Grocery Brands Flock to Ads Informed by Your Real-World Shopping

Purchase-Based Data Is Transforming How CPG Brands Target and Measure

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Retailers' data and mobile data are increasingly combining to fuel CPG marketers' ad targeting.
Retailers' data and mobile data are increasingly combining to fuel CPG marketers' ad targeting. Credit: Antonio Diaz/iStock

From toothpaste brands to lipstick makers, marketers of consumer packaged goods are jumping at the chance to target consumers based on what they've bought before.

It's historically been a challenge for CPG marketers to know exactly who their customers are, and thus difficult to aim ads at them. But retailers gather loads of data about their shoppers' purchases. Now as real-world shopping data collides with location tracking and other technology, purchase-based advertising is becoming increasingly pervasive.

"The closer to the source the purchase data is, the better," said Jonathan Opdyke, Co-Founder and CEO of HookLogic, which helps advertisers target audiences on retail websites. "Retailers are the definitive source for first-party purchase data, particularly around the granular SKU level data brands care about."

Ninety-nine percent of campaigns that mobile ad firm 4Info has run on behalf of its CPG clients from February 2013 through this May have employed purchase-based targeting, according to Chuck Moxley, CMO of 4Info. Only two of the firm's CPG clients have targeted ads without tapping purchase data, he said.

The company gets that purchase data from Nielsen Catalina Solutions, which provides information about actual grocery store and drugstore shopping transactions that are tied to more than 90 million households. The UPC-level information streams into the NCS database directly from participating stores via data provider Catalina each day.

Nielsen Catalina Solutions' uses a third party to strip out personally-identifiable data and attributes a shopper ID to customers. The data is then matched to 4Info's database to find targetable consumer segments. In a typical 4Info scenario, an advertiser -- say a maker of frozen food entrees -- might aim mobile display ads for a new line of its low-cal fare to the 2 million people in the NCS database who have already bought their other microwavable meal varieties.

NCS data shows up in lots of ad platforms used by CPG brands. Epsilon's ShopperView offering uses NCS data integrated with its own proprietary blend of demographic, attitudinal and cross-channel purchase and engagement data. Most of the largest CPG brands working with the data-centric consultancy -- around 30 of them -- use the ShopperView system, according to Stacey Hawes, managing director of data at Epsilon, who called CPG clients the offering's core customers. She declined to name any CPG brand clients.

"At Epsilon we're really placing our bets on purchase driving every vertical that we're in," said Ms. Hawes.

In addition to targeting, CPG brands can use the combined data to tailor messaging. A pasta brand targeting people who recently bought boxed rigatoni, for example, might highlight convenience and low price in ads aimed to moms and use a different message in ads for runners loading up on carbs.

Epsilon expanded its purchase data offerings early this year by adding a layer of transactional purchase data to its MarketView service, which helps marketers gauge the market share of their brands and measure against competitors. The database covers up to 80% of the non-cash transactions made in the U.S., though she declined to name the partners providing the data.

Cardlytics calls itself a purchase intelligence company. Via partnerships with more than 1,500 financial institutions, the firm is privy to anonymized purchase data representing 120 million consumers and what they buy. The company, whose primary business involves targeting offers based on actual shopper transactions in bank statements and bank loyalty programs including Bank of America's BankAmeriDeals, introduced a service earlier this year which spins its data into consumer insights for other partners.

Cardlytics works with Acxiom-owned LiveRamp to use offline purchase information to help brands and retailers measure the impact of their ad campaigns.

Anneka Gupta, LiveRamp's chief product officer, said she believes there is momentum among CPG brands doing purchase-based targeting. She added, "There are also a lot of major retailers that are out there trying to do this, too, because they have purchase data. This is another way to generate revenue."

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