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MandM Direct uses Microsoft Advertising audiences to get closer to customers

April 2020

Leading online retailer MandM Direct uses audience targeting efficiencies of In-market Audiences and Product Audiences to heighten performance.

From catalogue to online pureplay

MandM Direct is a veteran British retailer, best known for selling end-of-line fashion and sportswear across Europe. The company’s heritage is as a catalogue business, which thrived for a quarter of a century selling fashionable big-brand styles at low prices. However, as the catalogue business model faded, the company took the leap to become an online pureplay company and is now one of Europe’s leading off-price retailers with over 2.5 million active customers.

Since taking the decision two years ago to solely focus on online retail, MandM Direct is now more dependent than ever on digital advertising to market to its customers. Throughout 2019, the company looked to refine its audience strategy and deliver precision focus to their marketing activities. A suite of Microsoft Advertising audience products, including In-market Audiences, Product Audiences and the Microsoft Audience Network were used to achieve this goal. 

Allocating marketing focus where it’s needed most

"We have an extremely loyal base of happy customers and want to ensure we are adding to that with equally loyal customers," said Phil Twigg, Head of Acquisition for MandM Direct. "Our strategy is to get more granular on our customer groupings, so we can ensure we are spending on acquiring customers who will be most likely to shop with us throughout the year."

Like many advertisers, MandM Direct have distinct approaches for how they target new and existing customers. When it comes to prospecting, the company aims to be as efficient as possible and uses multiple targeting layers to ensure spend is focused on the right customers. With the goal to make prospecting more efficient, Microsoft Advertising’s In-market Audiences became an attractive option for MandM Direct.

A more qualified prospecting opportunity

The decision to adopt In-market Audiences was an easy one for the company’s Digital Marketing Manager, Bill Davies. “Our audience strategy was clear, we needed to be more targeted in our prospecting activities. For me, this is where In-market Audiences really come into their own.”

The benefit for MandM Direct was that In-market Audiences provided a more qualified prospecting opportunity, selecting audiences that have displayed multiple signals of intent in their search, demographic and browser activity. Although audiences with an interest in apparel performed extremely well, Davies was keen to expand beyond audiences that aligned directly with the company’s core product lines. 

One of the less obvious audience choices that delivered great returns was the holiday market. As Davies explained, “We’ve had quite a lot of joy with the travel audiences. Our thinking here is, if someone’s booked a two-week holiday somewhere sunny, it makes sense that they might also be looking to update their summer wardrobe.”

To make the most of campaign optimisation, In-market Audiences were embedded into all MandM Direct prospecting campaigns. Each audience started with no bid adjustments, was then evaluated on a monthly basis and finally adjusted according to performance in 5-10% bid increments. 

As Twigg expanded on the strategy, “We edge the bids up incrementally so we can take a more measured approach over time which is data-driven. We are not in the habit of jumping on a single month’s good performance and slapping a massive 500% uplift on the campaign.”

Crucial to the success of this model was the trust and transparency Microsoft Advertising delivered in its reporting functionality and bid recommendations. “We trust the Microsoft Advertising data so we haven’t felt the need to implement capping on our bid modifiers,” said Davies. 

This combination of a considered incremental approach and trust in the data has led to “some pretty punchy upweights” in In-market Audiences bidding, according to Davies, which has resulted in a click-through rate that is 23% higher than normal campaigns, as well as a conversion rate 3% higher than standard campaigns.

Re-engaging with valued customers

Having refined their targeting for prospect customers, MandM Direct were also looking for ways to expand their reach to target existing customers with new products. “Our customer base skews quite heavily to male shoppers, so we have a terrible time trying to sell dresses because the market is so competitive,” explained Twigg. “But if we are marketing to someone who is already familiar with our brand, their propensity to shop with us is greater, so it gives us licence to try and sell them new products we wouldn’t normally try when we are prospecting.” 

The Microsoft Audience Network provided a new avenue for MandM Direct to reach its existing customers with carefully tailored messaging. The network delivered additional 2% conversions to the bottom line, converting at a 30% higher rate than their standard search campaigns and maintaining a 66% reduction in cost-per-acquisition (CPA). Because the CPA on the network was so efficient, MandM Direct’s return on advertising spend (ROAS) for the Microsoft Advertising Network was 130% higher than its average search campaign, according to MandM Direct Account Data, 2019. 

In order to be more effective with its retargeting of existing customers, MandM Direct also employed Product Audiences – a new way to dynamically retarget customers based on the products viewed on the website. 

“We’ve really reaped the rewards of being able to recapture customers with more relevant messaging tailored to the products they were looking at on our site,” said Twigg.” It took a little time to get implemented, but it was worth it as the benefits to performance were almost instant.” 

The extra precision afforded from Product Audiences meant that MandM Direct was able to lower its CPA by 40% compared to the rest of its search account, with a 68% higher conversion rate and 70% higher ROAS. 

With three outstanding product performances for In-market Audiences, Microsoft Audience Network and Product Audiences, MandM Direct feels that there’s even greater scope to do more with Microsoft Advertising next year, with plans to develop tagging for all product pages and preparations for expansion into France and Germany. 

“This is all about increasing our coverage and serving people with relevant ads wherever they are on the net,” said Twigg of the Microsoft Advertising collaboration.

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