Planning To Invest In Retail Media Networks? It Pays To Sweat The Details

Michael Ellgass, EVP, Retail Marketing Solutions, IRI

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Michael Ellgass, EVP for retail marketing solutions at IRI.

In a post-cookie world, retail media networks (RMNs) have the potential to be an important channel in a brand’s comprehensive advertising strategy. 

An RMN is a connected set of media channels, including a retailer’s website, app, email distribution and offsite ads. The advantage? An RMN enables advertisers to reach shoppers across the purchase funnel down to the point of purchase. And because they deliver first-party, purchase-based data, RMNs also provide better opportunities to analyze attribution and ROI than cookies.

Sales within RMNs are projected to grow by 28% in 2021 and reach $30 billion by 2023. But to maximize their potential, brands need to determine which one is the right fit for their needs.  

A checklist for choosing an RMN

Before evaluating which RMNs are most suited to a brand’s goals, those goals must be clearly defined. Is the aim to win back lapsed brand buyers? Promote a limited distribution item? Attract new buyers? Or launch new products? 

From there, depending on the overall mission, there are six RMN attributes brands should consider:  

Shopper targets: Can the network surface purchasing-behavior-based targets that align with the brand strategy and the goals of the campaign?

Data management capabilities: Are the technical capabilities and processes of the RMN integrated across all network channels, including owned and operated, CRM and offsite? Is exposure managed across the network to control frequency and optimize cross-channel amplification? Is data available to optimize creative, ad placement and frequency? 

Support: Is the RMN staffed to provide the technical support the brand is likely to need? This may include self-service tools that allow the advertiser to do their own pre-campaign analytics and build their own target groups. 

Creative functionality: Does the RMN give the brand flexibility to execute across ad products such as rich media and video? Can the brand track performance by creative versions to enable optimization? 

Measurement: What are the measurement capabilities of the network? The network should offer incremental sales views for the total campaign and for each media channel. Ideally, there should be measurement views of other sub-campaign elements as well, such as creative, ad type and frequency of exposure.  

Post-Campaign Tracking: Some leading networks offer post-campaign tracking and advanced analytics to study ad-exposed customer behavior and enable the brand to develop ongoing relevant messaging. Retailers have unique insight into what customers do after seeing a campaign. This can provide invaluable learnings to inform overall media strategy.

A dynamic landscape 

Advertisers’ needs are changing. For example, understanding performance across fulfillment methods is becoming more important as in-store pickup, ship to home and subscriptions grow.  As a result, RMNs are evolving, too. They are moving away from simply offering ads on the retailer’s website to selling ad inventory outside their properties.    

Some ecommerce companies are even creating their own RMNs. Instacart, DoorDash and other delivery services can show brands different views of the customer, including behavior at multiple retailers that partner with the service. 

By creating clearly defined goals and filtering RMNs against a six-point criteria, brands can maximize their investment in this increasingly important advertising channel.

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