Staples Affects In-Store Buying With Mobile Media

staplesWith the exception of back-to-school needs, office supply retailer Staples focuses on small-business owners.

Like most brick-and-mortar retailers, Staples knew mobile played a vital role in its customers’ daily lives, but it was less clear from a media standpoint how mobile impacted the ultimate sales conversion.

Staples wanted to use mobile to drive upper-funnel awareness and brand engagement.

“People know we sell paper, pens, ink and toner, but don’t always know we sell cleaning supplies and things for the break room or office facilities,” said Ellen Comley, VP of integrated media for Staples.

“We wanted to make it where [our messaging] was less of a hard sell and more about bringing them into the brand promise in a more involved, fun way.”

What resulted was a multiexecution mobile campaign, which Staples first brought to market in early 2015 in partnership with its agency Carat.

Using HTML5 creator Adcade, Carat and Staples developed two custom mobile units: “Slingshot,” an adver-gaming unit that allows small-business customers to swipe Staples products into shopping carts directly within the ad unit, and an interactive office calculator, which lets a customer calculate how much they’d save buying products at Staples when factoring in perks like free shipping.

“Slingshot was a playful game that we thought would help our SMB customer see the breadth and value of Staples’ products,” said Jay Poropatich, director of digital marketing for Staples. “But then ultimately we wanted to use that engagement to target those individuals with more of a direct-response ad unit.”

Enter Xaxis-owned ActionX, a mobile retargeting platform Carat and Staples tapped to engage SMB customers through units like dynamic carousel ads beckoning them to “shop now.” 

“The ability to find that individual, engage with them and then remarket our target audience, at the end of the day, was much more impactful than … push[ing] out corporate objectives to our customers,” said Poropatich. “In this instance, we were publishing programmatically as a means of activation while simply looking to engage our audience.”

The initial campaign results were positive. Eighty-five percent of Staples’ media spend went to mobile. And it determined through a media mix model and third-party cross-channel attribution that 75% of conversions happened in-store while 25% happened on desktop.

Rather than relying on last-click attribution, which might ascribe credit to its lower-funnel, retargeted messages, Staples wanted to learn how custom branding and mid-funnel units aided the final conversion.

It ultimately determined that the retargeted direct-response unit helped close the transaction, responsible for 77% of revenue driven. But the brand found that ROI was four times higher than the average interactive brand campaign when lower-funnel units supported its initial brand messaging.

“We see the future iteration of this becoming more of a utility,” predicted Poropatich. “The next iteration might give people directions to lunch spots on their lunch break at work or Wi-Fi they can tap into at a Staples store … [more than] simply engaging them in a relatively transactional manner.”

Staples is also looking to make smart technology decisions. It does not run standard media RFPs, which can set “rigid guardrails for vendors to play in,” said Poropatich, and can thus hinder creativity.

Staples’ agency Carat, instead, used Dentsu Aegis’ Brand Accelerator program, a technology retainer, which expedites the vendor selection and vetting process by working with trusted venture partners and their portfolio companies.

This approach, more common with nimble startup retailers, circumvents the cumbersome process of parsing hundreds of vendors, some with indistinguishable product differences.

“We ultimately narrowed our technology selection down to two or three companies [for Staples’ campaign] that, independently, might not have earned the business, but in collaboration developed ad products that were differentiated and delivered stronger return on investment,” said Ed Gorman, EVP and managing director for Carat USA. “The fact that advertising solutions had to be more than just advertising – that’s the insight that led to the brief.”

 

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