Where Does Your Brand Fit Best in the Retail Media Map?

By Hugh Stevens, UK MD, LiveRamp

Against the backdrop of recession and curtailed consumer spend, FMCG marketers are under immense pressure to make every penny of their budgets drive return on investment. Add to this the evolving customer journey, with consumers now interacting with brands across a plethora of touchpoints, not only are ad budgets being constricted but it’s become harder than ever to know where and how they should be allocated.

First-party data (i.e. permissioned data that has been collected directly by a brand) presents itself as an effective necessity to help advertisers more effectively connect consumers with personalised and relevant ads. However, many brands don’t have a lot of first-party data to play with.  This is especially true for FMCGs, who have traditionally generated revenue exclusively through retailers and therefore have never cultivated a direct relationship with their customers.

This dynamic is however changing through the development of retail media. Indeed, retailers have recognised their value to advertisers as holders of both a wealth of first-party customer data (e.g. built up via their loyalty cards schemes) and up-to-date shopper data via their checkouts. Thanks to this rich insight and access to customers who are close to the point of purchase, retail media has quickly become the apple of many FMCG marketers’ eyes.

In the UK alone, retail brands such as Tesco, Asda, Boots, Co-op, and B&Q have all established their own retail media networks in recent years. Brands, in turn, have responded enthusiastically. In a recent survey commissioned by LiveRamp and New Digital Age, 64% of those questioned said they are currently working with at least one retail media provider.

However, choosing the right retail media partner is easier said than done. For one the rate at which these offerings are announced complicates things – Just look at the retail media map recently released by IAB Europe. There are so many different networks out there, with a new one seemingly launched every week to offer its own set of capabilities. For example, some provide sophisticated data targeting for an array of channels, from onsite digital display to connected TV. Others are building in-store screen networks that can better reach audiences at a key inspiration moment.

For FMCG brands looking to leverage this medium, the reality is that not all media networks will be a fit. Working this out, and where your brand best sits in the retail media map, requires some self-reflection.

What do FMCG brands need to consider?

For one, retail media changes the traditional relationship between FMCG brands and retailers. Indeed, treating retailers as, in effect, publishers is quite different to what brands are used to, meaning that they will need to channel internal expertise correctly to make the most of the retail media opportunity.  Many brands are launching their own dedicated retail media or commerce divisions and/or appointing retail media directors, who are responsible for the bigger picture and can ensure that their own data insights are not siloed between different teams.

Leveraging retail media successfully will also require FMCGs to reshape their marketing  budgets, including separating trade marketing from retail media investment, and consider carefully the physical – digital investment allocation, given that most retail sales still happen in-store.

At the heart of any brand’s retail media strategy should be campaign objectives and an awareness of how different sales and audiences map against the different capabilities of each network. The media networks that are standing out right now, and achieving real growth, are the ones that recognise that retail media does not need a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, but rather a suite of options based on brand needs. Fortunately, there are specialists which can help to streamline retail media collaborations for FMCG brands.

While the current retail media landscape is fairly fragmented, we can anticipate rapid progress over the next couple of years. For example, we can expect to see more standardisation introduced across audience definitions and measurement metrics, as agnostic partners that support tech stacks demand more interoperability. When this happens, the strength of the retailer’s brand, and how each retailer offers access to different types of shoppers, will become the determining factors in helping FMCG brands decide which retail media networks to work with.

Retail media is growing steadily in the UK, with the IAB reporting that digital retail media alone grew by 12% in 2023 (£283m). It holds the potential to deliver more relevant offers and meaningful experiences for shoppers, which will increasingly blur the line between in-store and digital estates. Meanwhile, FMCGs should look to get their retail media strategies in place now while the landscape is still in development.