Horse’s mouth: Simon Laird of Google NZ

As person number 13 in the Google NZ office, this HEAD OF SALES AND PARTNERSHIPS has developed his specialist knowledge over the eight years he’s worked for the multinational technology company. Here, he shares his observations on the current state of the industry and tips on how best to prepare for the future.

On working at Google NZ since the early days

It’s been amazing to see the growth in the team over this time to over 70 today. We now have all sorts of roles across client management, marketing, engineering and even – our philanthropic arm. Each person has bought something new and exciting to Google New Zealand. 

What is a testament to this team and to leadership though, is what hasn’t changed. We’re still really tight knit, even as we’ve grown in size and scope, and we try to work together to bring the best of Google to our clients and communities. 

The other obvious answer is the wonderful new office, which we moved into just over a year ago. It is our first purpose-built home for the team in New Zealand, and it has been great to be able to share this with our partners.

On his role as Head of Sales and Partnerships

It’s been great working with a range of retail brands, and one of the most exciting parts of my job is connecting with them and ensuring they’re able to grow by maximising the best of Google’s technology and platforms. In the new role I’m looking forward to the opportunity to drive New Zealand’s digital transformation and growth across a wider range of local businesses. 

On using technology to inspire customers on their shopping journey

A lot of retailers still operate in silos, with e-commerce and offline working independently, having their own targets, and even teams. Technology should really just be an enabler to provide your customers with amazing experiences wherever they are. 

To be successful in using technology, retailers need to break down these silos, and think about the consumer journey and their business objectives rather than channel objectives. 

This will allow businesses to provide better connected experiences to customers, but also allow them to prioritise as a business and align with partners behind those priorities. Brands can build and optimise feeds to leverage platforms like Google Shopping and tap into audiences throughout the shopping journey. Then use automation in their advertising to find new customers, introduce them to products, and measure the impact it has on sales regardless of whether they are online or in store. 

Even projects like understanding customer lifetime value are within reach of all retailers now. Google Cloud enables open access to specialised technologies such as AI and machine learning by eliminating fixed costs involved in the usage of such technologies, so as long as a business has a first-party data strategy, it can start to activate this.

On embracing customers’ changing use of technology

The shopping journey for customers has gotten infinitely more complex, especially in the last couple of years. Expectations of how retailers should customise for individuals means it’s no longer possible to create a ‘one size fits all’ solution across marketing or experience. 

Machine learning and automation need to become a core part of every retailer’s plans, as that’s the only way to account for the varied journeys to conversion. They also allow businesses to show up at the right time, from the early stages of inspiration to when customers are searching for specific  products. 

To do this businesses need to understand their customers, how they are interacting with the brand across environments, and align your technology and first-party data to provide them with a great experience. 

We are seeing brands start to think more about what a first-party data strategy looks like for their business. Think about the value exchange the brand is offering users in return for sharing their data. Collect and manage user data responsibly by providing clear privacy policies and ensuring that you offer users transparency, choice, and control.

Simon Laird.

On preparing for the third-party cookie phase out

The open, ad-supported internet (including free-to-use Google products) creates opportunity for everyone. It helps people find the information they need and helps businesses of all sizes grow. However, over the past few years, we have seen a fundamental shift in the way users feel about their privacy on the web – they are losing trust in how their personal data is being handled. In this context, developing strong relationships with customers has always been critical for brands to build a successful business, and this becomes even more vital in a privacy-first world. To prepare for a privacy-focused future, we recommend advertisers invest or continue investing in these areas:

1. Continue to build trust with consumer through first-party data     and infrastructure 

As the privacy ecosystem changes, being clear and upfront with customers about what data is being collected, for what purpose, and what the value exchange is, will go a long way toward building user trust. It is pivotal for brands to build their own first part data capabilities for example, by implementing sitewide tagging (via the Google tag or Google Tag Manager).

2. Invest in machine learning and automation capabilities.

Machine learning enables accurate measurement while only reporting on aggregated and anonymised data. This is privacy-preserving and ensures that advertising performance (for advertisers and publishers) doesn’t suffer just because direct measurement isn’t always possible. In fact, Google’s investments in modelling and automation already enable advertisers to reach audiences and measure effectively in environments where cookies are limited by browser technology or regulation. 

If you want more information on the steps you can take to be ready for future changes, you can check out our privacy playbook for digital marketers and privacy playbook for publishers. 

On major future trends in the MarTech space

A couple of things we know will be true in the near future: 

1. Expect cross-site cookies and cross-app device identifiers to continue to degrade over time. 

2. Expect acceleration towards aggregated and anonymised ad targeting solutions like those being developed in the Privacy Sandbox. But also a move towards a variety of first party data, machine learning and automation solutions.

3. Lastly, the expected regulatory environment will require increased transparency around how data is being collected and used, as well as providing greater control and consent options for customers. 

For retailers this means an increased focus on developing their first-party data strategy, being flexible with how they measure results and using insights to understand what matters to users. Use automation and machine learning solutions to model conversions to fill in the gaps in data. Manage and align data, ad platforms and cloud infrastructures, so that they can use machine learning to analyse the data for insights to predict outcomes.  

This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

Avatar photo

About Bernadette Basagre

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles, The Register and Idealog. To get in touch with her, email [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *