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Advances in retail media — and what they mean for the future of advertising

January 23, 2024 by Experian Marketing Services

What advances in retail media mean for advertising

Retail media networks (RMNs) are an exciting innovation within the advertising industry. A retail media network refers to an advertising platform that a retailer owns, providing marketers with the opportunity to buy advertising space on the retailer’s digital platforms as well as extend their reach offsite with key platforms the retailer has partnered with to open up their media buying to advertisers. The retailer uses first-party data and customer insights to create new advertising opportunities and connect with shoppers throughout their buying journey.

In this article, we’ll discuss the significant advances in retail media trends and technology — and their implications for the future of advertising.

Benefits of retail media for advertisers

Every online impression counts in the digital era, making retail media especially advantageous for advertisers. It yields new opportunities for advertisers to thrive, which we’ll discuss below.

Get access to first-party data

First-party data is a valuable asset for advertisers. Retail media networks offer advertisers direct access to customer insights from the retailer’s data vault, which helps them create highly personalized ad campaigns and connect with current and potential customers.

Custom marketing options for each brand

Retail media provides brands with various marketing options, from product listings to onsite display advertising. These options allow advertisers to customize their approach, deliver tailored messages to their target audience, and meet consumers where they are.

Reach new customers

Retail media networks empower advertisers to connect with new and existing customers using retailers’ extensive digital presence. These networks extend beyond a retailer’s own website and allow brands to tap into a broader audience base; major RMNs often have a significant offsite presence and provide advertisers with opportunities to reach consumers across various digital touchpoints and platforms beyond the retailer’s controlled environment. This reach enhances brand visibility, engages diverse audiences, and contributes to the growth of customer acquisition.

Closer proximity to purchase decisions

Another benefit of retail media is its ability to position brands closer to the point of purchase in the customer journey. Targeted, data-driven advertising strategically placed across various touchpoints enables retailers to influence consumers when they are already lower in the purchase funnel. This proximity increases the likelihood of faster purchase decisions, especially when complemented by strategies such as timely offers and retargeting, expediting the decision-making and conversion processes.

Consumers prefer personalized advertising

Research has shown that approximately 50% of consumers will spend more money with companies that personalize their e-commerce retail experience. Ads relevant to a consumer’s interests and aligned with their behaviors make shoppers more likely to engage with a brand and find it easier and more convenient. As retailers honor consumer preferences for personalized advertising, they’ll find it easier to align with consumer preferences and provide an improved shopping experience.

Retail media network use case: Experian’s impactful marketing attribution with a discount store giant

Experian’s past collaboration with a discount store giant involved implementing a comprehensive marketing attribution strategy. The primary goal was to effectively demonstrate brand campaign performance and optimize ad spend within the retail media network. We built a full-stack attribution solution that connected their offline and online data, and our approach was as follows:

  1. We started by collecting exposure data from all touchpoints, such as the website, app, and offsite display and social, to turn anonymous exposures into identified individuals and households.
  2. Additionally, we gathered debit and credit card transaction data from in-store and online points of sale to better understand purchase behavior. We also unveiled new demographic insights for the retailer.
  3. To streamline the decision-making process, we provided an easy-to-read reporting tool that showcased vital performance metrics.

Takeaways from the collaboration emphasized the importance of:

  • Understanding the audience seeing the ads and those making purchases.
  • Analyzing incremental lift and identifying insights or trends.
  • Sharing these valuable insights across the organization and with advertisers to inform future campaigns and brand positioning.

Utilizing recent trends in the retail media landscape

This case study serves as a prime example of how recent retail media trends are shaping a data-centric, integrated, and insights-driven future for advertising in retail. Our marketing attribution strategy aligns with the industry’s shift toward data-driven decision-making in RMNs.

Today, retailers are adopting full-stack attribution solutions like ours, enabling them to connect offline and online data to understand customer interactions better. This reflects the trend of looking for a holistic view of customer journeys and highlights the importance of integrating diverse data sources to understand consumers comprehensively.

Moreover, our strategy to transform anonymous exposures into identified individuals, integrate transaction data, unveil new demographic insights, and provide an easy-to-read reporting tool mirrors the trends of enhanced personalization, merging online and offline data, and simplifying analytics within RMNs.

Using new retail media

Our introduction of a user-friendly reporting tool highlights the potential of new retail media to change how advertisers analyze data and gain actionable insights. It emphasizes the value of advanced tools in optimizing ad campaigns, measuring performance metrics, and informing future strategies. New technology will continue to drive effective marketing attribution and shape the future of retail advertising.

Kroger Precision Marketing’s newly announced platform

Kroger Precision Marketing (KPM) represents another excellent retail media use case. The retail media arm of the popular supermarket chain is looking to the future with the launch of its advertising platform. KPM is committed to innovation, and this move underscores its desire to be at the forefront of the retail media landscape. Let’s take a closer look at some of the essential features of this new platform.

In-house

KPM recently announced the launch of an in-house advertising platform — a significant shift from their previous practices, where they relied on external tools and systems for their retail media services. By bringing the ad technology in-house, KPM has greater control, flexibility, and the ability to align its platform precisely with its retail media goals. This decision enhances Kroger’s self-sufficiency and enables quicker adaptation to evolving market demands.

KPM’s new in-house platform was officially rolled out on October 13, 2023, and is redefining how advertisers interact with Kroger’s expansive base of consumers.

Easier for media buyers

KPM’s in-house platform is also focused on providing better tools for media buyers. The platform is designed to offer advanced automation and optimization capabilities that will make campaigns more efficient and data-driven. By using this platform, media buyers can easily reach the right audience, customize their messages, and fine-tune their campaigns — all in one place.

Integrated platform

KPM’s new platform will integrate with existing ad campaigns and eventually encompass all their retail media options. This interoperability makes migrating ongoing campaigns easy and minimizes disruptions to advertising efforts. In the long run, the platform will serve as the foundation for all KPM’s retail media services. Advertisers will have a one-stop solution for on-site and off-site media channels to ensure consistency and efficiency in retail media strategies.

KPM’s emerging retail media solutions demonstrate a commitment to advertisers and their changing needs in a shifting digital era.

Home Depot retail media

Home Depot, a well-known player in the home improvement retail industry, has made great strides in retail media. With an impressive annual customer transaction count of 1.7 billion and 3.6 billion visits to homedepot.com, their Retail Media+ platform provides advertisers with unparalleled visibility, reaching 198 million individual customers across 2,322 stores, according to their site. The benefits of Retail Media+ also include 24/7 self-service access to advertising portals, real-time reporting for campaign optimization, and dedicated support.

What Home Depot’s Retail Media+ does right

Home Depot’s Retail Media+ has set itself apart through strategic initiatives that prioritize enhancements to the shopper experience. Here’s a closer look at what makes Home Depot’s approach to RMN noteworthy:

  1. Seamless integration: Retail Media+ seamlessly integrates into the customer’s journey without disrupting their experience. The platform allows the delivery of targeted ads across various Home Depot-owned spaces, including the website, app, in-store, email, and offsite channels like social and video.
  2. Supplier-centric ad inventory: Home Depot allocates the majority of its RMN ad inventory to suppliers. This ensures the ads presented to customers align closely with the products available at Home Depot for a natural connection between onsite and in-store experiences.
  3. Customer-centric approach: Melanie Babcock, Vice President of Retail Media+ and Monetization at The Home Depot, emphasizes maintaining a customer-centric perspective. The goal is not merely to monetize the website but to enhance the customer journey by incorporating suppliers into the process. This approach contributes to a more personalized and relevant shopping experience.
  4. Exploration of offsite opportunities: Home Depot is actively exploring opportunities to expand its RM+ platform beyond onsite channels. Initiatives include piloting in-store video screens and venturing into connected TV (CTV). By considering the entire customer journey, Home Depot aims to provide value to suppliers while gaining deeper insights into customer behavior.
  5. Strategic use of data science: With the help of data scientists, Home Depot ensures personalized precision in its advertising efforts. This aligns with the shopper’s preferences and needs and makes the ads more relevant and engaging.
  6. Ongoing adaptation and expansion: Home Depot’s proactive stance is evident in its continuous efforts to adapt and expand its RMN initiatives. The exploration of offsite channels, partnerships with platforms like Roku and Disney Advertising, and the piloting of in-store video screens showcase a commitment to staying at the forefront of evolving digital retail trends.

Home Depot’s success with their RMN stems from its commitment to creating a symbiotic relationship between customers, suppliers, and the retail brand. Home Depot has set a benchmark for RMNs by aligning advertising efforts with the customer’s journey and embracing technological advancements.

Amazon retail media

Amazon Advertising, the retail media division of Amazon, has become another dominant force in the industry. Let’s take a quick look at what they’ve done well and what they could improve.

Scale of Amazon’s retail media

In 2022, eMarketer estimated that Amazon commanded a 76.9% share of retail digital media spend, blowing its competitors out of the water. Walmart, the second-largest player, trailed far behind with a 6.1% share. This underscores Amazon’s unparalleled influence and market presence in the digital advertising landscape and solidifies its position as the go-to platform for advertisers looking to reach a massive audience.

What works for Amazon

Amazon has an unmatched advantage when it comes to personalizing ads and delivering relevant content to consumers. With over 200 million Prime members in the U.S. alone, Amazon has access to vast amounts of valuable data that spans shopping habits, preferences, and more. This data is invaluable for advertisers looking to target their audiences with precision, and it gives Amazon a significant edge in the market.

What needs to change

Although Amazon continues to thrive, there’s always room for improvement. For instance, to attract brand dollars, traditional retailers are starting to concentrate on channels where Amazon has less historical dominance, such as in-store experiences and email marketing. Understanding this potential, Amazon has been experimenting with email tools to enhance merchant-audience connections and widen its reach. As ad sales’ profitability becomes more significant, incorporating these offerings into Amazon’s retail media strategy could further strengthen its market position.

Walmart retail media

Walmart has been working hard to become a more dominant retail media force. Walmart Connect, the retailer’s retail media network, has done an excellent job bridging the gap between online and in-store activities. It provides a unique closed-loop system that connects online and in-store activity on an unprecedented scale. This mechanism offers advertisers a comprehensive view of Walmart customers’ behavior, giving them valuable insights and measurable business results. With this closed-loop approach, advertisers can access a holistic view of customer activity and achieve successful marketing campaigns.

How Walmart ties together online and in-store activities

Walmart’s massive brick-and-mortar presence and its comprehensive online platform provide a complete view of customer behavior and preferences. This synergy between the digital and physical is a compelling selling point for advertisers that gives them a holistic view of consumer interactions. Walmart’s connected shopping experience integrates both online and in-store activities, allowing advertisers to engage with customers from the research stage to the online or in-store purchase stage of the buying journey.

New features and technology Walmart’s retail media platform is trying

As part of their innovative initiatives, Walmart Connect introduced the “Holiday Hub,” recognizing Walmart as America’s go-to holiday shopping destination. Advertisers can use this hub to gain key customer insights and implement product best practices to ensure a meaningful omnichannel connection during the holiday season.

In terms of new features and technology, Walmart Connect provides various advertising options to help brands stand out from the crowd:

  • The Search feature ensures visibility when customers actively search for products, with ads appearing prominently in search results and on browse pages.
  • Display ads, strategically placed on Walmart.com, the Walmart app, and across the web, aim to make a premium impression on customers based on their omnichannel Walmart history.
  • For in-store influence, Walmart Connect offers opportunities to inspire shoppers through digital TV and point-of-purchase screens across 4,700+ Walmart stores.
  • Walmart’s closed-loop measurement uniquely enables advertisers to correlate online ads with purchases, providing unparalleled scale and accuracy in measuring campaign impact.

Whether for a small business or a global brand, Walmart Connect offers solutions to help marketers discover new and effective ways to connect with their target audience.

The future of RMNs

The future of retail media networks (RMNs) is bright and holds exciting possibilities. These five key dynamics will likely drive retail media evolution:

Smaller retailers getting into the RMN game

With each passing day, more small brands are becoming active with RMNs. This trend is highly beneficial, bringing diversity, competition, expanded reach, and collaborative potential to the landscape. The future of RMNs is expected to be shaped by a mix of established and emerging brands. This will create an inclusive environment for advertisers and consumers alike.

Potential for cross-platform campaigns

Cross-platform campaigns in RMNs allow advertisers to create a cohesive, impactful, and data-driven advertising approach across different retail media networks. This shift in campaign strategy aligns with the dynamic nature of consumer interactions in the digital landscape, as it provides a comprehensive solution for brands that seek to enhance their presence and influence across diverse channels.

Targeted vs. personalized ads

Personalized ads are becoming a notable trend in RMNs and replacing targeted ads. This means RMNs now provide consumers with more relevant and tailored content based on their interests and preferences. The shift is driven by the increasing demand for personalization and the need to improve the consumer shopping experience. RMN advertisers must take advantage of these personalized ad opportunities to create stronger brand awareness.

Conversions vs. brand awareness

Advertisers often struggle when deciding whether to focus more on conversions or brand awareness. For a well-rounded strategy, RMN advertisers should craft campaigns that balance these two goals. Using the data and insights from RMNs, advertisers can personalize their messaging to drive sales and build and reinforce brand recognition. This approach can help RMN advertisers make brand awareness a central component of their advertising efforts.

Third-party data integration to enhance data and audiences

As RMNs evolve, data expansion is essential for targeted, personalized, and contextually relevant advertising experiences and will help drive the future success of retail media. Advertisers using third-party data, in particular, can unlock new dimensions in audience targeting to create more tailored and impactful campaigns. Third-party data allows for a broader understanding of customer behaviors and preferences and facilitates relevant content delivery.

Data insights for more connected, tailored advertising

Moving forward, it will also be important for advertisers to achieve a consistent view across online, app, and in-store activities. They need to understand where customers prefer to be reached and where they are most likely to engage so they can ensure a strategic alignment of messaging and optimize the effectiveness of their retail media strategies. The future of RMNs lies in using comprehensive data insights for more connected and personalized advertising.

What about AI?Where is it useful?

In the retail media context, AI (Artificial Intelligence) enhances advertisers’ capabilities by providing valuable insights and automation to drive more effective and personalized ad campaigns. AI helps analyze vast amounts of data, predict consumer behavior, and empower advertisers with the tools to optimize their strategies. Ultimately, it helps them deliver more tailored, relevant content to consumers that best aligns with their interests and preferences.

Humans still needed to drive change

While AI is a critical technology in retail media, it doesn’t replace the need for human expertise. People are still essential for driving change, making strategic decisions, and ensuring AI-driven solutions align with business objectives. Moving forward, advertisers will need to utilize both AI-driven capabilities and human expertise to see the greatest success.

A connected customer identity is the key to success

The future of advertising lies in the seamless integration of customer identity across various touchpoints. Experian’s cutting-edge solutions are leading the way in this transformation. We can help businesses navigate this dynamic environment with helpful tools that unlock a comprehensive view of audiences and facilitate effective campaigns across multiple channels.

Our Consumer Sync solutions can connect customers across multiple touchpoints and channels, specifically bridging the gap between online and in-store to ensure a holistic view and strategy for audiences, campaigns, and performance. With access to over 2,500 frequently updated data points, we have the depth and breadth of data needed to supplement your audience strategy. We’ll help you unlock a broad view of your audiences to see well-rounded profiles, gain the reach required to access your audience across multiple channels, and turn opportunities into revenue. Additionally, our Consumer View solutions can help deepen your understanding of your customers, their behaviors, and campaign success.

Connect with a member of our team today to get started.


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