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Why Target’s Betting on Shopper Intent as the Future of Media

Claudia Ahrens
Claudia Ahrens

Director of Product Management for Audience & Identity at Roundel

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What if one day you didn’t have to wait for shopper decisions to inform future media? And what if you could anticipate the right customer needs to enhance that relationship in a meaningful way?

At Roundel™, we understand Target guests better than anyone. It’s the reason Target created a retail media network. And our relationship with—and respect for—Target guests has enabled us to create media solutions that feel like helpful wayfinders for them. In fact, more than two-thirds (72%) of Target shoppers say ads on Target platforms remind them of a product they need or prompt them to purchase something they want.1

Before we start debating what’s next in e-commerce, let’s look at what we’re doing today to reach our audiences.

We believe that building this respect into a stronger understanding of customer intent will make advertising feel like magic. Because we’ve seen how an element of unexpected joy can help build loyalty. So, how does Roundel plan to leverage shopper intent to bring value and ease to the omnichannel shopping experience?

Here’s where media is right now.

While a lot of media is not yet based on intent, one area where we’ve advanced is search. For instance: A major toy brand wanted to add new buyers to its loyal customer base. They came to Roundel to reach non-buyers via non-branded Google search terms. There were two challenges they wanted help with: access to real-people data and granular campaign data.

Our solution was to find Target guests who might be interested in this toy brand but were not already actively searching for toys from that brand. To do this, the toy company reached Target audiences searching for relevant, specific terms not directly associated with the toy brand. (In this case, “Toys for my grandkids” was a top hit.) And it used Roundel’s ability to optimize investments against the highest-performing guest audiences.

The results? Roundel’s closed-loop measurement let the toy company tie campaign performance directly back to actual sales, in-store and online, while making the company’s brand part of an important consumer moment. This time, that meant $18+ ROAS when calculating total brand sales over identified media spend.

Now imagine the potential to see these results in near real time.

Yes, really. We’ve identified three pillars to help our brand partners and us effectively reach this level of intent-based media:

1. Our guest-first philosophy.

This belief informs our current perspective and future roadmap. At Target, “guests” are what we call our shoppers, and we think of ourselves as their host. Like any good host, it’s our job to delight guests by elevating their experience at every touchpoint. This mutual respect and understanding inspire us to innovate. Roundel reaches audiences based on more than 150 million guests’ anonymized IDs, which has already reduced our reliance on third-party cookies well before the 2023 deadline.

2. Real-time reporting.

Our first step toward this goal is Roundel™ Kiosk, a reporting platform that gives you a near-real-time view of actual audiences’ actions. With this tool, you can make more informed decisions on future campaigns by tying media spend to actual sales.

3. Future innovations.

And not just solutions grow sales. As we continue to push the envelope for what’s possible in media, measurement will play an increased role in moving us closer to truly understanding shopper intent. Then we can leverage these new solutions to serve Target guests better and deliver value and ease.

Media is often based on past decisions and behaviors, but by focusing our innovations’ efforts on intent, we can start to understand what shoppers want or will want.

Why will intent-focused ads make shoppers happy?

Understanding intent will help you discern when and where customers are open to brand messages, enabling your media to appear at an opportune moment—like when a grandparent starts shopping for a birthday. For shoppers, intent-focused ads could feel like discovering a path to exactly the product they need when (or before) they need it. In fact, 60% of Target guests say digital ads introduce them to new products they want to try.1

Intent-driven media is better for customers. And that’s better for advertising.

We believe that understanding intent will enable us to serve customers better. Yes, the measurement possibilities are practically endless, but for us, it’s delivering joy that resonates and stays true to Target’s DNA. Enriching customers’ lives brings the promise full circle and keeps us on the right track, regardless of what changes in media. Helping our guests more easily find brands they have an affinity for—or soon will—empowers them and makes them feel understood. They tell us, “You totally get me.” And that is a joy to hear.

Contact us to learn more about how we’re innovating for brands today.


1Roundel Channel Synergy Survey 2021.

Claudia Ahrens

Claudia Ahrens

Director of Product Management for Audience & Identity at Roundel

Claudia Ahrens is the Director of Product Management for Audience & Identity at Roundel. Roundel, Media, re-imagined by Target, is a different kind of media company committed to changing media for good. Roundel helps advertisers and media agencies execute the campaigns and measurements they’ve always wanted but never thought possible—whether that’s on Target’s own platforms (think or on more than 150 brand-positive external channels.

Let’s change media for good.