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GUEST COMMENT Driving and measuring footfall in retail 

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Will Brownsdon is managing director EMEA, Hivestack

We have all seen with our own eyes the return of bustling retail environments this year in an ongoing return to strength for real world shopping venues following the pandemic. Supermarkets, malls and high streets have seen numbers returning to pre-pandemic levels again, proving that the ‘new normal’ is indeed what the old normal used to be – thousands of people every day piling into bricks and mortar stores. Clothing retailer Superdry has pointed towards the highstreet return for its growth, while Zara saw a 36% increase in sales across its stores.

Out of home (OOH) has always been a strong channel for retail. Heralded for many years as the ‘last medium consumed before shopping’, now OOH has a symbiotic relationship with mobile as the final nudge on a retail journey. Whether that is driving consumers into stores with an offer of a product launch, or just a retail awareness campaign, the OOH channel performs impressively well. Recency theory has long taught that the most recently a message is consumed, the more powerful it is. Naturally no channel is more powerful than one which is literally in and around the retail environment itself. But this is not only contained to brick-and-mortar stores. Nearly two-thirds of all mobile purchases are made out of home, totaling an impressive £179bn of spend according to Kinetic’s recent mCommerce study ‘Capturing the Mobile Pound’.

In a world of measurable media spend, combined with the power of the mobile phone, programmatic digital out of home (DOOH) is emerging as a powerful and effective channel for increasing footfall and driving purchase intent. Through its ability to serve the right message to the right set of consumers at the right time, and its ability to measure in a more granular way the efficiency of that messaging,  the channel should be top of mind for marketers looking to get customers through the front door this quarter and beyond. 

Finding audiences

As the name suggests, programmatic DOOH changes the way that brands buy DOOH inventory, automating the process in a similar fashion to that of online programmatic trading. Inventory is bought based on a set of data parameters, including audience concentration, geofenced locations, offline behaviour, data triggers or proximity to a point of interest.

Programmatic DOOH targeting allows for more granular targeting of audiences based on historic behaviour and a better understanding of how many people will be in front of screens at certain times of the day. A screen may be right for a short window in a day, but not thereafter. For example, consumers are more likely to make a purchase while commuting, so targeting these hours in set locations can prove a more effective use of spend. Programmatic allows for the budget to be spread better across more inventory instead of being locked into one screen and looping for two weeks. In addition to analysing audience patterns and behaviour through anonymous mobile IDs, geo-location data also allows DOOH inventory within a set radius of a point of interest to be targeted. With this data-driven approach, audiences can be reached in the most precise and effective way.

Programmatic DOOH also gives retailers greater creative flexibility. Messaging and creative can be changed in-flight, while custom messaging can be triggered in response to various contextual factors such as time of day, weather, audience density and events happening in real time. 

Hitting the streets

So what does the application of programmatic DOOH look like in practice for retailers? One example is UK retailer New Look’s use of the channel when promoting its new collection. The brand aimed to raise both brand awareness and footfall in its stores.

At the core of their approach was harnessing programmatic DOOHs audience targeting abilities. The brand began by identifying key audience segments. First, audiences seen within a certain distance of targeted New Look stores, then audiences seen in the vicinity of competitor stores, and finally areas in UK highstreets with high audience density, measured via anonymised mobile IDs. Messaging was also pivoted mid-campaign, with certain stores being targeted with creative for an additional clothing line.

Running across five major UK cities, New Look were able to dramatically increase their footfall traffic, with a 63% lift in 95 key locations. Over 20 million impressions were garnered for the campaign – 11 million more than expected.

Global toy manufacturer Lego experienced similar success in the Italian market with its cross-channel, multi-market and award-winning “Rebuild the World” campaign. While similarly targeting audiences in geofenced areas near Lego stores, the brand was also able to build a custom audience segment of Lego enthusiasts from the anonymised mobile IDs of those who had visited a store in the previous three months. The use of audience density measurement also allowed for ad spend to be redistributed in-flight, leading to a 23% lower CPM cost.

The second phase of the campaign more specifically aimed to drive audiences into stores, with programmatic’s ability to measure uplift directly leading to spending being distributed more effectively. It resulted in 37,000 visits, a footfall rate of 1.3% vs the 0.05% benchmark.

Research Online. Purchase Offline (ROPO)

The success of these campaigns relied not only on programmatic DOOH’s targeting ability but also on its measurement capability. Real-time monitoring of the impact of campaigns allows marketers to redistribute budget and messaging in flight in order to gain maximum ROI.

By leveraging anonymised mobile location data, retailers can now see which mobile IDs have been exposed to the ads being played, via geo-fenced and time-stamped location data, and then whether those mobile IDs are seen in a store visit following exposure to the DOOH ad. 

The growth of online shopping and ecommerce has expanded at a rapid rate, increasing five-fold during the pandemic, hitting UK high streets hard. This also means that consumers are more accustomed to browsing online before making their final purchasing decisions. Half of UK shoppers start their retail search on Amazon, for example. For online-only retailers, DOOH can create a high-street presence without a brick-and-mortar store. In-flight dynamic sales messaging on screens could keep audiences informed of changes in price or stock numbers.

Despite the growth of online advertising, nearly half of shoppers still prefer to visit physical stores when they are ready to buy. The same was found to be true in the same Kinetic study. “The purchase journey has evolved and is very interchangeable. We now have people seeking inspiration in store and purchasing online as well as people searching online and buying in store.” By using location data and measurement, programmatic DOOH can effectively measure physical footfall caused by exposed audiences throughout the sales funnel.

Additionally, brand lift studies can be carried out by comparing exposed and unexposed audiences, revealing brand awareness and recall. Footfall traffic analysis can show not only density but the lift in audiences heading to a brick-and-mortar store after being exposed to a campaign. This wealth of analysis allows marketers to further optimise future campaigns and truly understand the impact on ROI across their marketing mix. 

With the UK economy in a state of flux, retailers must ensure that their marketing has a tangible impact on audiences. Programmatic DOOH’s proven ability to engage audiences throughout the sales funnel, as well as increase footfall into stores, should not be overlooked. Data-driven targeting as well as measurable capabilities of DOOH ensure that ad budgets are spent effectively on creative, eye-catching campaigns, enabling retailers to drive more store traffic.

With consumers now viewing mobile and OOH together on their real-world shopping trips, these two channels can combine to support retail footfall. Programmatic OOH data means that OOH is no longer a broadcast channel only, but has evolved into a more highly targeted media option, and one which now has the benefit of data-driven measurement and accountability.  

Will Brownsdon is managing director EMEA, Hivestack

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