Launched in 2010, FirstCry is one of the noted names in Asia’s infant and child care market. In fact, their parent company BrainBees Solutions reporting revenue of ₹238 crore in 2017. Much of the firm’s success is due to its range of quality products — including 90,000 items from over 1,200 global and regional brands — and the buoyant state of Indian e-commerce, which is set to reach the $50 billion (₹5,000 crore) mark this year.
FirstCry has also consistently recognised the importance of intelligent marketing. Since 2015, it has been a long-standing partner of advertising technology company MainAd. Specialising in display and retargeting campaigns, MainAd’s mission is to improve efficiency via its propriety tech, Logico — a programmatic tool that uses a mix of data-driven practices and real-time machine learning to enable smart media buying.
Clearly, the union is a success, because between 2016 and 2017, FirstCry saw its sales rise fourfold as a result of MainAd’s efforts. But what exactly is the story of this winning combination?
Big Advertising Ambitions
Although FirstCry had already become a popular brand in 2015, it was keen to enhance its market dominance by driving continual growth. In particular, the business wanted to stand out by resolving a common ecommerce issue: shopping basket abandonment. With multiple channels and devices constantly vying for consumer attention, unfinished digital purchases are increasingly frequent: indeed, the global average abandonment rate is now 76.9 percent.
Consequently, MainAd was initially focused on two core goals: driving conversion rates and incremental sales and boosting basket recovery. Key to achieving both would be serving ads that ignited consumer interest and inspired them to finish incomplete purchases. Yet as the effectiveness of MainAd’s advanced targeting became clear, FirstCry decided to expand its advertising activities at acquiring new customers, as well as retaining existing ones.
Tech With A Mind Of Its Own
To meet these objectives, MainAd utilised its intelligent automated advertising tool: Logico. In brief, Logico is designed to instantly assess multiple data streams, determine which media placements present the best opportunity to engage individuals in the moment, and direct advertising activity accordingly. The way it does this is a little more complex.
Essentially, it leverages a blend of efficient programmatic real-time bidding (RTB) and machine learning technology. The RTB element is built on Google’s Open Bidder API; a framework MainAd has adapted to allow customisable campaign management. The ML aspect, however, is more unique. At present, MainAd is the only company to have integrated a specific subset of the ML family — reinforcement learning — within its advertising platform. And this is significant for one reason: fluidity. While traditional ML is still mostly guided by rules that determine how artificial agents should act (that is, which placements they should bid for), RL agents are trained to decide for themselves what action they should take by drawing on past experiences of encountering positive and negative rewards. So, if we apply this to digital advertising, that means they can use data about consumers and previous interactions (good and bad) to predict which media placements brands should buy, and which particular offers, discounts, and messages they should serve.
When we put the two technologies together, the result is a platform that runs the whole digital advertising show: using RL to establish how and where ads should be delivered for optimal individual resonance, and programmatic RTB to seal the deal — all in real time.
A Refined Strategic Approach
Because FirstCry needed to re-engage consumers already aware of its brand and capture the attention of new customers, a multi-faceted strategy was essential.
MainAd therefore applied three core methods:
- Retargeting classic: dynamically adjusting bids to target the high-quality media placements most likely to pique the attention of individuals who had abandoned their baskets.
- Retargeting plus: increasing the range of advertising to include a wider range of inventory so that all possible opportunities to tip past shoppers towards conversion were capitalised.
- Prospecting: identifying consumers who would be interested in FirstCry’s offering and the ideal moments to deliver ads that could encourage them to become customers.
To maximise conversions, MainAd also took a considered approach to advertising creative and campaign planning. Banners featuring previously browsed products, complementary suggestions, and unique discounts were aligned with the FirstCry visual style; a move that served to both bolster awareness and strengthen positive brand associations. The scale on which ads were delivered was also increased throughout the festive period between October and December 2017 in a bid to put FirstCry products front of mind during Diwali, Children’s Day, Christmas, and Dussehra.
The End Result
Thanks to ongoing optimisation by intelligent RL algorithms, MainAd has been able to deliver continuous improvement in sales and customer numbers. From initial deployment of Logico to date, overall conversation rates have quadrupled while the cost of acquisitions has fallen; leaving FirstCry with spend to reinvest in connecting with new shoppers. Indeed, analysis shows that new customer rates reached up to 10 percent during the highest performing months. Traffic volumes for FirstCry.com also experienced a notable spike from existing and fresh customers during festive periods, fuelling a significant sales increase compared to the performance baseline.
And it doesn’t end there. In 2017 alone, sales increased by either two or threefold, which meant that sales figures in December were 10 times higher than those recorded in January.
These impressive outcomes demonstrate that even if brands are leading their sector, there is always room for intelligent machinery and precise targeting to enhance their success.