Horses Are Better Than Unicorns: The CitrusAd Story | #164

Play episode

Former AFL star, Brad Moran, tell us how CitrusAd works, shares the importance of category terms and gives his take on the chasm of death

ep 164
Hosted by

Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.


Brad’s career began in the arena of elite sport playing professional Australian Football League (AFL) before founding his first e-commerce tech company (NoQ) at the age of 24. This company quickly evolved into a world leading platform for grocery across the US and Australia. Six years on and obtaining an incredible amount of startup experience, Brad left his first company and founded CitrusAd in 2017 with Nick Paech. Brad is an incredibly resilient, visionary CEO with a strong talent for developing technology teams and commercialising software products on a global scale.

You can contact Brad at LinkedIn

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by the guy who used to play in Wayne Carey’s number 18 jersey at the North Melbourne Kangaroos.  Nowadays, he is better known for having recently sold his retail media business, CitrusAd, to Publicis for $200m. Brad Moran is the CEO and Founder of CitrusAd – they monetize the digital shelf of eCommerce retailing sites. Or to put it simply, they take the old school grocery shelf buying and make it accessible for online retailers so they can generate  additional revenue from the eyeballs they attract.  And no doubt they were a healthy acquisition target – CitrusAd powers media sales and ad-serving for more than half of the top 20 retailers in the world. This includes Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Argos, Bed Bath & Beyond and here in Australia, The Iconic, Woolworths and Coles. As you’ll hear from Brad, retailers can earn anywhere from an additional $5K a month to $10m a month in revenue by making their website real estate available for bidding. Apart from getting a great overview on how CitrusAd works, we go into depth on the emergence of Amazon in Australia, why category terms are more powerful than brand terms and the “chasm of death” when it comes to selling the business that you have founded. 

“People aren’t searching for you.  People are searching for a search term and if you’re not there with an equivalent product at an equivalent price, they are very changeable”

Brad Moran

Questions answered in this episode include
  • How does CitrusAd work?
  • What client results have stood out for you?
  • How did you pick your timing for exiting the business?

Get your clicks

“The algorithm is very tweaked towards what the retailer wants. So over the past five years, we’ve learnt what we thought retailers needed and what they actually wanted. Two very different things. 

But typically, it was created as an auction where we would choose the most relevant products to go to the top of the page. There’d be 15 brands competing with over 100 products, all competing for the word, bottled water, for example. And then we would calculate, okay, who’s got the highest cost per click? And who’s got the most amount of organic sales? Who’s most likely to get clicked on? Give them a relevancy score. 

And then we would present them in relevancy order back to the retailer, that would then present them online. People click on them as their clicks get generated, the retailers then make money from the clicks.”

In Store Impact

Some of the statistics that we’re seeing in retail now is what impact this has on in-store sales. When someone buys anything in-store, the first thing they do is look, go online first, right? So they’re doing their research there. And maybe they convert there, but the majority of the decision making is done while browsing the internet and while browsing the website. So I think that is definitely one thing that we’ve learned over the past four years on what impact is this having in store. 

It’s why you see click prices on a lot of these retailers now exceed the price of the product.  So you’ll see a product that’s worth $3, $4, and the click price will be $5 because they know that it’s actually an acquisition. It’s not just a one click conversion. It’s an acquisition of that customer, who then comes back and buys a product continuously for the next year or so. 

So lots of interesting hidden stats that we’ve started to unravel over the past five years that we never thought would be there in the early days. We imagined they would be there, but they weren’t easy to come by. A lot of these cool corporate entities don’t want to give away any of their statistics. But we hear from brands and we hear the impact that it’s had.

Exiting a business – it’s all in the timing

“What people don’t talk about is the ‘chasm of death’ when it comes to actually selling your business. And what we quickly worked out was that zero to 250 million AUD mark, which is around a couple 100 million American. There are a lot of businesses that will take a risk on buying you and a punt. 

And so there’s a lot of reasons why we sold, but when you distil it down into three core components. One is we really liked the buyer. We thought that they would do great by our business and great by our clients and our staff. And we’ve had a 100% retention of staff and clients since we got bought. So that’s a pretty good thing, I guess. 

The second thing is don’t be greedy. For us, that was enough. It was more than enough. And the third reason which I touched on, is there was simply no guarantee is that if we made our revenue a multiple that was worth 400 or 500 or 600 million, that someone was going to come and pay that money. Because not many businesses have a balance sheet where they can just go, “Here’s 500 million for a business or 600 or 700, whatever.” There are very, very few businesses that can actually pay that cash.  And so we made an educated decision.”

Links from the episode:

This episode was brought to you by…

Subscribe to Add To Cart

We’ll let you know about new episodes PLUS exclusive
competitions and discounts from our guests!


More from this show

Weekly Ecommerce Newsletter


Let’s get social

We are a team of dedicated professionals delivering high quality WordPress themes and plugins.