The concept of “programmatic shopper marketing” is transforming the ways brands engage with shoppers to drive sales, and creating a new set of skills for marketers to master.
Technology continues to reshape the way retailers and brands connect with current and prospective customers, especially when it comes to the field of shopper marketing. Advertising agencies have long used behavioral targeting to reach people whose characteristics make them likely candidates for ads promoting particular products, but contrary to popular belief digital media planners don’t have a monopoly on behavioral targeting. Nor are they its pioneers. Before Yahoo made this media strategy “cool” over a decade ago, shopper marketers honed the discipline of targeting shoppers at the moment of truth before purchase.
While demographic targeting and geo-targeting are proxies for delivering brand messages to the right audience, both leave room for wasted impressions and missed opportunities. That’s why shopper marketers have been going straight to the consumers whose behavior exhibits intent to buy — active retail shoppers.
But shopper marketers are facing new challenges in today’s landscape. Omnichannel shopping is forcing shopper marketers to look outside of the brick-and-mortar floor space. Shoppers spend less than 30 seconds in an aisle, but the average U.S. adult spends more than two hours browsing the web — every day. And research shows that 70% of consumers begin their path to purchase online before they shop in store. This is why programmatic — a technology-based method of buying relevant ad inventory in real time based on a set of predetermined conditions (e.g. price, audience, site, ad size) — is the perfect solution for shopper marketers to reach active shoppers of their retail channels with 100% accuracy. But what the heck is it?
Think of programmatic shopper marketing as having three core elements:
• First, there is an audience of shoppers that are creating data footprints. Every time consumers shop at an online retailer, a few pieces of information are recorded on their browser – which retailer they visited, when they visited, and which types of products they browsed. These data footprints are anonymously and securely recorded. No personal information about the consumer can be captured.
• Second, there are pools made up of billions of impressions of media inventory that are accumulated from thousands of sites across the web. These pools are called “ad exchanges,” and they are available for hundreds of buyers to access in an open and transparent marketplace. All of the impression buying is done using a real-time, auction-based model.
• Third, there are programmatic technologies that buyers can leverage to access these ad exchanges, and bid for the impressions that are most important to them. It’s all about reaching the right audience, at the right time, with the right message.
So how does this all come together for shopper marketers?
A buyer representing a brand leverages a programmatic technology to access the ad exchanges and identify shoppers based on their data footprints. Major retailers are now providing brand advertisers with access to their online shopper data, which is creating even more precise data footprints of shoppers. In real time, the programmatic technology scans the pool of inventory to identify consumers with recent shopping behavior at one of the buyer’s key retailers. Once identified, the technology makes a bid to serve the brand’s ad to that consumer. If the bid is higher than the bids made by competing buyers who also want to reach that same consumer, then the brand’s ad will be delivered. This all happens in milliseconds. Imagine how many thousands of retail shoppers you could reach within a single day using this approach.
With programmatic, shopper marketers can achieve the scale of a traditional media buy, but with the precision shopper targeting of an in-store display. This makes it the most effective way to maximize reach against your retail shoppers to drive awareness of new product launches or seasonal promotions. It’s also the most effective way to protect your shelf space by stealing share of voice from competitors in your category. Now you can buy impressions against active shoppers of a specific retailer, shopping in a specific product category with zero wasted impressions.
This is why the combined power of audience data and programmatic buying is going to change the game for shopper marketers. It’s the same concept shopper marketers have been using all along — targeting an audience based on their shopping behavior. But now they have the perfect mix of precision and scale.
Michele Szabocsik is the director of Retailer Targeted Marketing at OwnerIQ, a company that transforms its manufacturing and retail partners’ data into targeted audience opportunities.