only pay what the impression is worth to them specifically. Chief finance officers can sleep better at night knowing how they are spending their marketing pounds.

Programmatic buying is about efficiency – and every retailer can benefit from cost efficiencies and process efficiencies, regardless of what you sell or where you sell it.   

What makes a successful retail ad?

Retail-specific insights show exactly what type of advertising creative works best for consumers. In a recent study of over 7,000 distinct creatives from a sample of 362 retail advertising programs run with Rocket Fuel in 2013 and 2014, we were able to establish what elements combine to make a retail ad successful. Some of the results are surprising.

  • Special offers are more compelling than pricing: Ads with special offers, such as sales, are three times more effective than ads without offers. Creatives should only mention pricing in tandem with an offer. Ads with pricing and no offer perform worse than ads with neither.
  • Show the product in use: Creatives that show the product being used tend to have conversion rates 52 per cent higher than those that do not, regardless of the colour of the ad or the product shown.
  • Animated creatives perform better: Animated retail creatives (those with motion such as animated gifs and Flash banners), perform better than ads with static imagery, with conversion rates nearly 360 per cent higher on average.
  • Stick to red and white backgrounds: Ads with red or white backgrounds are far more efficient at generating conversions. Product colour matters too. Ads showing green products tended to generate conversion rates 53 per cent higher than ads with other coloured products. The most effective combination is a green product on a white background.
  • ‘Start here’ is the most effective call-to action: Among calls-to-action, retail creatives with ‘Start Here’ had the highest conversion rates, followed by ‘View <Product>’ and ‘Learn More’ (which performs well across most categories).

Rocket Fuel has built a specialised team to help retail advertisers understand what is possible with programmatic buying and assist in designing more effective campaigns

Joel Christie,
Client strategy director, 
Rocket Fuel

34 Bow Street

T: +44 (0)20 3651 1300


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