AiThority Interview with Michelle Dooley, MD of Safe Haven Strategy at LiveRamp
Hi, Michelle. Please tell us about your journey into the tech industry.
My professional journey began at 7-Eleven where I was a division community relations manager, designing and implementing corporate citizenship strategies. Before long, I entered the world of marketing with positions at Phonak and later Right Hear, before eventually joining the marketing team at Target. I spent nine years with the company, eventually building and directing audience and data strategy for its media network Roundel. Today, I’m the managing director of strategy for LiveRamp’s Safe Haven solution, helping to spearhead the next generation of data collaboration.
As a woman leader in the industry, how do you envision organizations opening up to the idea of having more women across leadership positions?
I think we need to be intentional about proactively seeking out women for these leadership roles. As a leadership team, we need to make a commitment to building relationships with women leaders across organizations so we can recruit them into our teams when the roles open up. Data shows that women don’t apply for roles unless they are 100% qualified, which means we miss candidates who could bring great value to our companies. I recently joined an organization called #HIREBLACK, dedicated to helping 10,000 Black women get hired, trained, and promoted. By being a part of groups like this, we can intentionally build connections that will lead to more diverse talent in our organizations.
Tell us more about your marketing roadmap during the pandemic era and how you plan to use technology platforms to stay on top of your game-plan.
The pandemic exposed a majority disparity between the data haves and have nots. In the first few months of this disrupted marketplace, businesses raced to implement first-party data strategies to stay afloat. As more time has passed, companies are getting increasingly creative around how they can use their data to collaborate with trusted partners in a privacy-first way.
With an understanding of these behaviors, a big focus of LiveRamp’s marketing roadmap has revolved around Safe Haven, which enables privacy-first and permission-based data collaboration. LiveRamp has remained focused on how the platform can help enterprises, tech platforms, retailers, brands, TV companies and their partners work together and unlock previously unattainable use cases without worry of data leakage or exposure.
The pandemic has uprooted the traditional retail markets. How do you think tech-focused strategies would influence the coming generation of e-commerce retailers?
Though the pandemic has indeed uprooted traditional retail markets for some, it has only accelerated transformation in sectors like grocery, CPG, and big-box retail, leading to significant growth. There’s no question that e-commerce will continue to play a leading role in this evolution—especially in relation to fulfillment. However, brick-and-mortar still offers its own unique value. It’s up to retailers to bring the right balance of each to the market.
This balance is largely accomplished through data collaboration between retail partners. When implemented through the right technology partner, data collaboration can be truly transformative for all parties. The resulting insights go way beyond merely finding new customers or measuring the results of advertising and marketing campaigns, but also measuring and optimizing data, and improving data processes over time. Between omnichannel activation, deeper insights and analytics, better measurement and even interoperability with the walled gardens of big tech, data collaboration reimagines the way partners can work together.
What has been the biggest disruption in the e-commerce / retail landscape in the last 5 years?
Each year, the retail landscape becomes increasingly digital-first as e-commerce and direct-to-consumer continue to gain consumer fanfare. As these offerings expand, the biggest disruption has been the rise of retail media networks. Best Buy, CVS, Target, Walmart and other retailers have all launched their own iterations, and are experiencing up to 74% increases in ad revenue as a result. The next stage is for retailers to increase retail media network sales even further by engaging partners in new ways, and in more places. For example, LiveRamp is helping to power Carrefour’s media network Carrefour Links. Within a few short months since its launch, the platform is already responsible for driving 23% of products that end up in shopping carts on Carrefour-associated sites.
How optimistic are you about the growing adoption of AI, ML and Automation in the retail landscape?
It’s an especially exciting time for AI and machine learning in this sector as brands, retailers, and CPG companies become more data-driven. We’re seeing companies invest heavily in data and data science to optimize processes and cut costs. For example, supply chain optimization ensures shelves are restocked item by item, replacing the days of bulk shipments, which can lead to empty shelves or overflowing backrooms. Another area of machine learning and automation innovation is HVAC optimization to ensure the store temperatures are regulated based on real-time traffic flow, leading to energy efficiency and cost savings. Those retail companies that invest in these strategies will be the ones which take the lead in securing green certifications to increasing operating income.
Overtime, I also expect the use of AI in retail to pick up. Retailers have significant, untapped potential that starts with organizing their data and optimizing processes such as data access and availability. The data and computer science techniques applied to this data will continue to set retailers apart.
Could you tell us about LiveRamp’s digitization program and how it is influenced by ongoing marketing and digital transformation journeys?
LiveRamp’s mission is to make it safe and easy for companies to use data effectively, which is the enabler of digital transformation strategies for companies of any size, and in any industry. This also rings true in the realm of data privacy, arguably the biggest priority for enterprises today. When data is safe, secure, and ethically-sourced—and safeguarded against data leakage—companies no longer have to choose between data privacy and data utility. Through best-in-breed, privacy-enhancing technologies including but not limited to federated learning, differential privacy, secure multi-party computation, and homomorphic encryption, LiveRamp provides customers and their partners with the ability to do both so they can meet the rigors of transforming their business for the digital era.
Your most memorable Customer Experience campaign- Could you share how you planned and led the CX program?
One memorable campaign I worked on in the early days of Roundel, Target’s in-house media company, was for a well-known household appliance company. It was launching two new products and wanted to drive awareness and sales through Target.
We started off by building an audience and channel strategy that would allow the brand to reach as many relevant consumers as possible. Using things like previous category purchases, look-alike modeling and propensity modeling we created eight segments with test and control groups to ensure we could measure performance across Target stores and Target.com. We then moved into the planning phase, creating, and distributing the audiences to the end platforms for activation. Activation was critical to ensure the right audiences and creative assets were trafficked in the right channels to feed the right data into log files for measurement. Once the campaign was live, in-flight optimization played another important role. We monitored the campaign daily to ensure it was delivering the forecasted impressions, and as necessary, made small adjustments to things like frequency and creative swaps to ensure we received a clean read on performance.
After the campaign finished and the log files were received, we used proprietary machine learning models to attribute offline and online sales to the ad impressions delivered. This was one of the first campaigns in the industry that brought together both online and offline attribution. Ultimately, we were able to demonstrate a positive sales lift that led to increased investment in leveraging Target audiences to power future campaigns – thus building Roundel as Target’s media network.
Tell us more about hiring trends within LiveRamp influenced by AI and data science:
Investing in talent that has an understanding of AI solutions is imperative for our customers, and therefore LiveRamp itself, and is a major factor when recruiting across product, engineering, and data science teams. We view AI as an essential part of our operations, so its applications span across every aspect of the company’s value creation and operating model. By planning the right strategy for AI adoption across culture and workforce, product innovation and platform enablement, companies can ensure that their organizations can remain competitive in the industry.
Your favorite podcast / webinar that you have listened to in recent times:
I recently attended a Women’s Conference and heard Malcolm Gladwell speak on hierarchical vs. networked companies. He drew comparisons to the civil rights movement of the 1960s vs. those of 2020, describing Martin Luther King’s hierarchical approach to organization – with King as the leader and orchestrator – compared to the decentralized, networked approach we witnessed with Black Lives Matter. His message was not that one approach is better than the other in today’s society, but that as organizations, we need to be keenly aware of the value we achieve with a hierarchical culture vs. that of a networked culture – and we need to design our organizations accordingly.
He also pointed out the fatigue we’re all experiencing living in the two-dimensional world of Zoom during the pandemic. During in-person conversations, our brain’s visual attention system focuses on the person we’re speaking to and filters out everything in the background. We naturally filter out unimportant stimuli in three-dimensional interactions, but our brain is attuned to focus on people. Whereas with Zoom, we’re constantly bombarded with these stimuli, which can feel overwhelming.
The conclusion focused on two key points. First, we must be intentional about how an organization designed as a hierarchy vs. a network serves us and our teams. We should challenge ourselves to explore how we might need to evolve our culture to better serve our business. Second is the reality we’re all facing at this moment in history where our brains are processing information in a much different way. One of the most important models we can create for our teams right now is one of empathy and support. I’ve started shifting meetings to phone calls and even going for a walk to break up the day. By creating new patterns like this, we can all find a little place for rest.
Tag a person in the industry whose answers you would like to see here:
Carrie Sweeney – head of Retail at Pinterest
Sarah Peterson Post – started Cartwheel at Target, now leading Product at Shipt
Thank you, Michelle! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
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Michelle Dooley is the Managing Director of Strategy for Safe Haven, LiveRamp’s global SaaS platform enabling internal and external data collaboration for retail companies and their partners. In this role, she oversees global strategy for clients across industries, markets, and geographies.
With over 15 years of industry experience, Michelle has deep expertise in scaling world-class businesses from nearly a decade leading data strategy and capabilities for Target and Roundel, the retailer’s media business. Her past roles also include the development and implementation of a national customer loyalty program for 10 national hearing aid buying groups and community relations management for 7-Eleven. The breadth of Michelle’s experience building teams and driving revenue growth across industries has been instrumental in defining the vision and go-to-market strategy for Safe Haven, which owns 30% of global market share in big-box retail and 30% global market share of the top 50 CPGs, respectively.
LiveRamp is the leading data connectivity platform for the safe and effective use of data. Powered by core identity resolution capabilities and an unparalleled network, LiveRamp enables companies and their partners to better connect, control, and activate data to transform customer experiences and generate more valuable business outcomes. LiveRamp’s fully interoperable and neutral infrastructure delivers end-to-end addressability for the world’s top brands, agencies, and publishers.