Pizza Hut is using its internal customer experience team to make the most of its first-party data.

The company has spent the last 18 months building a team of marketers who can use the data gleaned from people visiting its sites to create services like chatbots as well as find new audience segments to target.

Since it launched, the “Pizza Hut Digital Ventures” team has grown to 47 people, per LinkedIn, with the majority of those roles based in the U.K. The bulk of the roles are split across user experience, data analytics, design and computer programming, though there are some of the team who specialize in performance marketing across social media, search and email roles that were previously provided by its agencies. Agencies still buy the advertiser’s ads (although Pizza Hut supplies a lot of the customer data needed to inform the buys), according to Beverley D’Cruz, sales and marketing director at Pizza Hut Europe and U.K.

“Everything we do starts with the data we hold,” said D’Cruz.

Pizza Hut’s marketers are sitting on more first-party data than they ever previously have. That’s thanks to the launch of the brand’s loyalty program last September. Since then, the digital ventures team has started to use that data to help inform the media buys made by its agencies. Some of that data is used to build lookalike audiences for agencies to target against, while some is used internally by Pizza Hut’s marketers to decide what creative to use for a specific format.

“The team has changed our approach to marketing helping us put our media strategy together and act on it,” said D’Cruz. “We are now more targeted, we know our customers better, we know what their media choices are and we can personalize our communication to them.”

Rather than view the digital ventures team as a way to shave costs from its media buys like other in-house teams, Pizza Hut uses it to leverage the value from the reams of data being generated from its online orders. Around 70% of the company’s orders in Europe come from either its site or app. Pizza Hut wants to cement its place in the pizza delivery market across Europe; therefore, having a team ready to pounce quickly on those orders moving online and the subsequent data they generate is key. Eventually, this could lead to more of the advertiser’s media being bought internally, particularly as more of it is won programmatic auctions.

“Given that the data sits with us, we know how consumers are behaving on our site and that means we can go and find lookalike audiences or go and market to people outside of that,” said D’Cruz.

The digital ventures team sits within the wider marketing one, but has a separate remit. That’s created a healthy friction between the two teams, said D’Cruz. For example, the customer experience team would typically want to reduce the number of steps in a customer journey to make it as seamless as possible. In contrast, the marketing team wants to collect more information to be able to tailor content to their preferences, said D’Cruz.

That said, D’Cruz said the friction is essential to driving further innovation. Both teams share many of the same KPIs: customer acquisition, conversion and retention.

Like many other advertisers, Pizza Hut had grown dissatisfied with the quality of work it paid agencies to produce. Most (77%) of the 73 client-side marketers surveyed by Digiday last month said underperforming or low-quality campaigns were a key reason why they turned their back on an agency. “We worked with a traditional media agency that didn’t necessarily think digital when it came to performance marketing and so we made changes,” said D’Cruz. “Those changes saw us not only build our own team but also partner with a specialist digital company.”

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