Noel D'Souza
Aug 31, 2023

Brands, agencies, and retailers must have visibility of the entire customer journey: Sherry Smith, Criteo

The general manager, global enterprise of Criteo dived into the growth of retail media in India, what it can offer advertisers, its partnership with IAS and how it can improve the shopper experience

Brands, agencies, and retailers must have visibility of the entire customer journey: Sherry Smith, Criteo

Criteo hosted its inaugural Commerce Forum on 29 August 2023 in Mumbai. 

The forum highlighted the significance of commerce media and its role in enabling advertisers to achieve marketing objectives on the open internet and utilising relevant audience data for effective consumer reach. 

On the sidelines of the forum, Campaign India chatted with Sherry Smith, general manager, global enterprise, Criteo, to pick her brain on the potential opportunities for advertisers within the domain of commerce media, its partnership with Integral Ad Science (IAS), and its ability to guide marketers in ensuring their consumers reach the pivotal last-mile point in their consumer journey.

Edited excerpts: 

What has led to the significant growth of retail media networks in recent years? How has this trend impacted the media commerce landscape in the APAC region?

At Criteo, we've observed a significant increase in the number of retailers we work with. When I joined, we had around 100 to 150 retailers. Now, that number has surpassed 200. This growth isn't just about quantity; it's also about the expanding range of products and opportunities for media commerce, leading to substantial growth in our dataset. 

Retailers, especially in Japan, have begun developing their technology. However, they often seek to collaborate with Criteo to enhance their implementation. 

We aim to create a more automated and self-serve solution for a retailer's marketplace. In APAC, we're witnessing these partnerships and vantage points for media commerce in countries like Japan, Korea, and Australia. 

Where does India stand in comparison to other APAC markets, when it comes to retail media networks?

The Indian market is relatively new and emerging, and it might not have been as prepared if we had considered it a year ago. However, the inclusion of Flipkart in our portfolio has played a pivotal role in advancing this situation. 

With our increasing focus on omni-channel strategies, the appeal of this opportunity has grown further. Despite being the fastest-growing sector, e-commerce in India still has relatively lower penetration. This makes embracing the omni-channel approach especially valuable. As a result, we can secure more meetings and explore ways to provide support to retailers.

How can brands effectively unlock and optimise the value within the commerce media ecosystem through Criteo?

There are a couple of key factors that hold significant importance for us. First and foremost, we emphasise a transparent platform. Brands, agencies, and retailers must have visibility into the entire customer journey, encompassing pricing, performance, and other relevant aspects. The concept of self-service is also integral. Shifting away from managed services, which isn't the preferred agency interaction model, we transitioned from being a 90% managed service-oriented platform during our launch three years ago to now being 90% self-serve.

Enabling a platform that empowers brands, agencies, and partners to effectively engage with retail media has proven to be a pivotal breakthrough. Equally important is our focus on data reporting. Robust reporting capabilities are essential, not only for optimising campaigns in real-time and assessing performance but also for comprehensive end-of-cycle reporting. Understanding the impact of each ad unit on overall performance is a critical aspect of this.

We provide retailers with control, allowing them to set their rate cards, oversee campaign progression, and make informed decisions about ad placements and other factors. This level of customisation is a distinctive feature. 

While the underlying technology is present, we aim to make sure our design is adaptable according to the retailer's preferences and needs.

What strategies can D2C brands employ to achieve scale through commerce media and enhance customer lifetime value growth?

We collaborate closely with numerous prominent DTC (direct-to-consumer) brands. In this scenario, our solution is specifically tailored to facilitate the seamless completion of online purchases for these brands. 

For instance, let's take Macy's, a US-based retailer. We're actively crafting media programs that they can employ to engage with their target audience. 

At present, our primary emphasis revolves around furnishing a DTC offering that assists these marketers in optimising their conversion rates within the retailer's domain. While the potential of exploring other avenues might be considered down the line, our current focus remains centred on enhancing the brand's ability to secure conversions within the retailer's space.

With the evolving digital landscape, what media opportunities do you see emerging for retailers in terms of driving monetisation? How can they effectively leverage these opportunities?

We're currently focusing on a few key initiatives. Video content holds significant importance in our strategy, especially for sectors like fashion, luxury, and even culinary experiences. We're actively testing partnerships and also developing our capabilities in this realm. 

This process typically starts with an initial proof of concept conducted in-line, followed by iterative steps like alpha and beta testing before a full-fledged launch.

Throughout this journey, we collaborate closely with our trusted brand and agency partners. We initiate discussions early on to establish clear guidelines for the testing phase and gather their valuable feedback. Their involvement is instrumental in shaping the direction we take. This approach has yielded considerable success with our off-site launches in the past.

We're replicating this approach in our video ventures, and the same methodology will be applied as we delve into other avenues such as CTV and omnichannel strategies. As we proceed, expect to hear more about our endeavours.

Could you share insights into what retail media can offer to advertisers that sets it apart from other advertising channels? 

The most crucial aspect revolves around the valuable first-party data that retailers possess about their customers. From customer browsing behaviour to purchase intent and actual purchases, retailers have a comprehensive understanding of their customer's journey. This knowledge ensures that customers aren't presented with advertisements for products they've already purchased. The retailer is aware of this, and this dataset remains a cornerstone for personalising the customer experience. It's a way of demonstrating care and value to the customer, without appearing intrusive. 

When this personalisation is executed effectively, it leads to success on multiple fronts. It benefits both the retailers and their merchants. Keeping merchants' content is a priority, as ultimately, the customers are theirs. The purchase cycle should remain seamless and undisturbed; this is where our role becomes vital. If we, along with the retailer, fulfil our responsibilities adeptly, the purchase cycle remains intact, and our contributions complement the overall process.

One of the key aspects of retail media is its potential to enhance the shopper experience. Can you explain how retail media contributes to improving the overall shopping journey for consumers? 

The brand and retailer need to focus on collaboration while creating content that resonates with both their respective audiences. This involves tailoring the retailer's advertising formats to align with their unique preferences and desired ad presentation. 

Simultaneously, it's about personalising these ad formats to cater to the needs and interests of the end customers. This concerted effort between the brand, agency, and retailer works cohesively to craft a seamless and consistent experience.

This experience transcends beyond the online sphere; it extends to off-site interactions and in-store experiences as well. The future trajectory for retailers lies in ensuring that when a customer encounters a product on the shelf, it seamlessly aligns with what they encountered online, albeit potentially at a different stage of their journey.

Creating this fluidity is a paramount objective for retailers. It necessitates active collaboration between retailers, agencies, and brands. It's essential to engage in dialogue with these entities to understand their aspirations and objectives. This approach underscores the significance of adopting both a retailer mindset and a consumer perspective.

Brands inherently possess a wealth of customer data, especially when it comes to their target demographic, such as beauty customers. When these two streams of information converge, a holistic and impactful customer experience emerges. This approach, with the customer at the heart, ultimately culminates in a seamless journey for the end consumer, right up to the point of purchase.

Looking ahead, what do you envision as the future of retail media? How might advancements in technology like AI/ML and consumer behaviour shape this next phase of retail media evolution?

AI lies at the heart of our operations, and as it advances, so will our capabilities. We intend to stay ahead of this curve. In terms of the future of retail media, our vision is centred around seamless integration, and eliminating fragmentation. 

Currently, many retailers are in a testing phase when it comes to AI, contemplating whether to build internally or seek partnerships. However, the future holds a push toward standardisation, with collaborations like the one with Integral Ad Science (IAS) becoming more prevalent. 

This convergence is essential for retailers to effectively harness the substantial data potential – an estimated USD 150 billion – and create a cohesive ecosystem.

Presently, a significant number of retailers still rely on manual service for shopper interactions. We've merely scratched the surface of possibilities. This is why even notable retailers not yet under our wing are expressing interest in collaboration. They recognise our dominance in this sector and see potential for a fruitful partnership.

The momentum towards an open ecosystem is crucial. The idea of walled gardens hampers the purchasing process for brands and agencies dealing with multiple retailers. Hence, we emphasise collaboration as the key to success. Building alliances and fostering synergy is the route to victory in this domain. We foresee this trend intensifying as networks embrace the open challenge and expand their reach, potentially making strides in India as well.

Campaign India

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