Retailers and brands with physical locations are witnessing “an explosion of touchpoints in the ad and marketing tech landscape,” according to Travis May, president and GM of LiveRamp within Acxiom.
The result is positive overall, he said, with marketers discovering new ways to demonstrate ROI and reach consumers across channels, but as that adoption takes off retailers – large chains in particular – are undergoing “a period of intense and painful data fragmentation.”
“Every quarter there are, say, 20 new ad tech companies, and a lot of them offer valuable services,” May said. “It’s causing a high level of complexity for retailers. They want to be able to look at a single, cohesive stream of data, but the tools that are helping them are also creating new sources that have to be integrated.”
While the savviest brands are furthest along, May said, retailers don’t invest in promising technology; they invest in ROI. What’s changed, in recent years, is the ability to figure out how online ads drive offline behavior and sales. Of course, this is one of LiveRamp’s value propositions.
Acxiom acquired LiveRamp for $310 million last year in a deal that observers said was based on the onboarder’s capacity to match offline data with digital targeting and measurement.
AdExchanger spoke to May, who was made president and GM of LiveRamp earlier this year, about some of the most pressing issues facing retail marketers, as well as LiveRamp’s relationship with Acxiom.
AdExchanger: What are you seeing come out of that attribution across channels or online/offline for retailers?
TRAVIS MAY: Multichannel campaigns lead to more than the sum of their parts. Parallel campaigns can support and complement each other in intangible ways. I think to date marketers have been relatively blind to what’s happening in stores, and as a result they’ve been undervaluing digital channels.
How, and to what extent, will that change?
I expect that as measurement and in-store data gets better, marketing budgets will grow and shift to digital. Purchases are still happening at the store, so data is collected in the offline world. But that’s being generated by a lot of outreach on mobile and social.
There’s been a lot of data collection over past decades – CRMs, loyalty cards, POS data. It’s new that data can be used across channels, but it’s not new that the data has value. I mean, predictive analytics went into marketers targeting people for coupons and catalogues. What we’re doing is taking that methodology and adding new in-store sources and the things that mobile allows us to do to go a big step further.
Can you go into more detail on what make up these new in-store data sources?
I see it as the future of what loyalty programs look like, and there a few different routes that can go. Some companies, like Starbucks, have used apps very effectively to build loyalty programs. I think beacons will also play a big role over time. In both cases it comes down to adoption. They’re like traditional loyalty card programs in that way because the places that figure out how to use those tools to provide value to consumers are going to have much richer data at their disposal.
What capabilities are being drawn from them?
Being able to understand who’s coming to your store, what they’re looking at, and then maybe if that same person buys something online. Getting to the point where you can say, “OK, these are people who are looking for something and we lost them here,” or “This is a product that people are buying when they come looking for this other thing.” That’s a new space, but there’s already a ton of competition, so I think the industry is going to get much smarter in the next few years about what’s really driving conversions.
Are there any issues post-acquisition with partners who are now competitors?
We are continuing to operate as a neutral, open provider of data onboarding services.
There’s an ecosystem of partners LiveRamp had built in the programmatic space, and then one that Acxiom had built across different addressable channels, so we combined those.
Connectivity is a core principle before and after the sale. The LUMAscape and marketing ecosystem has over a thousand vendors, each of which has its own integration, and we’re working closely with as much of the ecosystem as possible.