A retail media network essentially refers to a collection of digital channels owned by a retail company, which is offered to third-party businesses for advertisement purposes. This allows these businesses to advertise to prospects who are already in a spending mood.
With the world realizing how powerful e-commerce can be in the face of a ravaging pandemic, more businesses came online in a bid to explore every available option technology could offer.
This led to the explosion of retail media networks. The retail media industry is rapidly growing even in 2022, and research by Forbes shows that 74% of brands have dedicated budgets for retail media advertising.
If you're here, you're probably looking to tap into the opportunities that come with retail media advertising. So, in today's guide, we will explore some of the best retail media networks in the industry and what you should consider before partnering with any retailer.
Before we do that, let's dive deeper into what a retail media network is, how it works, and what it means to marketers, retailers, and consumers.
What is a Retail Media Network, and How does it Work?
A retail media network is a retailer-owned advertising service that allows marketers to purchase advertising space across all digital assets owned by a retail business, using the retailer's first-party data to connect with shoppers throughout their buying journey.
Through a retail media network, partner brands (advertisers) get direct access to a retailer's customers. The use of first-party customer data allows marketers to get in touch with in-market shoppers at the point of sale (POS) across all channels owned by the retailer.
In the words of Epsilon, "a successful media network is one that can effectively monetize all addressable channels in a brand-safe, privacy-compliant environment — all the way through to the end consumer."
Partner brands (advertisers) can show ads across major pages on a retailer's website, including but not limited to the following:
Search Result Pages
This is a search result page on Walmart. Notice the sponsored post by Intel? This isn't a regular search result for "laptop" (as seen on the search box). It is an ad space purchased by Intel, targeting people who search for the keyword "laptop" on Walmart.
Listing products on search pages is effective because shoppers who use the search bar are specific about their needs, making it easier to implement more targeted strategies in your advertising campaigns.
Most businesses direct traffic to specific landing pages during marketing campaigns. But the home page is also a piece of real estate you should be taking advantage of.
This is because the home page is home to the most amount of organic traffic. Consumers usually visit a retailer’s home page with serious buying intent. Thus, having your products listed on the home page might be a good idea.
Product Detail Pages
Shoppers go through product detail pages to get a better understanding of the features and uses of the products they intend to buy. This is usually a great opportunity for brands that sell similar or related products.
A customer that just purchased an iPhone will most likely want to throw in an iPhone case if the seller offers a good deal.
Category pages show a list of similar products allowing shoppers to get access to a wide range of products in the same category.
Shoppers browsing through category pages are not completely specific with their needs, giving brands the opportunity to market to them.
Ultimately, the variety of options that retail media networks provide allows advertisers to connect with their prospects at every stage of their conversion journey.
Retail networks have an incredible conversion rate mainly because people are generally more receptive to ads when shopping than when they're involved in non-shopping activities.
Amazon Advertising, for example, reports that nearly 74% of Amazon shoppers discover new products and brands while browsing through Amazon.
How Retail Media Networks are Benefitting Retailers, Advertisers, and Consumers
Retail media networks are changing the way businesses interact with shoppers. The interaction can be considered symbiotic to some extent because it gives the players the opportunity to benefit from each other.
Let's explore the major benefits retail media offers to retailers, consumers, and marketers.
Benefits for Retailers
Amazon set the pace for retail media networks in 2012 and has since dominated the industry with 89% of retail media ad spending in the United States.
Companies like Walmart, Instacart, and eBay are some of the big U.S. retailers that have recorded significant growth in revenue after joining the trend.
Specifically, Walmart reported a 240% growth in advertising revenue in Q3 of 2021. Instacart reported $300 million in ad revenue and hopes to break the $1 billion mark in 2022, according to Wall Street Journal.
In general, a quarter of retailers reported at least $100 million in advertising revenue in 2021.
As you can see, the major benefit retail media offers to retailers is the extra revenue stream it provides.
This is most beneficial to relatively smaller retailers who are getting affected by Amazon's low prices and shipping fees. Also, as retail margins keep getting smaller (thanks to inflation and the ever-increasing logistics costs), having an extra revenue source has become more important for retailers.
Benefits for Advertisers
For advertisers, the most significant benefit is that retail media networks offer access to first-party data.
First-party data refers to data collected directly from a consumer. Retailers own and store this kind of data and allow partner brands to access them through their retail media programs.
First-party data is valuable because it is collected at the Point of Sale (POS), allowing brands to get deeper insights into consumer behavior using tools like Improvado.
Improvado enables marketing and sales teams with analysis-ready insights. This tool streamlines data from any retail media network and other marketing channels to transform data and bring more business context to raw performance metrics. With all data in one place, marketing teams can see where users fall out of the customer journey and understand how to allocate marketing dollars more efficiently.
Furthermore, with the imminent death of third-party cookies, marketers need a more reliable way of connecting with customers, and this is best achieved through first-party cookies.
Benefits for Consumers
Customers reap a few benefits from retail media as well. One of such benefits is better price control. With inflation and constantly rising logistics costs, retailers are tempted to raise their prices in a bid to balance the margins. Consumers are usually the ones that bear the brunt when such decisions come.
However, by offering retail media services, retailers can generate extra revenue to cancel out the effects of inflation and rising logistics costs. That way, they won't be quick to raise their product prices.
Secondly, retail media benefits consumers by offering them a personalized shopping experience.
Shoppers are known to pass through multiple touchpoints before purchasing a product. For example, a shopper clicks an ad for a laptop but ends up getting distracted by something else.
The next day, they see another ad for the same laptop while reading a blog or watching a YouTube video. But they eventually purchase that specific laptop on Amazon after making a search for “laptops” on the platform.
Retail media networks allow advertisers to show their products to customers who are most likely interested in their products.
Research by Salesforce showed that 66 % of consumers expect businesses to understand their unique needs. Another study revealed that 52% of online shoppers are happy to exchange their personal data for personalized offers.
Five Things to Consider before Choosing a Retail Media Network
The incredible success of retail media has led to its explosion in popularity. And with more retailers launching their own retail media services, advertisers are left with more options than ever. A few retail media networks are also expanding into DSPs, offering more complex and nuanced ways of connecting brands to shoppers.
Now, choosing the right retail media network has gotten more complicated for some advertisers. If you're in this category, here are five things you should consider before selecting a retail media network.
Naturally, you'd want to work with a retail media network that matches your budget. But that isn't enough. It would help if you did your due diligence to ensure that the platform in question has the capabilities to generate positive returns on your investments.
In the world of retail networks, size matters.
Amazon, with its large database of first-party customer data, will offer a wider reach than Wayfair, whose customer base is significantly smaller.
This is particularly important if your business sells a wide variety of products.
This has to do with the kind of goods the retailer is known for. If you're into furniture, it is better to partner with Home Depot or Wayfair than it is to partner with Amazon.
Of course, Amazon has a wider reach, but Home Depot and Wayfair have a laser-targeted customer base who are 100% interested in furniture and home improvement products.
Nature of Offerings
You'll also need to consider the nature of services the retailer offers. Does the retailer have onsite and offsite display capabilities?
You also have to consider how robust its onsite and offsite advertising features are. For instance, a retailer that partners with 100 third-party publishers will offer more reach than a retailer with 20 publishing partners.
Is there a way to measure your campaign's performance? How accurate are the retailer's reports, and how fast does it deliver?
Without proper reporting capabilities, you will struggle to ascertain how successful your campaigns on the network have been.
7 Best Retail Media Networks to Making Waves in 2022
Today, almost every major retailer runs a retail media program. Here, we will explore some of the major retail media networks in the industry, starting from general retail media platforms like Amazon down to connected retail media platforms like Criteo.
Let's get started.
General Retail Media Networks
These are retail media networks run by giant general retailers. They have access to an extensive repository of customer data across multiple niches.
Here are the top three:
1. Amazon Advertising
With 89% of the U.S. retail media ad spend in its records, Amazon is by far the biggest name in the retail media industry. As of mid-2021, the eCommerce giant has recorded over 200 million members in its Prime program in the U.S. alone. With these numbers, Amazon remains unmatched when it comes to access to in-depth transactional data.
Some of the offerings available on Amazon Advertising include:
- Sponsored products—For displaying product listings on specific pages such as product detail pages and shopping result pages across Amazon
- Sponsored Brands—For displaying a brand and its portfolio of products across pages on Amazon
- Sponsored Display—Allows advertisers to reach relevant audiences on Amazon and its offsite partners. Thus, advertisers can reach their audiences on all Amazon pages, Twitch, and third-party platforms.
2. Walmart Connect
Walmart Connect is the closest to Amazon in terms of revenue generated from retail media. With over 240 million visitors hitting its offline stores every week, Walmart has long established itself as the biggest retail business in the world.
According to ComScore, Walmart.com receives over 100 million unique visitors every month. With its expansion into retail media, the retail giant is set to help brands connect with relevant audiences across its digital channels.
Some of the offerings on Walmart Connect include:
- Search—Displays advertisers products in search result pages
- Display—Helps advertisers reach relevant audiences on Walmart's website, app, and third-party platforms
- In-store—Allows advertisers to connect with offline customers using over 170,000 in-store T.V. and point-of-purchase screens across over 4700 Walmart stores
3. Target Roundel
Target is the eighth biggest retail business in the U.S., with over 2 million daily visitors across 1900 stores. Its online properties attract over 30 million unique visitors every week.
Formerly known as Target Media Network, Roundel is Target's rebranded retail media platform.
With over a thousand partners, Roundel houses popular brands like Coca-cola, Microsoft, Unilever, and Disney.
Some of the solutions offered by Roundel include:
- Target Product Ads by Roundel—Displays sponsored products on top of search results within Target's website
- Target Search Ads by Roundel—Leads Target guests to your product listing through Roundel Ads when they perform searches on Google
- Display by Roundel—Allows brands to run display ads on Target's online properties as well as its 150+ publishers
- CTV by Roundel—Provides access to Target's partner publishers and streaming platforms like Discovery, HGTV, Food Network, and more.
Niche Retail Media Platforms
Niche retail media platforms are super-effective for advertisers because they provide access to highly targeted audiences, resulting in higher conversion rates.
We've highlighted two top-performing retailers based on factors such as ease of onboarding, offerings, and customer acquisition capabilities.
1. Retail Media+ by Home Depot
Home Depot is among the retail companies that saw a surge in revenue during the pandemic. Its retail media network offers a wide range of offerings for advertisers in the DIY/home improvement industry.
With over 2.2 billion annual online store visits, Retail Media+ promises high returns for advertisers who wish to leverage its first-party data.
Here are some offerings on Retail Media+:
- Onsite Advertising—Allows advertisers to reach Home Depot customers through ads on the retailer's online channels
- Offsite Advertising—Allows advertisers to reach customers who have viewed their product pages on Home Depot's online store through retargeted ads on offsite channels such as social media platforms
- Email Advertising—Provides ad placements within Home Depots promotional emails
Wayfair is an eCommerce company focusing on furniture and home goods. The company's website records over 770 monthly page views and 39 million unique visitors across its brands.
The company allows businesses to connect with its engaged visitors through the following offerings:
- Sponsored Products—Allows advertisers to promote products on specific pages across the website
- Standard Display—Integrates with multiple Display Ad Vendors through Waystack to help advertisers connect with Wayfair customers on third-party platforms
- Promotions—Gives advertisers the opportunity to have their products featured in Wayfair promotions
Connected Retail Media Platforms
The beauty of connected retail media platforms is their integration with multiple retail companies, empowering advertisers to scale by advertising across numerous retail media providers using just one account.
1. Criteo Retail Media
Criteo is an all-in-one self-service platform helping brands purchase retail media at scale. This enables advertisers to launch campaigns across multiple retail media networks while measuring and optimizing performances.
Some of the retailers that partner with Criteo include Walmart, Target, CVS, Staples, Best Buy, and over 40 other businesses in Canada, the E.U., and beyond.
Criteo also offers a retail media service for retailers who want to generate more revenue with their first-party data.
CitrusAd is a relatively newer arrival in the U.S. market, but the Australian-based retail media platform is backed by over 20 years of industry experience.
It allows advertisers to own a "digital shelf" with multiple retailers through sponsored products, banner advertising, branded landing pages, fixed tenancy, and more.
The platform partners with a myriad of retailers, including ShopRite, Target, Lowe's, Petco, and more across 22 countries.
Top 7 Retail Media Networks Comparison Table
Challenges of Working with Retail Media Networks
With retail media advertising poised to jump by 31.4% in 2022, the industry has experienced an upsurge in popularity. But with all the opportunities it presents, there are a few challenges that come along with it.
Here are some of the challenges marketers face when using RMNs.
Unequal Playing Field
One of the biggest cons of using RMNs is that smaller brands are usually overshadowed by bigger brands. Due to their considerably larger marketing budgets, bigger brands are able to outbid their smaller competitors and dominate the market.
Retail media benefits everyone, including small businesses. However, the ones with the big bucks will always get the largest share
Disparity Between RMNs
Single-retailer offerings dominate the retail media industry, each with its unique advertising capabilities and measurement and attribution standards. This fragmentation forces marketers to learn how to use different platforms, thus, increasing the level of skills and amount of resources needed to succeed with marketing campaigns.
Due to the wide disparity between RMNs, it is difficult to share data across platforms. This “walled garden” approach leaves brands with a half-baked view of their customers’ interactions at every point, and they end up making cross-platform decisions blindly.
Marketing ETL: The Ultimate Fix to Siloed Data
Data silos make it difficult for marketers to reach their full potential with their marketing campaigns. This is very common when partnering with multiple retailers as each retail media network treats its own data differently. However, a marketing ETL platform provides a reliable fix to this challenge.
Improvado is an ETL platform that helps marketers integrate data from multiple data sources into one destination. This enables marketers to break the “walled-gardens” associated with retail media networks.
You simply push data from all your marketing channels (including RMNs), house them in a data warehouse, and analyze your entire campaign from one location.
With integration to over 300 data sources, Improvado empowers marketers to make the best data-driven decisions by offering a unified view of their entire marketing data.