The latest numbers show that retail media grew 22% year-over-year in 2023. This growth is second only to connected TV among the top advertising mediums. It seems like new retail media networks are popping up every day as advertisers continue to shift toward more privacy-forward media solutions. These solutions are built using more powerful first-party data sets to counteract the departure of third-party cookies.
For the number of retail media networks that exist, there is nearly an equal number of approaches to activating media channels via various platforms, measuring performance, monitoring viewability, measuring ad fraud and ensuring brand safety.
While “traditional” digital media has matured, retail media is in its early stages. The result so far is that each retail media network functions a little differently, which causes challenges across the industry. With continuously mounting pressure on marketing resources, the retail media network sector cannot put the load on clients to hire more staff to manage these challenges. Instead, marketers need to work together to try to standardize across this evolving medium.
Measurement and methodological transparency are areas where standardization would surely benefit the industry. Normally, retailers provide some type of closed-loop sales metric attributed to digital media, but these methodologies are as unique as the brands themselves.
As retailers launch their networks and build out their methodologies, for them to begin to make things truly transparent, they must consider the ability to answer some questions that brands may have before they invest.
Are only online sales tied to media performance, or do you also include in-store sales?
Do you measure channels separately, or do you use some form of multi-touch attribution?
What attribution window is used? How is that path to purchase tracked?
Do you generalize based on the data match rates of my brand’s customers?
Are you able to track cash transactions?
What methodology is used to determine a campaign’s performance?
Each of these questions is crucial for a retail media network to consider while setting up its blanket measurement strategy. However, these decisions are often made in a bubble, and some are limited based on the individual retailer’s technical and data collection capabilities.
Additionally, the industry is notoriously non-transparent about how their different methodologies are calculated. Each methodology is “proprietary” and, depending on the partner, the way ROAS is calculated can be complicated at best, or worse, a never-ending black hole.
The issue then becomes how difficult it is for advertisers to determine performance across retail media networks. The more sophisticated companies have created their own internal models, or they work with agency partners that collect data to produce their own standardization. However, these models are often slowed down by the level at which the individual retail media networks can provide consistent, granular data quickly. Additionally, as self-service options in the industry are limited, the ability to act on these measurement solutions can also be subject to limitations.
As retail media networks grow and mature, things will certainly begin to take shape. This new media channel is complex, but standardization is possible and will be critical to simplifying the media buying process and provide for continued revenue growth.