The rise of retail media

Thought Leadership
20 March 2022

Initially framed as an extension of performance media vehicles, retail media is now providing to offer brands a full-funnel solution. All with unrivalled measurement and attribution capabilities.

Retail media has gained huge traction into the turf once held by large traditional broadcasters and publishers in the US - and while the retail players in New Zealand are fewer, the outcome may ultimately be the same.

This emerging retail landscape features a blend of physical and digital shopping and increasingly savvy consumers who traverse both worlds. In fact, 30 percent of shoppers are now omnichannel.  And as a result, with new habits and raised expectations, the consumer relationship with brands is evolving.

It’s no surprise then that this new normal also has major implications for marketers, who must now address changing consumer preferences relating to retail advertising, personalized shopping experiences and loyalty.

The good news is that despite growing concerns about digital privacy, consumers are interested in brand relationships that incorporate advertising. For example, they are generally receptive to targeted ads — particularly from retail brands they like. 71 percent of shoppers say they’d prefer to receive limited, tailored ad experiences instead of paying to avoid ads.

And those brand relationships are now firmly entrenched on retail eCommerce sites. Over half of consumers  (53 percent) have said they notice sponsored products or ads on retail sites. Among those that recall seeing these sponsored products or ads, 42 percent claim to frequently or sometimes click to make a purchase. As brands pioneer new approaches to retail marketing, retailers themselves are making more of their valuable shopper data available so that brands can finally make the connection between advertising activity and consumer action, whether online or in-store. With the imminent demise of third-party cookies, we are seeing a surge in interest in leveraging this data in order to finally achieve that holy grail of marketing.

Retail media is poised to become one of the most potent and well-funded areas of marketing investment among brands. And the role of retail media is evolving. 

What started as a way for brands to engage shoppers during their in-store experience, has now grown to allow brands to find new ways to engage shoppers throughout their customer journey. Increasingly, marketers are looking to retail media to close the loop between broader campaign activity and consumer purchases.

In fact, retail data is viewed by marketers as effective in both building brands and driving conversions: 39 percent of marketers surveyed in the US said they use it to drive brand equity scores, while 44 percent said they now use retail data to track sales growth.

Why? Because retail data is rooted in valuable sales data — or the data associated with a purchase. This typically includes product information, SKU-data, the time of purchase, payment used, location, among other details.  Access to past purchase data helps marketers best predict future purchase behaviour or habits. These details enable marketers to understand what media tactics are leading to sales. That’s why 76 percent of marketers say they plan to use loyalty card point-of-sale data either frequently or very frequently over the next year.

As a result, sales data is crucial for brands, especially as the marketers noted their top challenges as measuring business outcomes (32 percent), understanding the increased complexity of the customer journey (32 percent) and optimizing cross-channel campaigns (32 percent).  Retail data addresses many of these challenges. This data also opens new avenues for more accurate and actionable attribution tracking across digital and physical environments.  While tracking the impact of search-based ads placed on retailers’ sites is fairly straightforward and immediate, marketers can use shopper data to connect digital ad exposures on the web to real-world, in-store purchases. This is great news for the 43 percent of brands surveyed who noted sales growth as a top KPI of marketing success.

What was once abstract is now possible — consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands can connect ad exposures to in-store purchases made by specific target audiences.  Additionally, CPGs can work with retailers to advertise specific products to consumers by leveraging SKU-level insights and then measure the sales impact across a wide array of media channels. This levels the playing field for a sector of the industry that is looking to leverage its valuable data, such as insights from loyalty programs, in a privacy-conscious manner.