Eyeing more revenue from its online grocery storefront, Weis Markets is implementing Mercatus Digital Advertising, a solution the regional grocer expects to help level the playing field for national CPG digital ad dollars and funnel more relevant brand offers to customers.
A new capability for the Mercatus Integrated Commerce Platform, Mercatus Digital Advertising brings a scalable, managed, native advertising program driven by retail media platform CitrusAd. Ron Bonacci, vice president of marketing and advertising at Weis Markets, said the Sunbury, Pa.-based regional grocer is now engaged in user acceptance testing for the solution and expects to go live with it by next week.
“This gives us an opportunity to really get some of those CPG dollars that are meant for brand and marketing opportunities that we will never have an opportunity to tap into because they were sold on a national level, or we just didn’t have the means and the mechanisms to siphon away some brand dollars,” Bonacci said in an interview with Supermarket News. “This puts us on an even playing field with them and, therefore, may give us more opportunity as they try or send out new products, where we could be first to market and take advantage of what that shopper experience might look like for those customers.”
Digital ads, sourced from national CPG advertisers and media agencies on the CitrusAd Network, will display on Weis Markets’ Mercatus-powered e-grocery website as well as the retailer’s mobile shopping app, Bonacci said.
“In addition to the mobile app, the technology that powers our storefront for Weis Markets is completely responsive. So it’s configured for tablets as well,” noted Mark Fairhurst, vice president of marketing for Toronto-based Mercatus. “These ads appear at the top of the storefront and are completely responsive to the user. They will configure based on the platform.”
According to Mercatus, targeted product search, category results and native display ads on its platform integrate seamlessly with the online shopping experience, allowing shoppers to add contextual and relevant brand offers right to their digital carts, instead of being steered off-site.
“All of the ads queueing up are based on that consumer’s basket. So through AI [artificial intelligence] tools, we actually data-model our consumers and queue up the products and service services that they use best and/or are suggested items that are relevant,” Bonacci explained. “This gives us the opportunity to push those out, through CPG funding, to really showcase some of those products and display what the attributes are of the product and the preferences of why consumers may want to choose them.
“This also gives us an opportunity to drive new items, where necessary, that educate the consumer and give them opportunity to buy these types of products, especially if it’s conducive to their basket,” he added. “So it’s all relevant, realtime and one-to-one, which is fantastic because that’s really what the consumer is looking for: Give me something I care about, give me something I want, and then make it relevant to my purchase history.”
Through the Mercatus/CitrusAd technology, a CPG manufacturer can create its own brand page or product/banner ads and then push them out to a group of Weis Market stores — or all of them — with the retailer’s approval, according to Bonacci. The grocer operates 199 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia and Virginia.
Weis Markets gets additional visibility on customer activity through the Mercatus’ solution’s integration with the Weis Rewards loyalty program.
“They gave us a dashboard where we can look at revenue, click times, timelines and complete purchase conversions. And then from there, we can follow it in our team log to see, did they buy, what is the frequency of their purchase, have they added it to their shopping list, and if it now bubbles up to the top of their list for future purchases,” said Bonacci. “So it’s a complete cycle that we can look at, from engagement all the way to purchase history.”
Fairhurst and Bonacci said the turnkey Mercatus Digital Advertising solution and the reach of the CitrusAd Network enable smaller grocery retailers to offer large CPG players like Nestle, Unilever and Kraft high-conversion, personalized ad placements. That, in turn, allows them to compete with bigger grocery competitors like Walmart, Target, Kroger, Amazon and Instacart for a piece of the more than $11 billion in available CPG online ad spend. Revenue from CPG ad placements is split by Weis Markets and Mercatus.
“It’s the same process that those at Nestle would use to upload a promotional campaign to Amazon, Walmart or Kroger. The same assets, the same visuals, will now flow seamlessly into Weis Markets,” Fairhurst said. “The other interesting component here is that all of that conversion happens within Weis Markets. There’s no exit from Weis Markets’ commerce experience. A typical banner ad would send you back to the CPG site. This [Mercatus Digital Advertising] is all happening within the basket-building process for Weis Markets, which goes back to the customer experience: build your basket faster, get to completion and make that online shopping experience ever more frictionless.”
Via its Weis 2 Go online grocery service, Weis Markets offers curbside pickup at 181 stores — following a recent 26-store expansion — and delivery at 177 stores. Shipt also provides same-day online delivery service for the chain.
“The more shoppers that shop online at Weis Markets, the more attractive it becomes as an advertising place and more revenue will be generated,” Fairhurst said.
Along with Weis Markets, other grocers adopting Mercatus Digital Advertising include Smart & Final and Piggly Wiggly Midwest. Mercatus said more retailers are slated to leverage the solution in the coming months.
Earlier this year, Mercatus announced Weis Markets’ adoption of its AI-based AisleOne solution. The system employs machine-learning algorithms to deliver customized product recommendations and promotions to customers on a one-to-one basis.