Retail Media Networks Are on the Rise: Here’s What Marketers Need to Know

By Andy Siviter, Director of Performance Media, Croud

Retail media networks (RMNs) have become a powerful marketing tool, providing brands with new opportunities to connect with consumers. Uber’s recent announcement introducing video ads across their apps illustrates the growing popularity of RMNsand the continued expansion of options and formats available for advertisers. Yet, managing marketing strategies across these different networks presents unique challenges. As new platforms and ad placements continue to emerge, marketers must take a carefully considered approach to achieve the best outcomes.

The importance of measurement in retail media

One of the main challenges in retail media today is accurately measuring advertising effectiveness. Each RMN is a walled garden, so tracking the true impact and incrementality of campaigns is difficult. This fragmentation means data is siloed and it’s therefore challenging to create a coherent strategy.

For marketers, understanding the true return on ad spend (ROAS) across these different platforms is only possible with the help of media mix modeling (MMM) and/or through employing a blended payback model. This means less precision when planning media investments and less agility when it comes to optimization.

Payback models are created to assess the contribution of each channel to overall performance by measuring the incremental difference that a new network or placement makes in the advertising mix. Over time, observing the overall trends in performance as you experiment with your channel mix can help you to understand cannibalization and support better decision-making.

Managing the complexities

The complexity of the retail media landscape is now such that it demands a well-structured approach. Marketers need to determine whether each RMN aligns well with their target audience and marketing objectives, and complements their existing marketing strategies. With such a huge choice of platforms and different ad placements available, brands should test which ones work for them quickly. There’s often a great advantage to be gained by adopting faster than the competition and before ad unit costs start to rise.

Additionally, when considering advertising on RMNs, it’s important to know what they’re all about. That is, brands must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of different retail media options. For example, while Amazon can offer unrivaled online data and scale, Walmart’s ad offering is really starting to mature, and they can bring online and offline data into the equation. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s not possible or realistic to advertise on all of the smaller niche RMNs so brands must find a way to choose between them and get the mix just right.

Brands also need to consider each platform and ad placement based on the marketing objective. Many of the retailers offer placements through search and checkout that work well for high intent shoppers at the lower end of the purchase funnel. Brands need to also find ways to inspire and engage consumers. Selecting the right RMNs and utilizing richer creative, along with video and social media platforms, can be great for this. To get the best of both worlds, consider using a mix of retail media networks and inspirational platforms to keep consumers engaged throughout their buying journey.

The benefits of privacy protection

A key advantage of RMNs lies in their privacy-safe operations. Unlike other major ad platforms that rely heavily on third-party data and cookies, retail media ads generally operate with 100% logged-in users. RMNs can, therefore, provide future-proofed targeting accuracy which will be less reliant on predictive AI to fill the holes left by cookie depreciation.

Will retail media thrive in the years to come?

The growing popularity of RMNs is expected to continue, with more online destinations monetizing their audiences. As we look ahead, we do expect a slowdown in new platforms from the surge in recent years. Most of the main online destinations and retailers have already made their move. The explosion of options means advertisers will need to be increasingly selective and the RMNs themselves must compete for those advertising budgets too. Expect plenty of innovation, new formats and data.

And as this rise in popularity continues, the road ahead might seem quite complex. But the potential benefits are sure to be worth it. As with any exciting adventure, there will be challenges. So, be ready, consider the importance of a well-structured approach, and take the time to evaluate which platforms align best with your target audience and brand strategy.