There are two looming challenges for the classifieds industry, and property portals need to address them sooner rather than later, says Cedric Vandervynckt, Regional Managing Director, Southern Europe for Criteo.
Criteo is a global technology company specialising in performance marketing that helps advertisers generate more sales. It captures user data and delivers appropriate and strategic advertising in milliseconds.
It’s at the coal face of the online advertising industry and Vandervynckt says the company is well placed to identify and deal with industry barriers.
Launched in 2005, Criteo has some impressive stats – it has 31 offices worldwide, seven data centres, 18,000 data servers and it delivers advertising to approximately 1.2 billion monthly users.
Retail is Criteo’s number one industry, but online classifieds are close behind.
“Last year we made $1.2 billion revenue, and for classifieds in Europe, that business represents 10 percent roughly of revenues,” he told Property Portal Watch.
“Classifieds is a key and strategic industry for Criteo. The online global industry is set to be worth around $47 billion in 2020 according to Goldman Sachs so it’s a very large industry.
“Traditionally we are heavily skewed to helping retailers sell more on the internet and this is our number one industry but classifieds is not far after.”
Here, Vandervynckt details his top industry challenges and how Criteo is trying to get ahead of them.
1. Devices galore
Tracking users on the internet and determining their interests and buying habits is increasingly becoming more difficult as technology expands but it gets smarter too, says Vandervynckt.
“The internet is amazing but at the same time our ability to understand the consumer journey is quite limited because what we have seen over the last few years is the explosion of the number of devices used to access the internet,” he said.
Criteo’s internal company research revealed that on average people use three different devices such as a laptop, tablet or a smartphone, and he expects it to be around five in 2017.
“Consumer behaviour is actually changing through time,” he said. “We no longer browse the internet on our desktop – now it’s on the fly. The mobile is becoming increasingly important for consumers, it’s what we call a digital teddy bear – we have it all day long, it’s in our pockets.”
But leaps in technology mean over the next few years users will also browse on smartwatches, screens on the fridge or screens in a car – plus people are using several web browsers.
“So that means for a single user you can potentially have 12 different profiles in the internet, and for advertising companies and brands that want to advertise on the web it’s really hard to make sense of all those different profiles and to be able to do people-centric marketing which is actually one of our key priorities and strategy,” he said.
“So we are building a cross-device graph that enables marketers to better understand the consumer journey and like that we can better serve recommendations. What it means is that we are actually trying to match the different profiles that in most cases rely completely on cookies, so we match all the different cookies of a user across all devices to be able to focus on the final user.”
Criteo has developed roughly 500-600 million unique profiles worldwide, and the good news for classifieds sites is that interest in them is growing.
“On average the users spend more time on a classified property than any other website,” he said. “On average they spend 25 minutes per visit, they do five visits on classified portals before purchasing or renting and they consume a lot of content on the portals – on average we see a consumer will browse 22 pages per visit which is quite high.
“The mobile ecosystem is actually enabling this because on the fly if you are in a car or a cab or drinking a coffee you are able to take your home and start browsing properties. So it is enabling consumers to have a better access to the information they are looking for.”
2. Big issues with big data
The level of data required to create user profiles of internet users who are browsing these classifieds sites and deliver appropriate ads is doubling each year thanks to huge databases of listings, says Vandervynckt.
“There are a lot of properties that are available,” he said. “You can infer from the 22 pages per user per visit, that those could be 22 different properties so once a consumer has specific interests it becomes a big challenge to look at the data and actually understand what the consumer is looking for.
“I think the challenge for the portal is to provide the right property to the right user.”
Vandervynckt says Criteo is constantly developing strategies to cope with exponentially increasing data, hence the huge amount of servers and data centres on three continents. It also employs more than 470 developers to keep working on the company’s algorithmic ability to keep on top of the challenges big data provides.
“That’s a very large number of people that are developing the products that are working on the infrastructure so we can deliver that ad,” he said. “Our challenge is to be able to create a unique and personalised and relevant ad for each single user.
Vandervynckt estimates that Criteo delivers ads to roughly 1.2 billion users per month, and it needs to focus on how to keep delivering the right ad to those users.
“So in less than 150 milliseconds – that’s faster than an eye blink – we need to understand who the user is and what their interest is, the level of intent, we need to browse on all the advertisers we work with, and today we have 12,000 advertisers working with us,” he said.
“Then we need to buy the impression that is available on the publisher with whom we work, and we work with 17,000 different direct publishers worldwide, and compute the ad and serve it.
For the property sector, what that means is Criteo can deliver portal customers exactly what they are looking for.
“For the classifieds industry it’s actually a great asset because we are able to actually treat all that data and just select a short selection of properties that we can display to the user and re-engage that consumer directly onto the classified portal,” he said.
Cedric Vandervynckt will be a keynote speaker at the Property Portal Watch conference in madrid. His presentation is titled Why Relevant Data Means More Results – Tips on People-Centric Marketing and is part of Session 2: The Evolving World of Consumer Marketing on 28 September. Register today!