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Seize the Data: Boots first party journey at Mad//Fest 2023

  • Jules McGinlay
  • 4 min read

LiveRamp sponsored the advertising festival, MAD//Fest, at the Truman Brewery in London’s historic Brick Lane. There, our UK MD, Hugh Stevens took the stage with Ollie Shayer, Omni-Channel Director for Boots. 

The health and beauty retailer is a pioneer in data-driven marketing, in thanks to collaboration across the ecosystem, and the journey they have been on in connecting Boots’ first-party data in partnership with LiveRamp. Championing customer centricity, mass-personalisation, as well as launching Boots’ own sophisticated retail media network, the Boots Media Group, Ollie and Hugh outlined the steps taken to get here. They also offered advice to others looking to emulate Boots’ success.

Boots’ First-Party Journey

Kicking off, Ollie and Hugh outlined how the macroeconomic situation has put a premium on collecting and activating first-party data. With the impact on household disposable income, having a 360-view of the customer and knowing what really matters to them has never been more important. Our recently published research indicated understanding the customer journey was the fastest growing priority for UK brand marketers in Q2 2023. 

Boots has a rich heritage of putting its customers first having been offering them value for 25 years through the Boots Advantage Card loyalty system. Via the card and its in-app environment, Boots has access to a wealth of first-party data, which has enabled it to understand with granular clarity what their existing and new customers want and how to react to it. 

In 2021, Boots was activating around 7% of its media budget through first-party data. Today, 60% is now based on first-party data. While the deprecation of third-party cookies facilitated this transition, the real driver for Boots was the growing sophistication with which this privacy-centric data could be activated. 

Made possible through its partnership with LiveRamp, leveraging its interoperable Safe Haven data clean room, Boots is enjoying connectivity with 40 different media platforms to reach custom audiences at scale. This privacy-enhancing technology puts customer security at the forefront, and ensures that the trust that Boots has established with its loyal customers is protected.

With better audience management, including options for customisation, more accurate targeting and personalised messaging at scale, first-party data strategies have delivered more relevant and enjoyable shopping experiences for Boots’ customers. As well as enabling greater transparency for measurement across the entire customer journey, Ollie explained that the evolution of Boots’ first-party strategy has seen it using this insight for planning.

Forging a retail media strategy

Next, Ollie and Hugh discussed the rising phenomenon of retail media, which featured prominently amongst other discussions at MADFest.

Ollie stressed the importance of balancing the hype and opportunity of retail media, with the need to respect the customer. While retail media’s expansion has been impressive, (nearly 60% of brand marketers consider it an important part of their media plan according to our research), it is fuelled by customer data that is shared through value exchange that retailers offer them. For example, Boots price advantage programme, which has facilitated a significant increase in sign-ups, by offering its customers what they want: instant value and personalised shopping experiences. Focusing on unique audiences and building for scale is a key step in a successful retail media strategy.

Both agreed how important it is to align and evangelise your business in data collaboration before embarking on the retail media journey. Working with the right partners here is essential. For example, Boots has collaborated with media partners like SMG, as well as with LiveRamp through Safe Haven. This has enabled Boots to democratise data across all parts of the business, and to access granular measurement and insights for closed loop measurement in a privacy-centric approach. This extends to having its first-party and transactional data all in one place, offering Boots the opportunity to combine online and offline environments. With 80% of transactions still occurring in the store, retail media’s ability to measure, activate and scale data across the funnel has been key in persuading stakeholders of its worth.

Future of data collaboration

The session concluded with a discussion on other verticals that could emulate the example of retail media. Ollie noted that attention can often centre around activation when there’s so much more to be done with planning. With Boots’ access to unique datasets, like what type of customers are reaching and what type of handset they have, a future use case could see a FMCG partner within Boots’ clean room utilise this insight to understand how they might better market to high-value audiences. While this is one example, the opportunities across industries are endless. 

However the main priority is customer privacy. If brands can successfully collaborate  in privacy-centric environments, then better shopping experiences and further growth can be unlocked across the board.

Watch the full version of this discussion