On May 27, Criteo launched a self-serve Retail Media ad platform for its media network. The new platform offers advertisers more granular targeting, optimization, and measurement for their ad buys — and greater transparency with a flat SaaS fee and percentage of media spend.
With e-commerce surging this spring and expected to continue beyond the pandemic, I was curious to learn how Criteo’s new platform might make it easier for advertisers to reach consumers without resorting to the standard ad platforms of Facebook and Google.
"Be relentless in your pursuit to solve a challenge for your customer base. The most successful products are the ones that become foundational to a customer’s ability to manage their business."Justin Sparks, Criteo
Criteo first stepped into the retail media market in 2016 when we acquired HookLogic. We saw the impact that sponsored product placements had on fueling media monetization for retailers and integrated this strategically into our wider offerings for advertisers. We also saw an increase in demand from brand advertisers for more awareness-oriented ad offerings, which led to our acquisition of Storetail and its Commerce Display solution in 2018. Through both of these solutions, we sought to enable brands to increase consideration and conversions with display placements on other sites.
We've been focused on retail media since 2016. In May 2019 we hired our first General Manager of Retail Media, Geoffroy Martin, and with that came a new vision and objective: to create a technology platform that powers the most efficient and measurable media ecosystem for retail advertisers. It took about a year, as we finally launched the platform in May 2020.
With such a short time frame to rethink and build the technology from scratch, we had to adapt our approach to project management at a much faster pace. We started by translating the vision into actionable product objectives.
The pandemic pushed back our launch timeline a bit, but Criteo was able to adapt to remote working quickly and efficiently. As you can imagine, with the pandemic, particularly in retail and in media, our clients went through resource assessment exercises and contingency plans in the spring.
Under Geoffroy's leadership, there was extensive coordination between several teams, such as Product, R&D, Account Strategy, Supply and UX. When building a platform, it’s essential to maintain synergy across departments.
This required putting in a structure to facilitate a feedback loop between external and internal-facing teams in order to account for the client priorities each team was hearing in the field.
As with building any new product, we did go through a stabilization assessment as we brought in our ad formats and ran tests. We have progressed from a minimal viable product phase to general availability over the past year and are confident in the ability of our retail media platform to scale across our markets going forward.
Through our direct relationship with retailers, we leverage a combination of their first-party data (increasingly tied to deterministic identity) and contextual data to target, optimize, and measure campaigns.
We’ve been fortunate to have incredible assets from our HookLogic and Storetail acquisitions. Since we were a division built off of two different acquisitions, we needed to build from the ground up.
"The project of consolidating the assets from Hooklogic and Storetail into a single platform was a first for Criteo, and we’re very proud to have homegrown technology that will be leading the way for the retail media ecosystem."Justin Sparks
Personally, it certainly has been a unique experience to build a platform in-house that addresses the broader retail market!
We’ve helped many brands and agencies in the U.S. understand the value of retail media and have seen many re-allocate their budgets accordingly as consumer spending has shifted online throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, we’ve seen brands use a lot of their upper-funnel dollars (i.e. TV, out-of-home) and placing them toward retail media instead to drive immediate results.
Lastly, we’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback on the direction we’ve taken with the platform and what we’re providing for our advertisers. It has been the only project in my career that I can think of that has had unanimous support across brands and agencies, both at the day-to-day and leadership levels. It’s validated our assumptions on what advertisers are looking for as retail media continues to accelerate and grow in importance for their organizations.
We’re always innovating and eager to improve our technology to best serve our clients. We believe that our Retail Media platform will truly accelerate retail media to the next level of brand investment over the next year.
We’re offering a transparent-by-design platform that enables retailers to scale their retail media businesses and makes it easier for brands to buy across retailers using standardized workflows and metrics.
Additionally, as agencies see commerce as the next frontier of services, they want to be able to manage campaigns via self-service tools and apply traditional media buying techniques to the retail media environment. This will propel retail media forward.
Our team continues to focus on what our customers need and how we can provide unique value to the market. There’s an opportunity to connect the deterministic first-party data from our retailers to new ad formats, as well as measurement and insights. These are areas we will explore to support our brands in increasing product sales with revenue accountability.
Cross-department synergy is crucial for any successful platform. Be prepared and get market feedback quickly to understand your customers’ key challenges. Maintain organization and embrace an ‘all-hands-on-deck' approach to product management and development.
If our product managers can be successful in identifying and solving challenges for our clients, the probability of building for impactful innovation will only increase.
Justin Sparks is Director of Strategic Partnerships, Retail Media at Criteo. Justin joined the Criteo team in the New York office in 2017. He works in Criteo’s Retail Media division in the U.S. leading Global Strategic Partnerships and GTM Strategy. Prior to Criteo, Justin worked for Spark Foundry under the Publicis Groupe and Horizon Media, helping build the Performance Media practice at Spark Foundry and was on HookLogic’s Customer Advisory board prior to their acquisition.
Many thanks to Justin for sharing his time and ad product insights.
Jane is the Senior Marketing Manager at Kevel. She enjoys discovering user-first ad platforms and articulating the value of Kevel's ad serving APIs.