Retail and travel business Rewe Group prides itself on delivering a personalised shopping experience for its customers. The owner of Billa and Penny brands, Lithuanian Iki and Croatian Bipa drugstores, even has a long-running slogan for its flagship brand in Germany, Rewe Markt: "Rewe. Your market" to indicate it provides a unique, personal touch.
But it's not easy to deliver this kind of individualistic approach in marketing. Rewe Markt alone serves 30 million shoppers at more than 3,700 stores each week. And getting the right messages to the right people every single time is no easy task.
This marketing challenge is compounded further as customers and governments demand greater data protection. This increasing focus on privacy, along with the phasing out of third-party cookies, led the grocery chain to seek out new solutions to maintain its customised marketing approach.
Rewe’s inhouse IT, marketing, and analytics teams ultimately decided to develop a Customer Data Platform (CDP) from scratch, in partnership with Deloitte, in an effort to maintain personalised marketing with a privacy-first focus.
Rewe’s CDP, which is built in Google Cloud, is designed to centralise both available first-party and select external data, offering the company a holistic view of its customer’s needs and interests. This is designed to give its communications even more of a personal touch.
Customer needs aren’t written in the stars, but in the CustomerCloud
“To figure out which coupons, offers, and content are relevant to which customers, data needs to be collected and, more importantly, understood”, says Maximilian Hausmann, Rewe’s head of media strategy & data-driven marketing.
Hausmann says the new CDP system at Rewe is called CustomerCloud internally, and it’s been a game-changer. “To put it in a nutshell, what the customer wants isn’t written in the stars, but in the CustomerCloud”, he says.
Rewe’s management pinpointed three central requirements for their new data pool:
- Customer data should be collected in one privacy-friendly and secure place to provide a unified customer view and increase communication relevance.
- Segmentation should be channel-independent, future-proof, and privacy-friendly, allowing personalised user experiences even after the end of third-party cookies.
- The marketing, analytics, and digital IT teams should benefit from unified customer profiles in the long term, with the help of modern cloud solutions.
A total of ten data sources from Rewe are consolidated in the CustomerCloud and fed into the brand’s owned and paid media channels. Sources include the Rewe website, newsletter, its e-commerce shop, and subpages such as an extensive recipe collection. And when customers pay by mobile or redeem coupons and loyalty points in Rewe’s brick-and-mortar shops, that data can be sent to the CustomerCloud via the retailer’s app.
The platform’s construction in Google Cloud ensures the brand a secure-by-design location for its customer data. Default data encryption, access control settings, and Google-engineered security add to Rewe’s strict measures to comply with local privacy laws whilst keeping the personal information of its customers protected. The encrypted first-party data can then be securely transferred to Google Ads, its social media channels, demand-side platforms, and email systems in a privacy compliant way to improve the relevance of the brand’s communication.
Having its first-party data consolidated in one location boosts the impact of Rewe’s brand communication and also lets the company tap into the growing retail media market. With the secure encryption of its first-party data, audience segmentation can also be achieved whilst preserving the privacy of its customers. With Google Ad Manager, Rewe is able to offer privacy-safe first-party audiences to its advertising partners, allowing them to book highly relevant onsite display ads. And for campaigns in Rewe’s online shop, their partners can access over 100 exclusive audience lists based on unified customer profiles.
Not just a tech project, but also a transformation
For Hausmann, this new strategy changed how people at Rewe work together, making it more of a transformation than a technology project. "We used to have special experts for each data silo. We had to break those silos down," he says.
Together with management, Hausmann and his team demonstrated the significance of the CDP to unify consumer data and replace independent data silos across departments. They also made sure correct local guidelines on consented data collection and use were baked into the implementation from day one, by ensuring the legal team was aligned. "To provide us with the best possible support, the legal department needed to understand right from the beginning exactly how the new technology works," he explains.
Rewe also optimised the way it uses its marketing budget by ensuring the same customers didn’t see the same content over and over again. “Either we address the same customers again with new content, or we can expand our reach with the original content by addressing new customers,” Hausmann says.
Reach and relevance in a premium ad environment
Almost two years after its launch, the CustomerCloud has become a trusted, established operation and reliable source of information at Rewe. The first two use-case clusters — more precise allocation of the company’s own media spend and the development of a retail media business — are proving to be a success.
Hausmann says the retailer sees plenty of potential going forward. “Strategic media spend has long been a priority focus of ours. And with the end of [our] printed leaflets planned in summer 2023, budgets are set to shift even further towards digital,” he says.
And Rewe’s new strategy has helped the company take pole position in the growing local retail media market. “Rewe’s strategy, following local privacy changes, has positioned them to be one of the first to succeed in the new retail media market today,” says Lars Finger, partner at Deloitte Central Europe. “Rewe is among a handful of companies that can offer relevant reach in a premium advertising environment. And their CDP is a great example for many other brands across Europe.”
In the coming months, together with Deloitte, Hausmann and his team want to fine tune Rewe’s messaging and the new data pool. "The more customers use our services, the more relevant the messages we can create and the better the use-cases will be," he says. With the right data pool in place, Rewe is ready for a paperless, post-cookie world.