No. 316: The Rise of “O2O”

In a recent report in the Minnesota Star-Tribune, Jackie Crosby details Target’s latest plan with their recently rebranded media company – Roundel.

Target Corp. does more than just sell merchandise to shoppers. Since 2016, it also has operated a separate, in-house media company that creates digital advertising for a host of major brands and businesses, not all of whom sell products at Target stores.

According to the recently-named president of Roundel, Kristi Argyilan believes that the in-house agency “represents a different way of thinking.” Target serves as a bridge between its customers and nearly 1,000 business partners in a novel way: “We infuse math — the insights and analytics that make our media company successful, with magic — the great, guest-focused design and shopping experiences that differentiate Target.” Roundel develops ad campaigns for and about 150 digital platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.

Facebook’s foray into Instagram eCommerce was more defensive than analysts have so-far remarked.

The Star-Tribune report noted that the retailer isn’t the only company reconsidering the strength of an in-house media business. Walmart debuted an overhaul to Walmart Media Group in recent months. In addition, Amazon generated $10 billion in advertising in 2018 per the report. With Target, the report indicated, a new advertising identity would show to potential new clients that offerings extend beyond display ads. For Roundel – data and advertising design aren’t the differentiators, the physical stores are. The agency’s hope is to pioneer the analytics to correctly determine online-to-offline sales efficacy.

Target gets you every time

Most of us underestimate the potential at the intersection of performance marketing and physical retailers like Target. Outside of Foursquare’s private data, there isn’t yet a sufficient means of quantifying the marketing influence that the internet has on the traditional DTC-era consumer who also shops in physical environments. I’ll try to explain with my recent, one-off anecdote.

On a recent visit to Target, I was searching for place mats when I walked past the Quip display along the main corridor. On a mission to spend no more than $30, I felt pulled to the display like a tractor beam. Without the physical display, a Quip purchase would have remained a long-term “maybe.” As such, I disregarded my $30 commitment and picked up a Quip box. But this funnel began long before that walk past the display of battery-powered toothbrushes.


  • Awareness of the product: I’d read about it in tech media and retail publications (top funnel), I’d seen the product in searches (middle funnel), and I’ve passively noticed a few retargeting advertisements over the past several months. None of this visibility moved me closer to the sale.
  • The packaging design: structurally unique when compared to the incumbent brands like Oral-B, Philips Sonicare. The box, itself, was taller. Target stockists have no choice but to place the product on the top shelf – prioritizing the Quip over the likes of traditional devices.
  • Branding: The colors popped and the design was superior, because the incumbent devices all possessed some variation of blue and white packaging.
  • Value: The price was 30-60% cheaper than the conventional, powered toothbrush.

Familiarity, appeal, and price were factors in my decision to purchase. But Target isn’t the only retailer that is competing to develop an O2O-capable, in-house media business. Walmart has overhauled its team – with the anticipation of a long period of growth. And Amazon generated $10 billion in advertising in 2018. Display advertising through Target, Walmart, and Amazon has been used to offset the rising costs of traditional advertising services like Facebook and Google. We expect this to grow. Digiday+ recently surveyed 71 media buying executives in March 2019. Nearly 80% anticipated increased spend on, 20% of the executives were planning to spend more on, and 14% were scheduled to spend more on through their reinvented advertising house.

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Target is a retail marvel, you walk in for one $20 item and you leave $140 poorer. There isn’t a brick and mortar retailer that is better for certain DTCs. It’s the ultimate retargeting ad.

Fostering DTC brand relationships has been a strategic advantage for the Minnesota retailer; no marketplace retailer has more of them. There are few companies with DTC recruitment initiatives to match Target’s recent partnership speed. The retailer selects rising brands, markets them with prime real estate, and presents great products within an environment known for soliciting impulsive purchases. Even so, the largest DTC brands have taken the digital-to-physical sales funnel into their own hands.

The online-to-offline Sales Funnel

In No. 272: A Path Forward, I discussed the positives of DTC brands operating within existing retail developments, improved sales potential, foot traffic KPIs, and the decline of Tier B and C malls.

There are 1,100+ malls in America and approximately 320 are graded Tier A. We have an oversupply of malls but that does not mean that traditional, anchored shopping centers no longer have a place in modern consumerism. Tier A malls have yet to see their best years. We expect their footfall traffic KPIs to grow, while B and C tiered malls continue a drift toward repurposed real estate.

O2O or “online-to-offline” commerce is a strategy that develops consumer affinity through digital channels and then brings consumers into physical settings to purchase in-store. The brand treats online and offline channels as complimentary offerings. The advantage of this model is three-fold: these retailers can assess consumer behaviors, share payment information between online and offline channels, and targeted consumers can be served at the top of the digital funnel for eventual offline purchase (or vice versa). Facebook’s foray into Instagram eCommerce was more defensive than analysts have so-far remarked.

We compiled a list of 14 brands that have publicly reported revenues in the Top 1000 and one retailer who has yet to publicly report revenue. The following DTC brands have almost exclusively avoided marketplace wholesale deals in exchange for focusing on direct sales through physical locations.

BrandNumber of StoresDNVB Ranking May '19
Sold in Target StoresTop Retail City

Flagship Address
Warby Parker8612
Not YetNew York121 Greene St, New York, NY 10012
8YesNew York627 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
Away551Not YetNew York10 Bond St, New York, NY 10012
Parachute576Not YetNew York129 Grand St, New York, NY 10013
Adore Me433Not YetNew York2655 Richmond Ave, Staten Island, NY 10314
Allbirds346Not YetNew York73 Spring St, New York, NY 10012
Rad Power Bikes3
84Not YetSeattle1128 NW 52nd St, Seattle, WA 98107
Everlane222Not YetNew York28 Prince St, New York, NY 10012
Glossier 234Not YetNew York123 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10013
Helix Sleep127Not YetNew York1123 Broadway #613, New York, NY 10010
Boll & Branch145Not YetNew Jersey1200 Morris Turnpike #D135, Short Hills, NJ 07078
MeUndies147Not YetLos Angeles3650 Holdrege Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90016
Kuiu154Not YetDixon 1920 N Lincoln St #101, Dixon, CA 95620
Shinesty 159Not YetBoulder1990 N 57th Ct A, Boulder, CO 80301
Rogue16Not YetColumbus1011 Cleveland Ave, Columbus, OH 43201

Whether through advertising agencies like Roundel or through their own channels, these brands have benefited from a growing means of commerce: online-to-offline. With the exception of Casper, which is partially owned by Target, these top digital natives have insourced all brick and mortar sales to their direct channels. As the ability to attribute sales improves, we anticipate an increased use of O2O for customer acquisition. For performance marketers who are judged by conversion rates and return on ad spend (ROAS), O2O is a welcomed opportunity to develop new methodologies for sales attribution and new advertising models to increase targeted foot traffic for retailers straddling the digital and the physical.

Read the latest curation here.

Report by Web Smith | About 2PM

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