An Interview with Jivox President & CEO, Diaz Nesamoney by Ad Age Studio 30.

An excerpt of this interview was originally published on AdAge.com.   

Five years ago, retail media networks were run primarily by Amazon and major chain retailers like Walmart, Target and Kroger. Today, many other retailers offer brands the opportunity to advertise within the retailer’s owned and operated digital channels. In the past 18 months, new retail media networks have been launched by national grocery chains (Albertsons), drug chains (Walgreens, CVS), department stores (Macy’s, Nordstrom) and many more retailers.

Beyond retail, new entrants such as Marriott and DoorDash are notable and significant, signaling the emergence of non-retail commerce media.

It all signals how consumers have shifted their purchasing behavior from offline to online. This applies not only to retailers selling clothing, shoes and smaller ticket items but even direct-to-consumer services like banking, insurance and travel. Retail was the early adopter of e-commerce, now accounting for approximately 15% of sales. But this trend accelerated significantly during the pandemic, with consumers’ online purchase soaring as high as 40% and for some retailers even up to 70% of sales.

For this once-niche retail media category, increasingly referred to as “commerce media,” Forrester predicts the channel will top $50 billion in worldwide revenue this year. By 2023, eMarketer predicts that retail media will account for nearly 20% of all digital ad spending.

But with increased opportunity comes an urgency to manage product content and the delivery of ads powered by purchase data across these disparate networks in a consistent and meaningful way. Diaz Nesamoney, founder and president/CEO of Jivox, spoke with Ad Age Studio 30 about how brands can use best-in-breed tools to deliver personalized commerce marketing across today’s rapidly expanding retail media networks.

Ad Age Studio 30: Can you describe what you mean by personalized commerce marketing? How is personalization in a retail media environment unique from digital advertising more broadly?

Nesamoney: Personalized commerce marketing takes the concept of personalization deeper into the realm of shopping. Take the example of a global athletic apparel brand  that offers tens of thousands of product choices. You want to be intelligent enough to show consumers precisely what they’re likely to pick. Since the choices can be bewildering, if you can’t get that precision with your messaging and your content, you’re likely to lose that moment where a consumer is looking to buy.

Ad Age Studio 30: How would you sum up the marketing opportunity that commerce media represents?

Nesamoney: It’s a significant opportunity for marketers because there is a lot more knowledge today about the consumer’s propensity to purchase. It’s one thing for the marketer to have an idea of who you are on Facebook, it’s another thing to know what you buy every week, how much you buy and who you buy from. That’s incredibly powerful as a concept. I’d say the opportunity is as big as social media, maybe bigger.

Ad Age Studio 30: Why do you think consumers are more likely to share personal information or be more receptive to targeted advertising in a digital shopping environment?

Nesamoney: There are a number of surveys  that show consumers wanting their shopping experiences to be personalized. And I think a lot of it has to do with the rewards and special offers of loyalty programs. Many brands have gotten pretty good at offering them.  Commerce media is actually a much richer environment for data, including for the purpose of advertising, than even social media is.

Ad Age Studio 30: Retail media networks purport to offer marketers a better understanding of how their ad dollars lead to conversions and sales. Can you explain how this works?

Nesamoney: With commerce media, the media is being powered by the retailer directly or by an off-site media partner of that retailer. And the measurement of whether and when purchases are occurring is also being done by the retailer. So now you know precisely what your dollars and spend on that platform are doing. You’re still getting visibility into purchases but also getting more precision on the targeting of people based on what they purchased.

Ad Age Studio 30: But it’s also true that marketers may not get all of the data they’d like. It may be aggregated data and it may not come in real time. How do brands cope with those limitations?

Nesamoney: Early on, a lot of the retailer media platforms tried to be walled gardens. But if you look at the number of offerings that have launched in just the last three months, the space is becoming very competitive. So I think there’s more incentive now to give brands more data and attribution. It’s great for brands because of the visibility and the precision they need. And I think ultimately it does benefit the retailers too. Advertising is all about ROI, right? If you can demonstrate to me that my media dollars are working, you get more of the money. So I think the smart retailers will try to provide that level of attribution. But we’ll see.

Ad Age Studio 30: What is the role of the technology in facilitating commerce marketing, of which commerce media is a part?

Nesamoney: Retail media used to be viewed as a specialist style of marketing versus a core marketing strategy. The pandemic changed all that. Digital sales went up from about 14% to about 30-40% during the pandemic, and settling down now to about 20%, but still growing. So as a marketer, you’re saying if my style of marketing has to change to become more one-to-one, I need to rethink my tech stack because there are some key capabilities that are needed.

Ad Age Studio 30: Tell us about the dynamic carousel product ad. How has this type of ad evolved from what brands might have deployed on Amazon five or 10 years ago?

Nesamoney: The concept of a dynamic product ad with a carousel is not new, but there’s more granularity now and the precision has increased. Say I go onto Amazon’s site and look at a particular brand of sneaker. Now, the carousel has the opportunity to show me several products.  Well, you can show me the product I looked at, but what do you show in the rest of the carousel? This is where intelligence and decisioning comes in, showing the customer best-sellers. What are the types of sneakers that people like me tend to purchase based on my gender or other attributes? So, there’s a lot of intelligence that goes into filling out the carousel with products that are likely to be relevant and appealing to you.

Ad Age Studio 30: Do brands have to create entirely new dynamic ads for all of the different retail media networks, or does the inventory just need to be updated and customized? What are the solutions?

Nesamoney: That’s exactly the power of the commerce marketing cloud. It is cost-prohibitive and very challenging for a brand to figure out how to run all of these dynamic product ads against so many retailer ad platforms. The available data and attribution are different. The ad formats might be different and might be native to the retail media platforms.

In contrast, the commerce marketing cloud is a tech stack that mediates all of those differences. So whether you’re running dynamic product ads on Facebook or on Walmart or CVS, that’s the value of investing in a commerce marketing cloud. Essentially, it helps to make them all appear to be a single media platform

Ad Age Studio 30: Tell us more about your vision for the commerce marketing cloud and the role of Jivox in that ecosystem.

Nesamoney: We’ve built a set of tools that allows marketers to simultaneously leverage all of these emerging media and e-commerce platforms. The commerce marketing cloud ultimately could end up being the best in breed of tools that are assembled together, or it can be a single suite of specialized tools offered by a company like ours. Our vision of the commerce marketing cloud is that of a single tech stack that manages personalized ad delivery, attribution, analytics and insights across all the commerce media and eCommerce platforms.

Ad Age Studio 30: Brands are spending enormous sums of money to acquire data and martech tools. How can they make sure they’re getting a sufficient return on investment?

Nesamoney: If I put myself in the shoes of a brand I say, okay, I’ve got to pay this vendor for measurement. I have to pay that one for creative. And that one for serving the ad. Before you know it, half your media spend is gone. So there’s two things I’d say in response to that. First, brands should think about the efficiencies of a full suite of products, versus buying bits and pieces from everyone and having to assemble them and train people on how to operate all the different platforms. Secondly, I think the way the efficiency of the stack is measured has to change, so it really should NOT be counted as a cost against your media spend, but rather in terms of the value being delivered.

Ad Age Studio 30: What does that mean in practical terms?

Nesamoney: Brands always think about how much of their media spend goes to ad tech. The better question is, what is that ad tech doing for your media spend? For most brands, if you could lift their ROI on media spend by even 5% with] the technology needed to do that, then the cost is absolutely justifiable. But if you look at it as a cost of, oh, I have this much to spend on media, and carving out of that media spend the money for the tech to operate it, then you’re just looking at it as a percentage of your media spend versus the outcome that is created by making the media work better.

Ad Age Studio 30: Any final thoughts?

Nesamoney: Yes, personalized commerce marketing is transforming digital commerce by accelerating conversions and sales through increased relevance of products and offers for each shopper, in real time. Personalized commerce marketing requires a new technology stack built for scale. It is not unusual for some retailers to have tens of thousands or even millions of products in their catalog, especially accounting for various packages, language versions, offers and pricing in different countries globally.  In addition, while shoppers are in-market, real-time feedback is critical to optimize the relevance of products and offers to the right consumer in real time. Delivering commerce marketing successfully requires a platform that is purpose-built to handle sophisticated needs of content and optimization.

Get in touch with Jivox.