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  • Writer's pictureBob Freas

Retail Media Networks: Past, Present, and Future!

Digital Display of Retail Media Network in Grocery Store

In Privacy Sandbox news, Google recently began testing a new feature called Tracking Protection, aimed at limiting cross-site tracking by restricting website access to third-party cookies. Although it was implemented for only 1% of Chrome users, they plan to complete the rollout across all browsers by the end of 2024. So, with the phase-out of third-party cookies finally underway, advertisers are challenged with finding new opportunities to effectively reach consumers.

Many advertisers, brands, and retailers began to not only plan for life after cookies, but they also planned on how they could utilize their first-party data to reach audiences within their own channels. That led to a significant increase in the development of these networks called Retail Media Networks (RMNs).

What is a Retail Media Network?

A retail media network is a retailer-owned platform which sells advertising space across its available assets, mainly first-party customer data and in-store and online channels. In some instances, a third-party media publisher will connect brands with the retailers and their customers.

The Evolution of Digital Advertising

The first wave of digital advertising was characterized by the emergence of online display ads and search engine marketing (SEM). This phase led to an advertising transformation from traditional methods into digital options that promoted targeted and measurable online campaigns.

The second wave was the rise of social media advertising, which leveraged the user base of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Brands began to engage with audiences on a more personal level, using behavioral info and  social interactions to target their audiences.

Now, Retail Media Networks represent the third wave, combining the strengths of first-party data, e-commerce platforms, and digital advertising. This fusion enables brands to have a direct connection with shoppers at the point of purchase, presenting an opportunity to influence their buying decisions.

Types of Retail Media Ads

Retail media networks include many ad placement options. However, those options are typically group into three categories:

  • On-site ads – ads that appear within a retailer’s digital channels like on websites, mobile apps, emails, and circulars. Examples include sponsored products, featured brands, search ads, display ads.

  • Off-site ads – ads that appear on third-party channels like social media platforms, websites, apps, and CTV. Examples are digital video, audio ads, and display ads. These ads use the retailer’s consumer data but are served on outside channel via retail media partners.

  • In-store ads – ads placed inside the retailer’s physical locations. Examples are digital screens in the store.

Why Retail Media Networks Matter for Marketers?

  • Customer Targeting - RMNs have targeting capabilities and data available within their e-commerce platforms to deliver targeted messages to specific demographics, interests, and shopping behaviors.

  • Contextual Advertising - RMNs can feature products within the context of the shopping journey. Placing ads at strategic points in the purchase funnel lets brands remain top-of-mind when shoppers are making purchasing decisions.

  • Measurable ROI - marketers can measure the impact of their campaigns more accurately for campaigns that are tied directly to retail commerce sites or apps. Most dashboards provide data on key performance indicators such as impressions, click-through rates, conversion rates, and return on ad spend.

  • Relationship with Retailers - RMNs allow for collaboration between brands and retailers. This can create mutually beneficial partnerships. The retailers benefit from increased ad revenue, while brands get access to customers in a purchase-intent environment.

The Future of Retail Media Networks

Retail media is one of the largest and fastest-growing ad markets in the US. It took only five years—from 2016 to 2021—for it to ramp up from $1 billion to $30 billion. Although there are some challenges like no universal measurement standards and lack of campaign performance transparency, that hasn’t stopped advertisers from spending with multiple RMNs. Projected spending for 2024 is around $60 billion.

Looking ahead, advertisers should consider the opportunities presented by RMNs, but they should be aware of potential crossover when it comes to the networks, customers, and markets when planning their campaigns.

If you’re looking for options to plan your next media or advertising campaign, consider A3 Media. We supply our clients with accurate planning inside and outside of Regional Media Networks, where digital meets traditional. Contact us here!


About A3 Media

A3 transforms media from an expense into a smart investment. Since 1997, we have successfully helped regional businesses launch new products, expand into new markets and increase sales through media plans that make every dollar spent do more. Our clients include brands such as Yuengling and Ashley Furniture. For more information about how A3 Media can help your digital marketing efforts, please call A3 Media at (610) 631-5500.

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