#MARKiesAwards 2021 case study: StarHub's first-party data play for mobile campaign pays off

StarHub has established itself as one of the popular telcos in Singapore. Despite its reputation, it still faces fierce competition in the industry. Hence, it carried out the StarHub mobile campaign to drive sign ups for its mobile plan or devices across its multiple brands. Together with Verizon Media and Carat, StarHub successfully bagged the gold award for Most Effective Use – Mobile at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s MARKies Awards 2021. The same campaign also saw StarHub, Carat, and Verizon Media clinching the bronze award for Most Effective Use - Programmatic Marketing.

Challenge

Consumer behaviour is evolving quickly and the new generation of digitally-aware shoppers presented StarHub with the opportunity to reach many engaged users instantly. With a population of about 5.8 million and about 8.4 million mobile connections, Singapore’s telco market is highly competitive and saturated with 98% of consumers already owning a mobile phone. The competition has also intensified by recent entrants of mobile virtual network operators.

To overcome the challenges, StarHub worked with Verizon Media and Carat to drive conversions and purchases online through a campaign that leveraged mobile marketing for its mobile plans and phones by enticing users who are not currently subscribed to their network. In particular, users subscribed to their competitors and those interested in mobile phones and the latest models.

The idea behind the StarHub mobile campaign was to inform users about its mobile phones and plans in a simple, relevant manner that would drive actions and conversions, eventually leading users to StarHub’s online store where they could purchase a mobile plan or phone. The secondary objective for StarHub was to have continued engagement with its target audience by building on touchpoints through relevant offers that would also keep the brand top-of-mind.

Strategy

For the campaign strategy, StarHub knew that it would have to measure results transparently, in real-time to determine and optimise conversions and costs accurately. The campaign would also have to achieve a "holy grail of rights" - reaching the right person, at the right place, at the right time with the right message - while respecting user privacy and assuring brand safety.

Using Verizon Media's DSP, StarHub tapped on mobile marketing using programmatic advertising, AI and first-party data to create a hyper-segmented and specified audience for a wide reach at scale.

1. The right person for conversion

To ensure there was no redundancy of ad dollars, ads were not delivered to current StarHub mobile subscribers. A key strategy of the mobile marketing campaign was to target users on older mobile phones and older mobile operating systems. According to StarHub, these were signs that they were likely due for an upgrade and would be interested in exploring a new mobile phone or plan.

Precise targeting was needed to do this and StarHub leveraged first-party data by combining Verizon Media's 200 billion cross-screen data points each day from search, mail, content, and more, alongside the telco's CRM data.

2. Right person, at scale, within budget

StarHub also made use of Verizon Media's full-suite of target options that complemented its mobile marketing strategy. This included Verizon Media interest segments and lookalike modelled audiences of StarHub's current CRM data, as well as users who have previously converted. According to StarHub, this allowed the campaign to scale and, at the same time, enhance targeting capabilities to ensure that the use of the advertising dollar is efficient and kept within the budget.

3. The right place and time

The strategy also leveraged data to identify where and when the target audience was consuming content, even down to the minute detail of the timings they were most likely to purchase. The telco did not use its mobile app as one of the channels as the goal was not to target current StarHub subscribers for CRM. Instead, channel diversity through online desktop ads would complement the mobile strategy, increasing touchpoints across multiple devices, user engagement and boost conversion intent.

4. Right message for a seamless mobile-first experience

A focus was also to provide a mobile-first seamless ad experience on mobile devices to further encourage conversions and purchases. This brought about the need for short, clear creatives optimised for mobile viewing, powered by native ads during the year-end holiday/shopping season, with straightforward call-to-actions that allowed users to instantly know the direct action to take were used. Additionally, to push users along their conversion journey and down the funnel, the campaign sought to capture users who have indicated interest but have not completed their conversion journey through retargeting.

5. Optimise performance and deliver cost-effective results

As an extended campaign over a few months, a key focus was to ensure optimal performance at all times. StarHub leveraged advanced machine learning and AI to offer transparent, insightful measurements to progressively tweak campaign targets, parameters, and creatives. This was in an attempt to ensure the best-performing results at all times. It was also important for StarHub to streamline the campaign based on changes in the current situation, consumer behaviour, trends and external factors.

Execution

StarHub's first-party CRM data, hashed to ensure user privacy, was onboarded onto Verizon Media's first-party data. The mobile marketing campaign excluded StarHub mobile's current subscribers based on the synergistic combination of the telco's first-party CRM data with Verizon Media's first-party data to reduce redundancy and media wastage.

At the same time, the team also carried out DSP mobile targeting which enabled targeting based on Internet connection type, ISPs and mobile carriers to optimise targeting consumers who used StarHub's competitors, users on older mobile phones, and users on older mobile operating systems.

Meanwhile, other Verizon Media targeting tools that complemented the mobile marketing campaign included custom audience builder to target first-party interest segments focusing on technology, mobile interest, content and entertainment, and eCommerce. The campaign also has lookalike targeting based on first-party audiences to expand reach. StarHub also retargeted users who have clicked and landed on its online store or dropped off during the conversion journey.

With the targeting tools and parameters, ads were served over mobile, complemented by an online digital campaign that included desktop, programmatically across Verizon Media’s DSP inventory including owned and operated properties such as Yahoo.

Apart from display ads, native ads were used to deliver an experience that fits the user’s content experience without any interruptions, especially on mobile - driving conversions while delivering added benefits of increased engagement and higher ad awareness within premium, trusted environments.

According to StarHub, the user journey was straightforward. Ads would be delivered to the target audience programmatically. User clicks on the ads would direct them to StarHub’s online store for conversion and purchase.

As the campaign progressed and was extended, performance was continually reviewed, leveraging Verizon Media’s comprehensive suite of measurement solutions, powered by machine learning, providing omnichannel insights. This includes enhancing performance and boosting conversions by prioritising ad delivery during particular times of the day, and days of the week when more conversions were occurring - identified through Verizon Media’s machine learning tool.

The campaign, through Verizon Media’s Ad Learn algorithm, continually optimised the bidding strategy, and how and when the ads were delivered. This was done to improve delivery and get more conversions within the budget, meeting the cost-per-acquisition goal - improving ROI and ROAS. Specifically, as campaign insights revealed that users were shopping more on their mobile devices during the 2020 year-end holiday and shopping season, bids were optimised to prioritise retargeting on mobile devices to remain competitive and drive conversion volumes efficiently.

External factors were also considered for campaign optimisation. Creatives that featured the latest trending mobile phone models, based on general market trends and device conversion trends in this campaign, were prioritised. Creatives included a combination of animated display assets, complemented by native ads that featured static images with short, clever copy - featuring various mobile phone models and mobile plans available on StarHub. Promotions featured were also changed monthly to further offer a variety of ads to entice users.

Results

According to StarHub, the campaign surpassed its targets and also met its cost-per-acquisition target, which was also progressively reduced with optimisation. The telco added that the results achieved were clear, concrete and actionable. The mobile strategies leveraged alongside online desktop ads programmatically helped StarHub drive direct conversions that bolstered overall sales in light of traditional slumps due to the pandemic.

StarHub said Verizon Media consistently drove one of the lowest cost-per-acquisition rates amongst all channels, driving performance for the campaign. Throughout the duration of the campaign, leveraging a single-view of omnichannel insights powered by machine learning through Verizon Media's DSP, the campaign managed to build momentum with gradual performance improvements, sustaining and enhancing the cost-per-acquisition and conversion volume.

At the same time, by consistently delivering on KPIs and surpassing targets, Verizon Media's performance led to renewals and extensions that saw the campaign shift from a tactical, short-term promotion to an extended strategy for StarHub, Carat and Verizon Media.