In this episode of App Marketers in Quarantine we interviewed Marc Deckers, Team Lead Performance Display at Takeaway.com.
We are chatting with our partners to see how they are coping with the current situation. Last week, Jampp’s Marketing Manager, Florencia Vago, spoke with Marc Deckers, Team Lead Performance Display at Takeaway.com, one of the leading online food delivery marketplaces in Continental Europe and Israel. Given Marc’s extensive experience in programmatic advertising and marketing strategy, we were eager to hear his take on the current situation.
Florencia: So you are in the Netherlands, what is the quarantine like there?
Marc: Yes. The quarantine here has not been as strict as in other countries. We are still able to go outside, of course, keeping the recommended distance with everyone, but it has not been a full lockdown.
Florencia: And now a few more restrictions are being lifted?
Marc: In the last few days some businesses have been allowed to reopen. Bars and restaurants are still closed. I think the first of June, they will be able to open again for a max of 30 people, taking the measures of one and a half meters, but hairdressers were closed the last seven weeks and opened up yesterday again. So there are a few things that are being started up. It means that the infections will likely go up again, but let's hope that in 3 weeks we are not back to where we were before.
Florencia: I feel like in the Netherlands in general, people are pretty good at following the rules and restrictions.
Marc: Yes, I don't know if a full lockdown would work here, but the government is basically making people responsible for their own actions and it seems to be working. You really see less people outside, and if they’re outside they keep their distance.
Florencia: So, you've been doing this quarantine for a while now, how has it been adapting to the WFH?
Marc: It was sometimes challenging. There's advantages and disadvantages. One of the things that I really like about my work is that we have such a nice group of colleagues. We usually have lunch together, so the whole interaction with the team is something we miss. Now we have calls… and of course we start with a bit of chit chat, but then it's straight to business. We try to do drinks on Friday afternoon, everyone is off at 4:30, we grab a beer and just have a short chat, but it's not the same. When you talk in groups, there's usually multiple conversations happening and now it's always one person talking, everyone listening.
Work-wise, everything we do is basically online, so in terms of that there wasn't much adaptation needed. I mean, everyone just took their laptop home, then we were good to go. For me, it saved a lot of travel time. Without the commute time, I save almost 2 hours everyday, so that’s also very nice.
Florencia: Right, for those of us who don’t live near the office, not having to commute is definitely a perk.
Marc: Yes, on the other hand, we have a nice-looking office and I do miss having chats with colleagues. Also, now I’m managing a team and we had two new people join the first of April. So to onboard them in this period was quite a challenge. Fortunately, we got positive feedback from them. Since we knew it’d be a challenge, I made sure to plan everything, hour to hour, for the first weeks, so that they’d know what to do. They said usually introductions can be messy, but that they had found it to be very structured and well-thought-out. So that worked well.
Florencia: A lot of marketers are using this time to learn more about the industry. You've been in the industry for a while, do you have any lessons learned or best practices that you can share?
Marc: When I joined Takeaway, that’s the first thing we did. We recently wrote a blogpost with Adjust, about the initial set up we had and the changes we made.
We have a different app in each country and they all had a different implementation. So we decided to just start from scratch. We needed to simplify and standardize this to have a similar set up for all our apps. That way we would know that the events were tracked the same for everyone. And I wanted to have a limited set of events... We noticed that there's always that conversation between IT and marketers: marketers want everything just in case they want to use it eventually, even when they are only going to look at 20% of that data. We decided we were going to do it differently. We don't want 80 events because we’re not going to do anything with 80 events, so give me 6 or so.
Florencia: How did you implement that?
Marc: We did an MVP release of the tracking basically, and then applied it to all markets, for all apps. That is the Takeaway.com approach, we do something and then roll it out in a scalable way. So if we do say, a creative test in a market, and it turns out to be successful, then we ask our in-house creative team to come up with all the materials and roll it out to our other markets. That's something that works in a lot of ways: campaign setups... or for example if you test a partner in a market and that partner seems to add additional orders, then that is something that you can maybe rollout in other markets too.
Florencia: The standardization of events is very interesting, many apps have multiple events for an in-app action or even different names for the same event if they have the app in different countries, which can be a headache for optimization and reporting.
Marc: We had that. There was an event in our Dutch app that was split per device, and it was similar to the order event in the German app. Now we have 6 or so basic events that follow the different screens and allow us to see the whole flow from install to order. It makes it very easy to read reports internally. We use the raw data from Adjust to push it to the database so our BI team can do magic on our side. That way we know what every event is tracking and what it is doing.
Testing and scaling is key for us, we always look for the smart way to scale, because usually we don't have too many people. We just had some new hires in the team, but it's a small team so it's always good to automate things, do things with our feeds, and make sure that audiences are similar and comparable with all the partners we are working with. Scaling for us is always key. We always want to do things smart and scale fast.
Florencia: So circling back to partners which you just mentioned, what do you look for when you are testing a new partner?
Fair question. When I started, we were doing some app install campaigns with Facebook, and we didn't do a lot more. Shortly after, we had the first conversations with Jampp and started working together. We were working with Jampp and another company. As you know, there are thousands of companies in the market and they all want to work with you and they all claim to have the "best inventory"... So from the start we said: “we do not know enough about how this works, so we are not going to work with 50 different partners. We are going to work with a few of them and learn how it works, what we need in terms of transparency levels, and what we can do about ad fraud. We wanted to understand what segmentations we wanted to use, what we do on the creative side of things, and that is basically what we started to do.
Florencia: So you look for what the partners can share on top of the quality traffic. Have you gradually added more partners or do you continue to work with a limited number of partners?
Marc: We have added a third partner, but it's mainly three big ones. I'm not really a big fan of adding more because you fragment your budget even further: they are all working on the same segments of users, and they have similar inventory, so you're just competing with yourself at some point. That's the reason that we decided to work with a limited set of partners and really work together. It's a real partnership, where transparency is key and, of course, getting rid of fraud.
When we started working with Jampp in 2016, you weren’t fully programmatic yet, and there were higher numbers of clicks and impressions than what we saw on the search campaigns. We always had a conversation about that, and at some point the decision was also made to move to programmatic inventory. This brought on more transparency and we were able to get more insights. I’ve always considered placements to be "our data", but before going programmatic we were never able to see where we served ads, because the publisher did not disclose that information. Now everything is truly on our end and that really helps us.
Florencia: In your opinion, which are the main benefits of working with a DSP?
Marc: Well, I'm not going to reach out to a dating app to have a separate conversation to buy ads there because I don't have the capacity to do it, so that is one of the advantages of working with a DSP partner. If you don't have the capacity to run it yourself, and also the knowledge to do it in a proper way, then working with a DSP is the right way to do it. In general the Takeaway.com vision is to do everything in-house. 5-10 years ago, a lot of companies worked with agencies, but now the in-house thing has become more interesting, so for search we are doing that, but for in-app we are still very happy with the partners we have. We feel they have something we can’t do ourselves. It feels like I have a couple of extra team members, like an extension of our team.
Florencia: Glad to hear it! Moving on to the specific scenario we are seeing today, can you tell us a bit about how it has affected your business?
Marc: Since we are a publicly listed company, I can share with trading updates. In general, when this started in our region, mid-March I think, we saw volumes declining and this was mainly driven by restaurants being closed on the platform. There was also a significant reduction of lunch and orders from offices that didn't happen anymore. Then, when it turned out that it wasn’t that strict for delivery restaurants, our Customer and Partners team started having thousands of calls with restaurants. We had a lot of new restaurants when it was clear that they could still open and that it was the only way for them to do some business still. We had a huge waiting list of restaurants to connect on the platforms. So we came out of the dip, and by the end of March, we were growing strongly. We are still expecting to continue to grow, but we don't know how long this is going to last.
Florencia: Right, and that’s one of the challenges for on-demand apps, where you have to match demand and supply, both in terms of restaurants and riders. Did you have to adapt your communications strategy for this?
Marc: Yes, we have several campaigns, our teams have been working hard to onboard new restaurants, to make sure all the restaurants on the platform are open and still an option, and we are supporting that with marketing as well.
We are running “support your locals” campaigns, which highlight restaurant owners for example. We changed communication in our ads everywhere to make sure that "we are open” was mentioned so that users and restaurants know they can use our services.
Then as you said, the contactless delivery was something we did straight away and we also added the “tip for rider” functionality. We think our riders are heroes, so it's good to reward them.
It depends a lot on the measures taken in each country, which also made it very challenging in terms of communication. What can you communicate? Can restaurants open? Usually we define one market strategy for communications, but in this situation we really had to adapt everything to each market.
Marc: Could be. It can remain like this, where it becomes a habit, and restaurants that weren't on the platform before, now discover it as a channel and stay… I think we are still far from a situation where people can go out to restaurants without restrictions, as we did before, so food delivery is still very relevant.
On the other hand, if the crisis doesn't get solved quickly, then people might lose their jobs or be on less working hours and might cut certain costs. Unless you are scared to go to the supermarket and say: “Ok, I’d rather get contactless delivery from Takeaway.”
It's early still to see how this is going to play out. Indeed, I hope that the new customers become sticky customers for us, that there will be more restaurants and that our growth will continue. But who can say today?
Florencia: A lot of industry initiatives seem to have been put on hold as businesses strive to adapt to the current scenario, do you think this is the case?
Marc: For us, the business was not really paused, only shortly, and then it picked up and I feel like I'm more busy than I was before. Maybe because some things are more inefficient because you WFH, but on the other side, our business is basically booming, people are using it more. There's a lot more work. Luckily, I also have a bit more team members, but changing our communication and ad strategy was of course something we had to do quickly on top of what we are usually doing.
Other than that, all the things that we were planning to do... there really wasn’t a change there. The recent merger with JustEat has also been announced officially and that's also something we're working on; we are going to do all the migrations there. Marketing didn't really stop.
Florencia: To end on a “lighter” note, have you picked up any new hobbies or activities this quarantine?
Marc: No new hobbies… We actually were looking for a new house and we found a new place, so we’re moving! That’s something new. Other than that… I really enjoy cycling. I have a race bike, and that's something I can do, and feel very lucky to be able to do still. When I was commuting to the office, by the time I got home and grabbed the bike it was already almost dark. Now there's more quality time in that perspective, so that is nice.
The Food vertical has been particularly affected by the preventive measures, and while we’ve written about general trends in this industry, we’re very aware that it has impacted each market differently in line with local measures. We look forward to sharing more conversations as we learn how our partners are dealing with the current scenario, and what it is like working from home under quarantine. Do you have any best practices or insights to share? Get in touch.