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News Analysis

30 billion impressions: Woolies' Cartology unit in massive scale-up with targeting, media buying and attribution play

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

18 November 2020 3min read

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

18 November 2020 3min read

Woolworths' Cartology retail media unit has spent the last 12 months building out its platform and personnel. Now it's preparing a major scale-up - and wants agencies to see it as a partner, not a threat.

Woolworths-owned Cartology has run 30 billion media impressions over the last 12 months, rolled out an in-store screen network and set up campaign effectiveness reporting with Quantium. It’s built out an in-house agency team that sits as part of a sizeable hybrid hub.

Now Cartology is preparing to launch what CEO Mike Tyquin thinks is the most powerful attribution tool in Australia as part of a major scale-up of operations where it will also buy media for brands – across its platforms and the open web.

 

Agency push

Cartology has so far dealt largely with FMCG and drinks brands direct. Now it’s actively wooing agencies ahead of a series of new services slated for early 2021.

“There’s a big role for media agencies to play to really unlock the advance capability we've got, particularly digital,” says Tyquin. Moreover, he needs them to grasp the nettle if Cartology is to fully scale beyond brands that handle digital media in-house.

But Tyquin thinks Cartology has an offer they can’t refuse: that is, serving them not just audiences, but buyers. Some 30 million in store “interactions” and 20 million digital visits every week.

Crucially, says Tyquin, digital is additive, not cannibalistic. Post-Covid, he says, “Digital is becoming the front door; we’re seeing huge growth there and unlike other media where you get the digital growth but you see a diminution of the physical audience, we're really not seeing that.”

Instead, the two are working hand in hand. Per the company’s data, “we know that 70% of customers that have a digital interaction with us shop with us in store within four days,” says Tyquin.

Whether consumers want to transact online or in-store, Cartology sits in the middle, gathering ever more data. “We’re really just about enabling that digital connection and then providing customers with that optionality”, says Tyquin.

Either way, brands see the results – and Tyquin says the attribution aspect, scheduled to be up and running from March, will be massive.

 

Attribution play

“We’ve got the transaction data, we’ve got the rewards data. So we are building multi-touch algorithmic attribution,” says Tyquin. “We'll be able to provide channel performance in terms of what is actually driving campaign effectiveness, particularly sales. So we'll be able to talk to brands both from a planning and a measurement perspective about real campaign impact.”

The industry has been talking about achieving “genuine” measurement for many years, he says. “In my experience, this is the closest anyone's got, certainly in this country, and that's an incredible development.”

 

Media buying

Meanwhile, Cartology will also offer media buying services to brands.

In the last 12 months, it has opened up the 65m monthly searches on woolworths.com.au to marketers. From February 2021 “we will provide audience activation both on and off the Woolworths platform,” says Tyquin using Quantium-enabled targeting capabilities.

“Brands will be able to come to Woolworths and access that audience data,” says Tyquin, touting “one point of contact for integrated campaigns on and off platform. That's a big step forward.”

While brands and agencies will be able to buy on the open exchanges through Cartology, publishers are not yet part of the picture. But Tyquin says that is on the roadmap. “We will have some partnerships with publishers in time … And that’s exactly what we will be able to do.”
 

One-to-one

Also launching is one-to-one targeting. Woolworths currently does that through contextually targeted emails, but in the new year will open up targeting across web mobile and its rewards app.

“That's a big platform for brands to be able to speak directly to customers in the right context, using the data and the targeting capabilities that we've got to provide really meaningful communications,” says Tyquin.

With 8.7 million in-store customers to target each week, at two and a half times frequency apiece, that’s probably a nettle agencies will need to grasp – and they appear keen.

 

Agencies: Smart move

Roger Dunn, General Manager of GroupM Commerce, thinks Cartology could be onto a winner as competition ratchets up for FMCG brands – and suggests being the first major mover to bring agencies into the fold is a smart move. Retail media will play a “crucial role” in the Australian landscape, says Dunn, channeling Ehrenberg-Bass for emphasis.

"In-store ad placements – whether in physical stores or online – are clearly a valuable commodity. In the case of certain formats like sponsored products, which allow brands to pay to promote their products at the top of the page, they provide the equivalent of Byron Sharp’s ‘physical availability’, just in a virtual setting," suggests Dunn.

"Similar to search engines like Google, almost no-one goes to the second page, so it’s crucial for brands to be on page one and ideally in the top row.

"As competition heats up, the price paid in auction is only set to increase. This has only been fuelled further by the extraordinary growth in e-commerce during 2020, something which is unlikely to revert back to pre-pandemic levels."

Olia Krivtchoun, National Head of Product Innovation for Publicis, also sees an advantage for Cartology now that it has built out the data, measurement, and advertising solutions that span both digital and physical spheres.

The granularity of shopper data available for targeting by Cartology is compelling for agencies, she says, and shows "even more promise" with the purchase of Quantium’s media activation unit.

As such, and given the breadth of the channels it straddles, “Cartology has a strong role to play in the market moving forward”, she says.

"There’s no doubt that consumer behaviour is rapidly evolving in e-commerce, with 2020 providing a major catalyst for growth. Naturally Cartology has benefited from this."

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