Dollar General's Media Network Enables CPG's and Suppliers to Connect with Communities in Rural America
The Dollar General Media Network closes the digital gap for brands wanting to establish and deepen relationships with rural communities, providing opportunities for safe, secure data collaboration through LiveRamp and enabling more meaningful customer experiences, in-store and online.
new advertising partnerships
reach of active customers through paid media
Rural America is often thought of as cornfields, ranches, mountain forests, and solitude. Yet, the data tells a different story. According to the USDA, 46 million people live in remote places across the U.S., where the distance between urban hotspots is vast and internet access is scattered. In 2021, Pew Research Center found that about 30% of residents living in rural areas still do not have broadband internet connections — creating access challenges for brands and retailers looking to provide rural consumers with an omnichannel customer experience.
Dollar General has been serving remote communities for more than 80 years, with nearly 19,000 stores easier to find than Starbucks and 7-Eleven. Most traditional digital media platforms focus on delivering high-volume efficiency strategies, leading to a focus on audiences in more densely populated markets and leaving a gap in outreach to customers who aren’t as easy to access. With approximately 75% of stores currently serving communities of 20,000 or fewer people, Dollar General’s first-party data addresses this gap, allowing brands to tap into a critical audience that they would not ordinarily have close access to through a trusted brand.
“For nearly 85 years, Dollar General has put the customer at the center of everything we do — the better we know our customer, the better we can serve them, the more time and money we can save them,” said Chad Fox, VP, Chief Marketing Officer at Dollar General. “Our first-party data offers a modern and comprehensive level of this customer centricity — powering more relevant and personalized digital experiences for our customers delivered by both DG and its vendors.”
During the 2018 launch of Dollar General Media Network (DGMN), which leveraged a third-party vendor, Dollar General found that it needed a more efficient way to reach and broaden its audiences to match and support its growing physical presence in rural America.
“In digital media, customers in rural, small town America are hard to reach and hard to measure,” said Fox. “As a result, performance marketers optimize into more efficient audiences, which have a direct correlation to densely populated areas. They are unintentionally optimizing out of rural markets, and more importantly, optimizing out of the fastest growing brick-and-mortar retailer for the country’s core customer.”
Dollar General developed a solution to address this gap in less-populated markets, allowing brands to tap into its unduplicated, extensive, and accelerating reach. Through the latest evolution of DGMN, there was a need to bring the network operations fully in-house, inclusive of its technical underpinnings and sales force. In doing so, Dollar General hoped to:
- Share the Dollar General story directly with CPGs and deepen relationships with suppliers of the products they carry
- Improve operational cost efficiency by cutting third-party vendor fees
- Better serve brands through unique audience insights and closed-loop reporting
- Find the right tech partner to enable DGMN’s advanced data collaboration capabilities in a secure environment
Fox said the hope for DGMN was to help brands create more meaningful customer experiences for consumers. “Brands want to engage with the customer and provide tailored, personalized recommendations, from cereal to personal care essentials. We needed a different channel to be able to create this experience through the Dollar General brand and serve our communities in this personalized way.”
Dollar General hired an agency of record, The Goodway Group, to support the next evolution of its media network with their media execution and buying expertise. The next step was building the right tech stack to serve as the foundation for DGMN enhancements.
Convenience and timing are key to attracting and retaining new consumers everywhere. Dollar General wanted to measure campaign results, beginning with unique audience creation through the customer journey to purchase. A new technology solution underpinning DGMN would enable the retailer to lower operational costs, move from a managed-service to a self-service model, and safely and securely collaborate with any CPG brand and their agencies. But, most of all, they needed a partner who was already connected with rural communities.
LiveRamp enabled Dollar General to increase its match rates against its customers using ethically sourced consumer offline data, such as a home address, in addition to secure, verified matching with a mobile ID. This allowed for a rich understanding of audiences across populations, counties, and state lines, while providing Dollar General the interoperability needed to collaborate with strategic partners, including The Trade Desk, Google Ad Manager, The Goodway Group, and more. As a neutral data collaboration platform, LiveRamp’s Data Collaboration platform connects Dollar General’s technology partners, brands, and consumers, to safely and securely support DGMN as one centralized technology solution.
“We always talk about how no one knows our customer as well as we do, so we should have great technology to deliver against it,” said Fox. “We needed resources, support, collaboration, and partnership. LiveRamp was able to check all those boxes for us.”
By leveraging a new network of partners, Dollar General now has the tools to operate DGMN more efficiently and cost-effectively while strengthening the retailer’s brand and relationships.
Today, DGMN is an audience-centric solution rooted in transparency that retains more ROI than ever before. The enhancements made to the network allow Dollar General to deliver closed-loop 1:1 measurement, insights, and reporting that identifies both attribution and incrementality. With LiveRamp, Dollar General is able to build, configure, and maintain audience creation across numerous marketable profiles and attributes in addition to producing sales attribution.
Closing the loop on customer journeys in-store and online
Dollar General has more than four million monthly active app users, who use it to discover DG digital coupons, explore the weekly ad, get an order started for an in-store purchase, and buy online. In LiveRamp’s enhanced clean-room environment, Dollar General can use the rich first-, second-, and third-party data from its digital offerings to learn which audiences are addressable across the open web and ensure match rates are both consistent and accurate, resulting in stronger customer intelligence for Dollar General and brands.
“The data from DGMN is unique in that it represents a customer base that is underserved geographically and financially, but also underrepresented in the world of digital media—including audience aggregators, syndicated data sources, and measurement methodologies used to gauge effectiveness,” said Fox. “Sharing data in a privacy-first and respectful manner enables unique combinations of attributes for segment insights, audience creation, and targeting that drives relevancy, engagement, and conversion—a win for our customers, a win for our vendors, and a win for DG.”
All of this behind-the-scenes work enables the seamless online and in-store experiences Dollar General customers have come to expect from the nationwide retailer.
“DGMN creates natural connectivity between advertising and in-store purchases for a frictionless customer journey,” said Fox. “With the right priorities for individual retail audiences, brands and consumers gain a smoother experience and a more customized path to purchase.”
Partnering with CPGs to provide insights no one else has
With the ability to reach 100% of active Dollar General customers through paid media, DGMN enables advertisers to build awareness and drive purchase consideration online and in person for some of the world’s largest, most beloved brands.
In a six-month sprint, Dollar General was able to activate data collaboration with Pepsi, Hershey’s, and other brands in its DGMN, resulting in incremental return on ad spend (ROAS). The media network now includes 50 new advertising partners, representing brands such as Unilever®, General Mills®, and Colgate-Palmolive®. Notably, Unilever® has been working with DGMN since 20181.
Making strides in ROI and ROAS
Dollar General provides brands with access to real-time data to help serve their customer base in 47 states, delivering more than two billion transactions annually.
A focus of Dollar General’s mission continues to be better serving rural markets and customers with the brands and products they desire. In doing so, the retailer plans to extend DGMN to more vendors in the coming years, creating further reach and opportunities to provide customers and brands with a smoother omnichannel shopping experience.
“We wanted to build our own story with our own people at Dollar General,” said Fox. “We want to control our own destiny – creating more meaningful connections between partners and customers, engaging with those hard-to-reach customers potentially overlooked with traditional digital marketing tactics.”
Power Retail Media Innovation Across a Near-Infinite Network
In this keynote session from RampUp 2023, speakers discuss Dollar General’s leadership in working directly with countless brands and connecting data across the ecosystem.