Henke: Online Real-time Advertising Will Drive e-Commerce in Nigeria

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Managing Director, Emerging Markets, Criteo, Mr. Dirk Henke, spoke to select journalists on the shift from generic advertising to personalised advertising, using online real-time technology. Emma Okonji presents the excerpts:

Tell us about Criteo as an organisation

Criteo is a leading global technology company that specialises in marketing performance advertising, working with over 10,000 e-commerce companies around the world. Criteo enables companies to engage and convert their customers online whether they are on a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
I started the Germany market for Criteo, which then was an emerging market for us like what Nigeria is to us today. From Russia to Turkey, and in countries in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, we have established our presence. All these are important markets for Criteo, which have kept growing over the years.
We have been in the African market and in the Nigerian market since two years ago and we already have clients, even though the number is still small because we started few years ago.

So what is the focus of Criteo’s business?

Criteo is a marketing performance company that works with advertisers in the e-Commerce space. We deal with e-Commerce players that trade online and even those retailers that trade offline. We also work with the media in the area of online advert placement on their sites. What is special about Criteo, is the technology adoption and deployment in which we drive performance marketing. Every single ad we display is customised to the user and we do not pre-produce the ads, but we produce instant ads based on the user’s needs.

How do you create adverts that are customer specific?

What we do to achieve this is to follow the online buying pattern of the customer, and we will have an idea of places where the customer has gone online to shop and the things the customer is actually looking for. With that information at our finger tips about the customer, we will produce an ad that meets the customer’s needs and post it directly to the customer by offering the customer varieties of the things the customer is looking for and also educate the customer on the location those items could be found at best prices.
For example, if a customer goes online and shops for a camera, we will be able to monitor the customer and see the size of camera that the customer has bought and we can develop an ad on camera bags that will match the camera bought by the customer and also develop ads on camera accessories and post them directly to the customer because we know the customer will need them for comfort. So in such a way, we customise the customer’s needs by developing instant ads that meet the customer’s needs.
All these are done in real time, using the online platform, because we create and produce ads for customers in seconds, and broadcast it while they are on a particular website and the customer sees it immediately and that makes it real time online advertising. So we can create ads that could be sent to over 40 million people that are online, doing different things.

What is the purpose for your online advertising?

Our online advertising is designed to drive sales for our clients. We study the online buying pattern of our client’s customers and design ads that are customised to their customers in real time and the bottom line is to drive sales for our clients. This is true because the banners that we develop are not only customised, but are catching and interesting to the customers. Through the process, our clients will get more customers that will be doing additional shopping from their sites.
This is a new form of advertising that is being driven by technology and we are promoting this to drive traffic to our clients’ sites and also boost sales.

You have been in this business of targeted advertising for the last 10 years in other regions outside Nigeria, what have been the challenges that are common to various regions?

The challenge differs from region to region, depending on the size and maturity of the online business in the region. Nigeria for example, has large size of potential online shoppers but the market is not as developed as in other regions like South Africa and the United States. Clients like Jumia, Konga, Yudala and various online platforms are, however, trying to boost the Nigerian online e-Commerce business.
The challenges are similar in some areas when it comes to consumer behaviour, while shopping online. Some customers want to sample prices and quality from various online shops before buying and our technology monitors the consumer behaviour and taste and we quickly offer the customer with quality products and better pricing from the list of our clients, and this, like I said earlier, drives sales for our clients. For us, the challenges are opportunities.

What is the acceptance level of targeted advertising in the Nigerian market?

We have been in Nigeria in the last two years, running our new campaign for targeted advertising and clients are beginning to see the huge benefit of our campaign, and they are beginning to accept it.

How do you operate the online advertising to get the attention of customers?

Looking at the Nigerian telecoms market with over 150 million subscribers, having mobile phones that are connected to the internet, we develop banners in form of ads and push them to their emails and they are able to access them through their mobile phones. Before now, people access the internet via the desk top computers and laptops, and it is only when they are sitting close to their computers that they actually have access to the internet. But all that have changed with the era of mobile phones, where majority of people now access the internet via their mobile phones, even when on the move.
Today we have mobile phones with large screens and this makes it easier for customers to read our ads on their mobile phones. Over 70 per cent of the customers globally now access the internet, using their mobile phones.

What percentage of your clients in Nigeria accesses the internet via their mobile phones?

We have more clients outside Nigeria and over 70 per cent of the number; access the internet via their mobile phones. For Nigeria and other African countries, which are emerging markets for us, about 32 per cent of customers to our clients, access the internet via their mobile phones.
In Nigeria, I see a massive opportunity for our kind of market performance advertising, because the population of mobile phone users is huge. Although most people in Nigeria still shop offline, but they are beginning to embrace online shopping, which is good for our kind of business.

What does Criteo intend to achieve with this kind of online market performance campaign?

The essence is to address the challenges faced by owners of e-Commerce platforms like the Jumia, Konga, Yudala and a host of others. One major challenge that most e-Commerce clients face is that majority of their customers do not do the actual shopping. They do not buy, but they prefer to navigate from one site to another, doing window shopping and this does not bring money to clients. The challenge is, however, global, where over 90 per cent of online shoppers go to different sites without buying. This is so because it is much easier for customers to move from one site to another in search of competitive prices. So we monitor what every customer does online, understand the shopping habit and design ads that are tailored and customised to them, just to catch their attention. By doing so, we introduce them to the list of our customers and we also drive traffic to their sites and increase sales for them. We also work with investment companies and help them grow their business.

Aside big e-Commerce platforms like Konga, Jumia and Yudala, does Criteo have solution to drive sales for start-up businesses with few customers?

We have solutions for small and medium businesses, just like we have for big organisations and platforms. Even with their small size of business, we have solutions that can help them grow their business must faster. One thing that small businesses need do is to invest in branding to grow their business. Branding will attract customers to their sites and we will ensure that the number of customers that come to their sites and go out, will surely come back to buy from them, through our targeted advertising. We are rolling out such solutions for small businesses into emerging markets, which include the Nigerian market.

What value can your solution add to businesses that are interested in adopting the solution?

The kind of solution we have is not the one that customers pick off the shelf and pay for it. Our solution is market performance oriented and a client only pays us when a customer clicks on the ad/banner that we sent to the customer. But before we display the banner for the customer on any site, we first pay the site owner and we only make money when the customers clicks on our banner. So the more banners we display on sites, the more money we pay to the site owner. So the client do not make any payment until the customers click on our ad that redirects them to the clients site. The more traffic we generate for the client, the more money the client makes.

You are entering a market where competition already exists, so what is your competitive edge to remain in business in Nigeria?

Criteo is a pure technology company that is promoting online advertising and we have been in this business in the past 10 years, operating in other regions outside Nigeria. We entered into the Nigerian market about two years ago and since then we are beginning to find our feet. We have the largest technology engineers dedicated to this business and the business is largely driven by technology. So we have competitive edge over our competitors because we have the right technology to drive the business and we also have a large client base that we service. We also work with big news publishing companies.

Your kind of online advertising is changing the face of advertising globally. What is your take on the future trend of online advertising?

Online advertising is driven by technology and the trend is changing. Before now, online advertising on Facebook used to be on desktop computers and laptops only, but today, that trend is fast changing as the focus has shifted from desktop and laptop computers to mobile phones. The advantage for clients is that more customers now have the opportunity to access the internet via their mobile phones and they get to see and experience online advertising in a much better way. Aside the shift from desktop to mobile, there is also a gradual shift from offline shopping to online shopping and all these drive mobile online advertising, and this trend will continue for some time.

The future is about big data and e-Commerce is going to ride on big data. Can Criteo’s solution support big data in Nigeria?

We are one of the solution providers that support big data growth and using big data as part of our daily business transactions with clients to grow their business, because our business is based on big data and our solution is online real time.

Since your solution is targeted at clients that are focused on e-Commerce, how do you manage information of two clients like Yudala and Konga, without compromising?

It is possible to manage information of two clients without compromising. What we do is to separate the information of different clients and use the information to create ads that are specific to their customers, and we do that without compromising information because we know that they are competitors in the same market. A lot of our clients are competitors and we have been able to separate information of global players in order to build trust between us and our clients.