Technology Adtech Brand Strategy

What does retail media need from adtech partners to reach its full potential?


By Chris Sutcliffe | Senior reporter

April 21, 2023 | 7 min read

Adtech was singled out at the IAB Europe’s Retail Media Landscape conference as the empowering factor that will ultimately grow this space. Here’s what the experts said.

A shopper picking up a crate of water in a supermarket

The IAB event panellists discussed what they need from adtech partners to grow the ecosystem / Boxed Water Is Better

Panelists at the IAB Europe’s Retail Media Landscape conference were confident that its forecast of £25bn retail media spend in Europe will be achieved by 2026, equaling spend in TV. But amid the boom there are difficulties. The number of active retail networks in EMEA has doubled in two years. Agencies are spoiled for choice. Retailers need a lot from adtech partners in order to stand out.

The key message from the conference was that retail media’s first-party insights are hard to replicate in any other channels. Ocado Retail’s adtech and data partnerships lead Ben O’Mahoney explained to attendees: “Some of the key attributes we have are online-only. There’s no tap of a loyalty card, we capture 100% of the customer data."

But even that has room to grow. “The final piece in demonstrating our capabilities – and something that gets lost – is we’re supplier services but we also need to prove back to the retailer we’re driving loyalty… This leads to having that connection between the advertiser and us as a retailer, and the consumers having that best advertising experience.”

To that end, he says that the ability to prove incrementality is one of the great strengths of retail media. It is a more direct method of evaluating the effectiveness of ad spend, which with the increased focus on ROAS (return on ad spend) over the next few years will be a bigger draw for advertisers.

But there are still significant challenges to be overcome. As other panelists told attendees, the presence of retail giants such as Amazon makes creating and enforcing any universal measurements and heuristics difficult. O’Mahoney said: “Standardization will get us there in the long run... being able to standardize what measurement looks like will help us grow our capabilities.”

He stated that the biggest impediment to growth in the space is the complexity of tools, a position echoed by many of the other participants. It was pointed out that until tools are relatively easy to understand, brands and agencies practically require data scientists, and that costs of attribution tech are hindering developments.

Adtech solutions

Other panelists believe that tech solutions such as data clean rooms will inevitably help to solve those issues in a way that protects user privacy. Some are even hopeful that the rise of standardization will allow retail media partnerships to deal with companies such as Amazon on a more equal basis.

Adtech was singled out multiple times as being the empowering factor that will ultimately grow retail media. Amir Rasekh, director of Nectar360, explained its approach as a blend of in-house and partner solutions: “This gives us unique flexibility and enables us to scale, ensuring we build expertise in-house. It also allows for speed to market and agility in reflecting the needs of clients, which is what we are told they need in a market that is evolving at breakneck speed.

Rasekh added: “It’s critical that retailers leverage omnichannel platforms capable of supporting shopping behaviors across a range of contexts and environments, with the aim of delivering exceptional customer experiences at each and every stage of the shopping journey.”

The opportunity to use retail media not as a single channel but as part of a wider media mix was also highlighted multiple times at the conference. Speaking to The Drum, Stephen Shepherd, media strategy and partnerships director at data specialists Dunnhumby, said: “There are huge opportunities in retail media, whether it’s a more significant understanding of TV brand and performance metrics, such as through Tesco Media and Insight Platform’s partnerships with Sky and ITV, or the evolution of offsite with partners such as The Trade Desk.

“At Tesco Media and Insight Platform, powered by Dunnhumby, we’ll also be seeing more connected store activations using targeted dynamic creative via digital screens, allowing CPGs to measure and optimize in real or near real-time.”

From the tech provider point of view, there is a similar desire for collaboration – albeit with a more direct benefit to the providers themselves.

Lavinia Benon-Stanescu, data partnerships director for The Trade Desk, said: “We hope to see advertisers providing us feedback on the existing solutions. If we can help build that priority list, we can go towards standardization.”

The future for retail media looks solid, with widespread recognition of what is required to grow the ecosystem holistically. As with everything, however, getting all the players in line and agreeing to coexist will be the biggest challenge.

For more insights and the opportunity to contribute, subscribe to The Drum’s Media Agency Briefing.

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