This is the white space in the eCommerce agency landscape.
A year ago, we strategically invested to expand our commerce practice to include a Retail Operations & Strategy craft. It specifically addresses the area of opportunity that brands/ clients have in eCommerce by bridging the gap between the marketing/ customer development side and the sales/ customer delivery side.
The team is set up to work in lock step with our retail media craft to ensure optimal performance, or as a stand-alone value add for clients. This complete approach closes the loop as a solution that includes all other eCommerce needs. It changes the conversation because of a focus on mutual KPI’s that support account health (brand share, category growth, and profitability).
Retail Operations & Strategy is organized in three buckets:
- Retail Strategy
- Digital Merchandising
- Operations Solutions
Effective Planning & Flawless Activation
Historically, brands have had to cater to retailers in order to own the shelf and promote their products both in-store and online. Retailers have used this leverage to force brands into committing to spend and sales goals through Joint Business Plans (JBPs), but provide limited transparency and data to understand the true value of the partnership.
As more brands and retailers are joining the eRetail media space, the tides are turning to give brands more power. At IPG, we utilize our expertise with Walmart Connect and Roundel to lead the way for our clients and push retailers in new ways to drive more value.
For example, by utilizing tracking tools like IAS, MOAT and Double Verify, we have uncovered significant issues with invalid traffic across both Walmart and Target for many of our clients. We use our data to set benchmarks for invalid traffic and viewability with each retailer and negotiating added value or other concessions when they are unable to achieve our agreed upon benchmarks. The retailers have been open to working with us on this issue, but have also said, “No other brands are bringing up this issue.”
Once Effective Planning is complete, the output must be put into motion on Retail Media Networks and Sponsored Product Channels.
We call this process Flawless Activation.
Running on Retail Media Networks has inherent challenges. Particularly when run as a managed service, data transparency is a concern, as is mid-flight optimizations.
This is where Flawless Activation becomes critical. By uniting our Full Funnel plan and our audience-first approach, we can effectively alleviate these challenges. We bring a proactive approach to optimizations to ensure that we’re being made daily, based upon regular data pulls. Even when the Retail Media Networks operate exclusively managed, we work with them to create a solution as close to self-service as possible. The Retail Media Network employees become extensions of our team, using our dashboards to monitor performance and communicate changes. This allows us to implement mid-flight optimizations that drive better efficiency and performance.
In addition, IPG has been a leader in the eCommerce space in developing self-service processes and capabilities for Sponsored Product Channels. We do this through our close marketing and data partnerships with retailers such as Walmart Connect, Roundel, Criteo, CitrusAd, etc. These partnerships offer us first-look beta optimizations, unique API access to create tools around, and increased visibility and influence on their product roadmaps.
By bringing Retail Media Network teams directly into our team, involving them in our planning process, and ensuring our team members and our data are the foundation of the campaign creation and optimization process, we can achieve Flawless Activation.
As the eCommerce space evolves (and evolves, and evolves again), brands and advertisers need to break down traditional silos and think holistically in their planning. Building a strategy that focuses on the consumer and all their shopping touch points is key to increasing digital penetration and owning the crowded digital shelf. eCommerce growth requires both retaining loyal consumers and stealing market share from competitors. To do this, we build a Full Funnel Media Strategy.
A Full Funnel Media Strategy is not a new concept and is used by many advertisers. However, it is not always activated or focused effectively. Through IPG’s focus on the Customer Flow and building a strategy that considers all points in the journey, we drive more value for brands across all platforms and tactics.
As competition continues to grow across eCommerce platforms, it is important that Brands are focused on the customer and sharing the right experience at the right time in their journey.
OBJECTiV is our proprietary audit tool that allows us to look at multiple channels/capabilities of the Commerce space and help brands like Sanofi truly understand the landscape and build leverage with platforms and retailers.
This tool provides impactful insights to help brands see where channels/platforms are adding value and where they are lagging when compared to the competition. These insights have also been taken directly to the Retailers to support JBP negotiations and get our clients invited to be strategic RMN development partners.
With this tool, Brands will be provided with granular insights and opportunities to help with budget prioritization and gain leverage in JBP discussions to negotiate more added value and beta opportunities.
When working with Retailers, brands have been forced to commit to total spend budgets for the year in the JBP. While the Retail Media Network teams are focused on supporting Sanofi the best they can, their incentive to find new and emerging opportunities is limited because of the committed media spend.
Our Media Briefing Floor Process turns the tide on the traditional way that brands work with the Retailers. Instead of committing the full media budget to all the retailers in the JBPs, we work with brands to negotiate a lower total amount with each retailer and hold back a portion of the total budget. With this incremental funding, we brief all retailers for certain tentpole events and create an incentive for them to bring new betas, added value media and other opportunities that they may not have considered previously.
We see this process change as an opportunity for 2022 to determine the incremental budget and introduce the process to Retailers.
Moving to a new process like this will create a new competitive layer across Retailers and, like OBJECTiV, gain additional leverage to drive more value within Sanofi’s media planning and activation.
While working with Walmart Connect and Roundel provides exclusive access to targeting their 1P customer data through on and offsite media, understanding what tactics and audiences are most valuable from campaign to campaign can be challenging. This is mostly driven by the delay in receiving and the lack of historic performance in those reports.
To solve this issue, we have built a process that utilizes historic campaign performance to evaluate media plans proposed by each channel. This allows us to evaluate tactics and audiences over multiple campaign activations and truly understand which ones provide the most value, in addition to forecasting performance as budget is adjusted across tactics.
While executing a Full Funnel Media strategy and focusing on the consumer, this tool will allow Sanofi brands to push Walmart Connect and Roundel to propose more effective media plans that are aligned with our goals vs wasting spend on tactics that have not previously performed.
Navigating the complex nature of eCommerce Media with the growing number of channels and overlap is a challenge. As the competition on these platforms increases, having the ability to utilize automation in account and bid management is crucial to driving success.
At IPG, we partner closely with two industry-leading tools in the space, Pacvue and Skai* (formerly Kenshoo). These two tools are at the forefront of innovation in eCommerce Media and Retail account management, bid technology and retail reporting. In addition, their platforms offer access to the most retailers including, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Criteo, CitrusAd, Go Puff and more on their roadmaps.
While their tools provide similar capabilities, they do provide proprietary differences which we consider when we choose which tool we use with clients.
Through our close partnership with each platform, Brands will have access to some of the lowest rates in the industry, first to market views of new capabilities and the option to build customized dashboards.