In this interview, we delve into the remarkable contributions of Michael Della Penna, the Chief Strategy Officer of InMarket. His visionary leadership has driven transformative changes, addressing industry problems through innovative solutions. Michael’s strategic guidance has enabled InMarket to leverage data and analytics, deliver targeted experiences, navigate digital transformation, and stay ahead of market trends. Join us as we explore Michael’s insights and the pioneering initiatives that position InMarket as a trailblazer in the industry.
Michael, can you tell us about your background and how you came to be the Chief Strategy Officer at InMarket?
I’ve spent over 30 years in the digital advertising industry and found my passion for data-driven marketing and storytelling early on. From the early stages of my career, I found myself drawn to companies that were powering digital experiences for their customers.
After working in various leadership roles for companies like Canon, CA Technologies, ZDNet, and CNET, I joined Bigfoot Interactive, a leading email marketing service provider as CMO, where I led strategic marketing, branding, lead generation, and communications. Once the company was acquired by Epsilon back in 2005, I continued my tenure as CMO for Epsilon, overseeing all rebranding initiatives and a series of acquisitions centered around evolving Epsilon from a traditional database marketing provider into a global, multi-channel marketing services powerhouse.
After founding my own company, Conversa Marketing, a social CRM company, which was acquired by StrongView (now Selligent) in 2010, I pursued roles that would allow me to gain additional experience in M&A, data, and mobile and omnichannel marketing including leadership roles at Responsys, Oracle, and Cuebiq.
It’s those experiences that led me to InMarket and highlighted the critical importance that hyper-relevant, contextual, omnichannel experiences have in driving engagement and lifetime value. When I joined InMarket back in 2019, I was excited about the opportunity to lead marketing and strategy for one of the fastest-growing companies in the adtech industry that truly champions innovation in this new era of digital marketing.
What is InMarket’s unique value proposition in the marketplace?
We are a real-time, omnichannel marketing and measurement platform. Our unique value is our ability to help marketers connect with consumers in the moments that matter throughout the path to purchase—whether that’s before, during, or afterward—and close the loop to understand ROAS and program success. For me, InMarket really represents the culmination of a career spent perfecting marketing in individual channels and combining that to create the holy grail of perfectly orchestrated, contextually relevant, omnichannel messaging in real-time and throughout the customer journey. Done well, it’s a win-win for both the consumer and marketer, driving both record-breaking engagement and marketing ROAS.
InMarket has been around for over a decade. How has the company evolved over the years? How does the company stay ahead of the competition?
So much has changed in marketing, advertising, and measurement since InMarket launched in 2010. Our secret is to keep evolving, to continually look ahead, and make strategic investments in R&D and our products based on where the industry is headed and providing consumers with value and great experiences. We’ve done this throughout a decade in which we were constantly challenged by well-funded competition, many of which aren’t around anymore, and by staying focused on a single purpose: helping our clients “discover what matters” vs. chasing the latest trend and industry obsession around “growth at all costs” versus profitability.
For us, digging into the challenges and pain points our clients have and leveraging our unique perspective of understanding consumer intent, visitation patterns, and purchases combined with the ability to help brands change on a dime and execute marketing in the moments that matter has been a game changer. As a result, we’ve been fortunate enough to drive award-winning, record outcomes for some of the largest brands including Dunkin’, Stop & Shop, Denny’s, Anhesuer Busch, and STIHL.
What are the biggest challenges you face as the Chief Strategy Officer of InMarket?
The past three years have presented undeniable challenges for the industry and our clients. As a result of the pandemic, consumer behaviors underwent drastic changes and media consumption patterns rapidly evolved. Post-pandemic, the transition wasn’t as simple as anyone anticipated. Along with the continued challenges of consumers being dispersed because of hybrid and remote work, inflation posed new challenges for marketers as consumers became increasingly sensitive to rising costs as well as the greater internal pressures faced by marketers to drive return on ad spend.
Marketers have had to significantly shift their strategies to account for these changes, and for InMarket, the challenge was consistently staying ahead of leading indicators of consumer behavior changes before marketers missed the moment. We leveraged our unique data and insights to help marketers identify and more important respond to these changes in real time.
As a result, these changes also fueled new solutions to meet the moment, be it buy online, pickup in-store, new curbside audiences, predictive audiences, such as channel switchers, immersive media and enhanced omnichannel, and sales lift measurement capabilities. In fact, the pandemic channel disruptions, like shipping, and inflation have made us a much more innovative company and better partner by forcing us to think differently, keep the consumer and client challenge in mind and adapt in real-time.
How do you see the role of a Chief Strategy Officer evolving in the coming years?
For startups and early-stage companies, we’ve seen the unfortunate consequences of those who accelerate their growth too quickly without considering the long-term implications of rapid expansion. The role of the Chief Strategy Officer has proven to be particularly influential in tech, where this is often the case, as they can provide the expertise needed to guide the C-suite and advisors to make informed decisions about expansion.
The most critical role of CSOs will be to help the C-Suite “discover what matters” both internally (what matters to employees) as well as externally including discovering what matters for clients and consumers. A CSO’s job will be increased to listen to these key constituencies and guide, inform, and educate the C-suite as to where the market is going and how best to get there by aligning internally toward the company’s larger goals and vision while focusing and supporting their client’s success with their customers also in mind.
Can you talk about a particularly successful campaign that InMarket has run for a client?
Technology and data are opening a new world of possibilities for marketers and brands, where environments, even your own backyard, inspire next-level opportunities to engage with customers. Immersive media has emerged as one tactic that provides brands with the ability to drive deeper connections through highly interactive and engaging experiences that also achieve record click-through rates and drive visitation and sales lift.
Last year, InMarket partnered with STIHL to create powerful, immersive ads to promote STIHL’s battery-powered lawn tool products. The dynamic ‘Trim the Grass’ ad encouraged users to cut the grass with STIHL’s battery-powered lawn tools by using their fingers, and a ‘Battery Drop’ ad had users plug in a STIHL battery pack. Once the viewer engaged in the ad, the interactive creative provided key, real-time location information to the nearest STIHL retailer, along with a call-to-action to their website.
Shattering industry benchmarks and increasing cost efficiency, the 360º Panoramic ad unit achieved an engagement rate of 3.99%, over 6.7x above the industry average, and its Battery Drop interactive creative netted out 19.25% below the cost goal. The award-winning campaign highlights the potential of harnessing immersive media and real-time insights to fully immerse consumers, establish deep brand connections, drive ROAS, and reach new customers. Even more exciting is the possibility of creating truly customized environments including products placed in your own backyard to experience a brand virtually in the years ahead.
InMarket is known for its use of location data. Can you talk about how you leverage that data to benefit clients?
A true omnichannel experience is crucial for both acquiring new customers and retaining them. In fact, the omnichannel shopper spends 1.5x more than a single-channel shopper. Across every advertising experience and omnichannel touchpoint with consumers, it’s essential for marketers to create high-impact moments and experiences with consumers that provide value and focus on driving engagement, visits, sales, and customer loyalty.
The most successful campaigns combine both in-store and online elements to provide consumers with relevant information throughout every step of the purchase process. Insights and location data when shared by consumers and analyzed allow brands to move beyond the who, to understand why consumers shop, when, and where to best reach them. Location data can also fuel value and convenience, like in the STIHL case for understanding the nearest STIHL retailer. This ability to connect with consumers in real-time, based on location and consumers allowing push notifications, gives marketers the unique ability to reach customers at their precise moment of need—while they are shopping.
As a result of combining timely, contextually-relevant, value-based experiences, InMarket drives engagement rates that are more than 6x higher than the industry benchmark for mobile advertising. The ability to optimize these campaigns inflight, and then ultimately measure the success of these programs across a variety of KPIs including visit, purchase, and brand lift then allows brands to effectively measure the success of their programs in driving ROAS. Finally, additional actionable insights obtained from campaigns can then drive further ongoing program optimization efforts.
InMarket has expanded beyond just mobile advertising. Can you talk about the company’s broader strategy?
We’re committed to providing full-service, closed-loop marketing, and measurement services, allowing brands to learn, build and measure the success of their omnichannel marketing and advertising programs through our integrated suite of solutions. Our commitment to helping brands “discover what matters” and supporting consumers across their shopping journey is focused on creating great experiences for consumers and great outcomes for marketers in the form of ROAS has been a journey that has been built over time.
Our acquisitions over the last few years have enhanced our capabilities and platforms for consumers, brands, and marketers. This strategy has included the expansion of our owned and operated apps including the acquisition of shopping apps that enable consumers to plan, save and organize around their shopping trips. The acquisition of consumer apps Out of Milk, a consumer list and shopping app, and KeyRing a leading loyalty app, specifically enhanced our consumer app offerings, including List Ease and Checkpoints, which were launched in the early days of InMarket.
Subsequent acquisitions including ThinkNear and NinthDecimal further enhanced our close-loop marketing offerings by providing us with a DSP platform GeoLink, a proprietary audience offering, GeoTypes which combines various attributes to better understand what motivates consumers or why they shop, and an omnichannel attribution platform to better understand key KPI like visitation and purchase lift associated with a consumer seeing an ad. Robust actionable insights, including a better understanding of engagement and consumer behaviors along with our real-time optimization capabilities, drive better learnings and program outcomes over time. Each solution in the platform feeds a continuous circle of engagement and improvement.
Ultimately, our vision is to provide marketers with the best real-time, omnichannel, always-on optimization platform in the market today and consumers with great, valued experiences through our consumer and b2b offerings.
InMarket has acquired several companies in recent years. How do those acquisitions fit into the company’s overall strategy?
We’re focused on expanding both our consumer platform and B2B omnichannel marketing and measurement platform as noted above.
InMarket recently launched a Sales Lift product that measures the effectiveness of advertising. Can you talk about how that works?
Today, measurement and optimization are essential for increasing efficiency and impact across campaigns. InMarket is dedicated to helping our clients build programs that have 360-degree closed-loop reporting.
Sales Lift was introduced last October to do just that and to provide marketers with the ability to not only understand incremental visits their ad campaigns drove, but the sales lift associated with the campaign. Our attribution and measurement solution also enables our clients to put those insights into action in the form of retargeting or by fueling future campaign optimization efforts. For example, if we know consumers over-index on a particular attribution on a campaign, enabling a brand to be able to find more consumers like those at scale to drive better outcomes in the future should be effortless.
What advice do you have for marketers who are just starting to incorporate location data into their campaigns?
Overall, my advice to any marketer is to move beyond the traditional metrics like who to target and challenge their teams to better understand why they shop and when and where to best reach them in real-time and regardless of channel. Gone are the days of rinse-and-repeat media plans and siloed channel efforts. Today’s modern marketer needs to learn, build, measure, and optimize in real-time, across channels, and throughout the journey. While the industry figures out addressability and interoperability issues, marketers should focus on leveraging the data, technology, and partners they have to create real-time experiences that connect with consumers, provide value and ultimately grow lifetime value and results.
Looking ahead, what are InMarket’s goals for the next few years?
It’s an exciting time to be in the omnichannel marketing and measurement space. We’re beginning to see a big shift on the creative front that will fundamentally change the way consumers interact with brands. In fact, I believe creative is the one asset in the marketing toolbox that has all too often been overlooked. The evolution from static, to interactive to hyper-personalized to immersive will be a sea of change in enabling brands to truly come to life in new and exciting ways for consumers, further strengthening the bond and loyalty consumers have with the brands they love.
Looking ahead, we’re focused on working with the industry on addressability and interoperability to grow the consumer and brand relationship that is a win/win for both and preserves the open web.
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