The brands buying search and display ads on Kroger’s sites could only tie that activity to online sales, even though those ads influenced in-store purchases.
So Kroger worked with recent Microsoft acquisition PromoteIQ to attribute offline sales to online ads, by connecting loyalty card data to its logged-in userbase.
The unmeasured impact of the ads was huge. Brands are seeing a double-digit sales lift, said Cara Pratt, VP of commercial and product strategy for Kroger Precision Marketing.
Kroger Precision Marketing needed to improve attribution because as brands increase their investments in retail media, they’re demanding better measurement and greater transparency into their campaigns, Pratt said.
“Historically, there hasn’t been a lot of transparency and visibility into attribution [in retail media],” said Alex Sherman, CEO of PromoteIQ. “[Brands] have been frustrated as a result. Kroger has taken the lead in providing more visibility and saying there needs to be a more robust analytics offering.”
Better attribution also lets brands focus on metrics that drive sales, instead of relying on softer metrics like viewability, click-through rate or intent to buy, Pratt said. “There is a new opportunity to make brand marketing more addressable, accountable and actionable.”
Kroger is improving its tech to serve marketers in an increasingly crowded, fast-growing retail media market. Long confined to shopper marketing budgets, Kroger Precision Marketing now works with many parts of a marketing organization, with different ad products that allow it to tap into everything from brand marketing, search or influencer marketing budgets. And as these retail media investments increase, marketers increasingly demand addressability and reliable data.
Improving its retail media offering is also a strategic priority for Kroger and its brick-and-mortar peers, all of whom have shored up their online presences to compete with Amazon. Target’s Roundel innovated on its tech last year, while Walmart Media Group acquires and partners to build its in-house offering. Kroger brought its data in house in 2017.
Plus, advertising’s high margins mean retail media has become a “more standard, critical and strategic part of the retail business model,” Sherman said.
Even before it was acquired by Microsoft, PromoteIQ provided the buying platform and private-marketplace type capabilities to access Kroger inventory, in both self-serve and managed approaches. (Brands cannot use their own DSP to access inventory.)
The future of retail media
PromoteIQ is now building closer connections to multiple Microsoft Advertising products – with some projects still under wraps. Most immediately, it will explore how to connect to Bing, Microsoft’s search engine. Since Kroger Precision Marketing offers search advertising products, such a product expansion would serve its needs.
Though Kroger just built a direct connection between its loyalty card users and online shoppers, Kroger already offers online-to-offline attribution, with the help of data onboarders, for campaigns where marketers want to access a target audience – such as “orange juice buyers” – outside of Kroger’s family of sites, on the open web or in some walled gardens such as Pinterest or Pandora.
But because onboarded and matched data loses some fidelity and accuracy, Kroger wanted a more direct link between a grocery shopper and her loyalty card – a move that it hopes its retail advertising partners will reward in an increasingly competitive retail media market.