Customer knowledge is at the heart of any commercial and digital marketing strategy. This is essential to achieve his main goal, personalize his actions and thus develop his business. In the digital age, marketing now has many targeting solutions. Criteo, a retargeting specialist, relies on technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning and data to help advertisers and publishers improve their advertising targeting and deliver a more personalized and tailored experience to potential customers .
Diarmuid Gill, Criteo’s Chief Technology Officer, discusses the new challenges facing companies in terms of advertising and targeting and how Criteo’s technological innovations are helping them meet them.
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Can you tell us about your background and your current role at Criteo?
I am from Ireland but have lived in France since 2014 when I joined Criteo as the VP of the Product Engineering group. In 2019, I assumed the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and led the entire R&D team. Today the research and development team has around 550 people, mainly located in Paris, Grenoble and Ann Arbor, with some small teams in Bordeaux, Barcelona, London, Boston and Toronto.
In a context of declining cookies, privacy concerns, and rising first-party data, what have been Criteo’s technological challenges over the past two or three years?
The changes that have occurred and are still under discussion regarding the future of user data have posed, and continue to pose, challenges for ad technology providers. Our primary concern has always been to push for what’s best for the entire ecosystem, namely marketers, media owners and internet users (more broadly, most people on the planet), all of whom are threatened. the impact of these changes.
Marketers risk losing control of the effectiveness of their marketing spend and reducing it if they can no longer measure its impact. Ad revenue addicted media owners will have less money to invest in content creation and may have to resort to subscriptions or other revenue models, which means less choice for consumers when it comes to where to shop and less free content for all. Internet users.
From a technological point of view, in an environment where measurement and precision are fundamental, those who have the most performing platforms have the possibility to differentiate themselves even more, as long as they also have the flexibility and agility necessary to be able to adapt their systems. to new circumstances.
During this time, we have focused on using the latest deep learning and neural networking technologies to expand our offering to include medium and higher funnel audience capabilities at the high performance levels for which Criteo has always been known. . The relationships we have with our customers give us access to a wealth of first-party business data that is unique in the industry. In our view, cutting-edge technology combined with quality data forms the basis of a very powerful platform.
How does AI drive personalization throughout the purchase journey?
AI-powered engineering has been a part of Criteo’s history from day one and has been the key differentiator that made us successful. Criteo has very strong partnerships with its customers and these deep integrations allow us to deliver on our promise to show the right product to the right person at the right time.
Using AI, we are able to create audiences that marketers can use to increase awareness, increase engagement, increase sales, and build brand loyalty over the long term. No other technology provider in the industry can deliver this performance every step of the way, along with the highly accurate ROAS measurement that all marketers depend on.
For example, we use our expertise in natural language processing (NLP) to build a cookie-independent contextual solution on which we can overlay our business data and then correlate the contextual signal with actual business results, which normal products do. contextual analysis can not do.
How do you work with data today to help brands better understand their customers?
Many of the world’s most popular brands depend on other players, especially retailers, to sell their products. As such, brands often lack the data that would allow them to see the big picture of their customers, particularly how they navigate their product purchase journey.
The data that brands get is generally very fragmented and incomplete, which means they have a very partial view of their customers. Thanks to the close ties Criteo has with retailers and publishers, we can help brands access the most relevant audience for their products and, most importantly, provide accurate metrics, where they can track the contribution of marketing investments to their online sales.
What are the main research and development challenges for the next few years?
The biggest challenge we face in technology – which is why I think it’s the best industry in the world – is the constant pressure to keep innovating. In technology, if you don’t move, you fall behind. This makes things extremely dynamic and therefore you have to constantly renew your knowledge. Challenges can take the form of regulatory or environmental changes, forcing you to adapt (hence the need for flexibility and agility), while technological advances, especially in the field of open source software, offer opportunities.
Other challenges are adapting to new hybrid ways of working. While this phenomenon is not unique to R&D organizations, the team-oriented nature of R&D work makes it a particular problem to address. The days when the entire team was in the office five days a week are a thing of the past. I expect teams to consist of people who always want to come to the office every day, others who are happy never or rarely come to the office, and many who want the flexibility to choose.
It becomes extremely important for leaders to ensure that we can adapt to this new normal and that our work culture can evolve in such a way that each of these groups can have a great work experience and not feel lost.