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Retail Media: The Retailer Becomes the Conductor

New York City | The hype around retail media is huge: more and more DooH networks are moving from outdoor locations to the POS, retailer are searching for new revenue streams, and digital signage providers believe they hit a gold streak. Retail media networks have emerged as “the next big thing,” and all stakeholders are eager not to miss out on the trend. Who are the players in control and what is retail media all about?

When over 400 retail media network experts (media managers, retailers, professional service organizations) attend a conference at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning at the start of a holiday weekend, there must be an important occasion: the first all-day Retail Media Network conference organized by the US National Retail Association (NRF) and Stratacache.

Retail media is one of the beacons of hope for retail companies that are forced to realign their business models after the pandemic. Amazon and Walmart are implying the possibilities: Amazon achieved $38 billion in sales with retail media in 2022, the lion’s share of it being online. Walmart markets 170,000 in-store screens and increased retail media sales by 40%.

More relevant for Europe is Carrefour, which counts 8 billion transactions annually with 80 million customers. Huge potential for Carrefour’s over 300 brand partners to influence customer decisions via retail media. Almost all large retailers started in-house retail media units – the majority were only founded in the last 2-3 years.

McKinsey estimates that the global retail media market will grow to over USD 100 billion in 2024. The potential is huge and explains why top-class experts from McKinsey, Accenture, Solomon met with retail experts from Walmart, Albertsons & Co on the day before the NRF.

Retail Media – from promise to performance in-store

Retail media is fundamentally nothing new; retailers have been monetizing the PoS with trade marketing budgets, listing fees and many other programs for decades. But with the rise of eCommerce, the availability of data and new in-store technologies, retail media is experiencing a boom. Fueled by Amazon who have developed retail media into an integral part of their business model.

Exact figures are not available, but well over 90% of retail media sales have so far been generated online. But in-store retail media has been growing extremely quickly since the pandemic – especially due to the high frequency of shoppers in food retail.

Europe is leading the way when it comes to in-store retail media and is 3-5 years ahead of North America. It’s hardly surprising comparing the shopping experience in a typical American supermarket with European stores. Besides retailers, the DooH industry which discovered its potential during the pandemic, is also driving the build-up of retail media networks in Europe.

Not all retail screens are retail media

Even though all screens around and in stores are currently being advertised as retail media, the networks are generally divided into two categories according to budget sources:

Audience media

  • Outdoor DooH Screens – Monetization of Outdoor Audience (programmatic)
  • Retail Media Screens – monetization of store traffic (programmatic) in the entrance area

Shopper marketing

  • In-store communication – intelligent digital signage content in the aisle / in highlight zones to inform buyers and influence purchasing decisions
  • End-Cap / Shelf Activation – Activate product interaction and purchase

While sales of audience media follows DooH rules – including programmatic – shopper marketing aims at direct activation at the PoS. Here too, data is essential – but first-party data from the retailer such as sales data etc. in order to track the effects of the marketing activity.

Whether audience or transaction – a robust digital signage infrastructure is necessary for both retail media network types. Lots of potential for hardware, software providers and integrators.

Where is Instore Retail Media at the beginning of 2024?

As has long been the case in the DooH market, shopper marketing lacks standards and transparent metrics for retailers, brands and consumers. However, the number of omnichannel retail media networks is growing rapidly and with it the inventory – Deloitte currently tracks 120 relevant retail media networks worldwide.

More and more non-retailers such as hotel chains, fitness clubs etc. are following the retail media trend in order to market one-to-one offline customer contacts in addition to audience (DooH). The so-called “Commerce Media” Networks now complement “Retail Media”


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