Coastal.com CMO: Programmatic Is 'Where Marketing Will Go'

Braden Coastal CMOEcommerce is a “clean business” when it comes to attribution. That's one reason why 90% of media dollars at contact and eyewear company Coastal.com go toward influencing sales: It's easy to tell if those tactics actually work.

After tracing the path from advertising to a sale, that same data is applied to make the advertising smarter and more effective. Which is one reason Coastal.com CMO Braden Hoeppner is a fan of programmatic.

“I look at programmatic as the place where all marketing will go. From emails to site personalization, it will all be one-to-one marketing,” Hoeppner said.

Coastal.com manages all digital campaigns in-house, working directly with technology partners such as MediaMath subsidiary Adroit Digital. “We are very nimble. Because we have those direct relationships, we can respond to changing dynamics in the market or our strategy quickly,” Hoeppner said.

The Vancouver, Canada-based eyewear company started out selling contact lenses 15 years ago online. Seven years ago it added glasses. While the online eyeglasses market is “nascent and emerging,” Hoeppner assessed, it’s “much more mass-market. Contact lenses is 15% of the population, while glasses [includes] 70% of people that need some form of vision correction.”

Coastal.com recently expanded into offline commerce, opening three retail stores in Canada.

AdExchanger spoke with Hoeppner about how Coastal.com manages its programmatic spend and the future of programmatic marketing.

AdExchanger: What’s the past, present and future of programmatic for Coastal.com?

BRADEN HOEPPNER: We’ve always been digital marketers first. Our media mix is largely online.

It came down to how to continue to scale advertising dollars to get the best return possible and reach people most effectively.

Before programmatic, we were doing what everyone else was doing: buying media through networks and managing our media buy very traditionally.

With the advent of programmatic, it’s us finding partners. If they say they can deliver better results, we test it, put some money behind it and measure against all our other media to make sure it’s effective. Things that are effective for us we continue to put money into.

Right now with the term “programmatic,” the scope is in display advertising. That’s going to be the big shift in the near future. The idea of programmatic at a really high level, of automated delivery of a message to the right consumer, can be applied to a lot of different digital media channels. That evolution I’m interested to see and find ways for us to leverage.

There is this fear among marketers that programmatic is a “black box,” and it’s difficult to understand what’s going on that’s driving the results. Is that a concern?

Marketers who have been around for a while know how to make their media mix work, how to control the levers. When you do it in a programmatic way, you’re handing those reins over to a media company, trusting that they will create a mix that is actually accurate and going to work.

Right out of the gate, there were companies that dipped their toes into it, and didn’t give enough time to optimize and learn. Programmatic is a leap of faith at the beginning, and our experience is that it works and pays off.

When you’re running with multiple vendors, how do you deal with the fact that you might have 10 ads shown to one person through three different partners? Or dealing with issues of attribution in those environments?

When you go programmatic, as a nature of the beast, you can compete against yourself in certain cases. We work hard to not do that, but it’s not perfect.

You think about that as you figure out how many partners to have, and what mix, and what sandboxes you allow them to play in. Some exchanges or programmatic partners are better suited to certain consumers or devices, which can help eliminate crossover.

We're developing how we want to look at our marketing through a fractional attribution perspective, and not just a last-click world.

How do you think about ad fraud as a marketer?

It really comes down to how you’re buying your media and paying your partner and how it performs. If I’m buying on CPMs and there are fraudulent impressions, that is really critical. When you start moving down funnel, to CPC or CPA, I’m less worried about impressions that might be fraudulent, and more worried about acquisitions. I’m orienting myself toward the actual conversion. Looking by campaign, it’s what activity do you want the consumer to be doing, and are you evaluating and paying for the media at the level of that action occurring.

How do you look at sales and other site data and feed that back into advertising?

That’s one of the beauties of an ecommerce business. It does lend itself to some ease from that perspective. There’s lots of data tied directly to conversions, orders, the product on that order. We use all that data to make decisions.

We share back into the advertising ecosystem not only the purchase information but also browsing data. We tag behaviors on the websites, like what you browsed, how far you got in the funnel, and if you actually placed an order, the order price. All those variables are getting fed into the ecosystem and the black box, as it were, and analyzed with algorithms to see how relevant that data is to moving the needle.

For example, if we saw someone do a certain keyword search for a specific brand, maybe that’s indicative of a high likelihood to purchase. Then the question becomes, how do we show ads to people who didn’t purchase but who did search for that keyword? How do you go after that customer, because this behavior has a high propensity to influence the purchase? We pass a lot of information and attributes back to partners, to help isolate and find consumers who have a high likelihood to purchase.

How do you organize and manage your data?

We have our own internal data warehouse. We also use Tealium AudienceStream as a data-management platform as well. That’s our real-time platform that’s tied to a lot of the browsing data.

Regardless of company, the conversation you’re having with the programmatic partner should be: How much can I send you? What can you absorb, and in what fashion, to make sure we have as much information going into the ad buy as possible? The idea of openness and intake is core to the whole programmatic world. The more we know, the better we can get.

Is there a single thing you’ve done over the past couple of years that’s made a big impact in your business?

I don’t know that there’s ever a silver bullet. For us, it’s put your head down and try a lot of things. I don’t point to one thing and say that drove a 50% lift in sales.

That’s why I like the idea of programmatic. We can work over time to get a little better today than it was yesterday, and a little bit better this month than last month. Even if right out of gate it’s not a huge lift, it’s about feeding more data and it having a real compounding effect. It comes down to accepting the little wins and banking them and moving forward.

What’s an example of one of those “little wins?”

It might be as simple as creative testing. It could be a button change or message tweak, and that unlocks and opens more click-throughs and conversions.

How do you hold your programmatic partners accountable?

I think they’re all aware they’re in a competitive field and there’s lots of partners to work with. They have targets to hit. If they hit them, they’re going to be our partner of choice.

If they’re not hitting those targets, or if it’s a constant battle, they’re not going to last. They might have the “best technology,” or be the most strategic, but if they don’t have results, it won’t work.

What do you think about Facebook’s announcement about Atlas and “people-based marketing?”

We’ve been Atlas partners for a long time, so we are already having discussions about how we’re going to use it. I’m as excited as a marketer as everyone else, about getting individualized, cross-device measures.

It’s very interesting from an online to offline perspective. We have a case study in the works measuring in-store purchases vs. our digital spend through Atlas’ audience profiling tool set.

Facebook data is super rich in being able to actually deliver on the promise of knowing that person/IP address/cookie is that person. It’s not going to be 100%, but it’s way better than where we are today. There will be a lot of learnings coming out as the platform develops, like if your media is working for this pocket of consumers and not that one. It will also be interesting to see the targeting that comes out of it.

What are you seeing in terms of marketing technology and advertising technology coming together?

Programmatic media buying is going to be just one aspect of programmatic. We’re doing some playing around today with internal tools and testing with partners.

As new customers come in, there are going to be new life cycle programs learning about that customer based on their behaviors, what they bought and what we might know about them demographically. We can make sure they’re getting the messages that are most relevant to them. So the advertising doesn’t have to be annoying and irrelevant, but it can be very relevant because we’re leveraging the data to make decisions.

Behaviorally, the customers who did XYZ are going to be part of a flow, at which point we trigger an email at certain times, we trigger display ads at certain times. We can send them a direct mail piece or outbound call. All of these are different levers we’re playing with at different stages of the customer life cycle, to understand how to make it the most effective. When you can automate that, and automate ways of testing that, you can get yourself to a better result.

What is top of mind right now for you as a marketer?

Personalization and attribution are two massive areas for us that all marketers are struggling with. It’s been a promise for a long time, but right now we are reaching the cusp of possibility with it. The two are connected, too: The more we can personalize messaging and offers, and feed that into our attribution of where we’re buying media, the more we can make marketing spend more effective.

I’m also thinking about how can we leverage mobile more. Mobile is one more touchpoint, one more brand moment that we can have with consumers, whether it’s shopping, interacting with the brand or customer service. For us to figure out how we can leverage mobile appropriately in the life cycle is key.

 

 

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