Automation has somewhat been a ‘buzzword’ in performance marketing for some time. Companies continue to introduce digital tools to automate or streamline internal processes for better efficiency. Stories of automation are usually centred around data analysis and reports. Whilst that’s good in most cases, how has the automated data analysis or reports contributed to the campaign in question? How is the data applied to generate actual performance with measurable results?

Enter Deliveroo, a food delivery marketplace where users order meals from local restaurants in their local area via the app. The company uses multiple channels, one of which is paid search, for its advertising. Deliveroo uses accurate geo-targeting to run paid search campaigns. However, one of the problematic issues is the broadness of applying geo-targeting to a campaign — particularly when it fails to accurately match relevant data (e.g. matching the customer with restaurants that actually deliver to their location).

Coming into the paid search team during a period of growth and high demand, Deliveroo head of SEM Byron Tassoni-Resch reinvented the wheel of how the company ran its paid search campaigns. This included the concept of “Virtual Neighbourhoods” across several campaigns which grew paid search by a whopping 166% year-on-year between January and June 2019.

PerformanceIN spoke with Byron to get a deeper insight into how he transformed Deliveroo’s paid search strategy.

Automation within the digital marketing landscape has been discussed before, but to see it applied and used in an innovative manner for paid search with such results is certainly astonishing. Aside from the continued growth and demands of the business, what made you certain that this approach was the right move for Deliveroo?

Byron Tassoni-Resch: The nature of the business of Deliveroo meant that we have to solve unique challenges. When a customer orders a meal from a restaurant, they are going to be within a few miles of that restaurant. Geo-targeting becomes the cornerstone of your account structure. And because you have thousands of unique locations, your campaign structure naturally becomes quite complex. Therefore the best way to manage any complex structure is usually through automation. Us leaning into automation the way we did was the only logical solution for managing almost a million unique campaigns.

More brands are slowly moving their tech in-house and this was something you chose to do with Deliveroo. Why so, and how critical was this in order to implement your paid search strategy?

BTR: When you’re looking to develop marketing technology, it usually comes down to a decision: do you build it or do you buy it? 

In most cases buying it is a simpler and cheaper solution. But if you have a unique challenge you’re looking to solve you will need to build it. Then, you have to determine if you have the technical ability to build it in-house. 

For Deliveroo, we had two things that made moving it in-house the right solution for us. We had very unique challenges to solve and being in-house meant that we knew our business and operating model. And we also felt like we had the right technical knowledge within the team to develop the solutions we needed. 

How did the paid search team react to the changes? Were things generally positive or were there any obstacles along the way?

BTR: To say the team was thrilled is an understatement. What we built enabled us as a team to move away from a lot of manual processes to a structure where our workload now revolves around automation projects. It has enabled us to support the business better, we can focus on projects that make our channel more efficient, and generally work on ideas that propel the channel forward, rather than just maintaining it.

Let’s talk about your idea of ‘Virtual Neighbourhoods’. What inspired this innovative tech and how was it structured/programmed to align with Deliveroo’s strategy?

BTR: The idea was inspired by the fact that we needed to be able to target hyper-local geographical areas at scale. And we needed these areas to be dynamic as the business grew. The idea aligns with the business because as Deliveroo moves into new neighbourhoods and cities we can automatically create campaigns to cover that new neighbourhood. Ensuring that we have 100% coverage in every neighbourhood where we operate.

With the results generated through this campaign, do you think that automation has a firm place within the paid search performance channel to generate successful ROI?

BTR: The ‘Virtual Neighbourhoods’ project was the foundation for our automation work at Deliveroo. What it has done has allowed us to build upon it. Automation isn’t just a nice-to-have any more, it’s the cornerstone of everything we do within paid search at Deliveroo. Every project we launch is done with automation in mind because of the sheer volume of campaigns that we manage, we can’t do anything manually anymore.

Read the full case study from Deliveroo and the success of its automated paid search campaign.