Retail Media Networks are Essential for Brands

More people are shopping online than ever before and this shift in consumer behavior is changing the way brands promote their products. In 2021 for the first time ever digital advertising accounted for well over half of global ad spend.

While brands have become accustomed to targeting audiences as they browse social media or research products on Google now is the time to take advantage of retail media networks and connect with consumers as they shop.

What is Retail Media?

The ads that are featured on a retail website app or marketplace are known as retail media. And the retailers that host these ads are retail media networks. The major benefit of retail media networks is that they allow brands to advertise their products as consumers shop. Because it is near the point of sale and your audience is actively seeking out products they're more likely to convert.

Your ad could appear when someone types a relevant search term into Amazon or as shoppers browse a particular product category on their favorite supermarket site. This is the eCommerce equivalent of in-store advertising and it can help brands capture audiences at the most influential point in the digital consumer journey.

Retail media networks open up digital spaces that were previously off-limits to brands. Amazon led the way by introducing its sponsored ads. Now other online retailers are following in their footsteps.

The advantages of Retail Media Networks

Retail media networks have far-reaching consequences for all eCommerce stakeholders.

For online retailers it provides a new revenue stream which is huge when you consider that CPG profit margins have been decreasing. For the end consumer it means lower and more consistent prices because stores want to avoid sudden price hikes that could negatively impact traffic and ad revenue. These highly targeted ads tend to be more relevant and less annoying too.

Retail media is also changing the way shoppers and brands interact. While it will take some time for brands to get used to it is worth the investment because of all the unique advantages retail media offers them. These include:

1. In-depth data

Because sales take place on their platforms each retail media network can collect first-party data on buyer behavior. This is more reliable than the data coming through third-party cookies. And with all internet browsers moving to phase out the use of third-party cookies it's futureproof too.

The data collected varies a lot but if the retail media network you choose has a loyalty program it may have access to in-depth and insightful information about shoppers that will allow you to target and customize your ads for maximum impact.

According to data from eMarketer this is the main reason CPG brands chose to work with retail media networks in 2021. A massive 62% of respondents cited it as their motivation. Although it's not just CPG brands that are taking advantage of retail media networks. According to recent research from McKinsey 75% of non-CPG advertisers plan to increase their spending in this area.

2. Next level personalization

Retail media allows you to customize your message to increase sales improve ROI and provide a seamless customer experience. But you can go even further by personalizing your offers to appeal to different audience segments.

As an example of the high-quality targeting available let's look at US supermarket Kroger. Loyalty cards are used with 96% of transactions on its retail site so brands can target shoppers based on everything from household size to personal preferences like their favorited flavors. Many retail media networks even enable brands to send their customers enticing offers coupons and highly relevant email promotions.

This level of personalization makes it easy for brands to attract new customers and introduce current users to new products.

3. Perfectly timed ads

Retail media allows you to get your message to consumers who are in shopping mode. They are on a retail website ready to buy a product so there's no better time to promote your brand. Conversions are just one click away.

When executed effectively retail media ads are distinctive and prominently placed so they're a great way to stand out and gain prominence on the digital shelf.

4. Clear conversion tracking

Because ad impressions and sales take place on the same platform you can accurately track the impact of your ads.

This provides clear ROI insights and allows you to invest more in the strategies that boost your bottom line the most. With the likes of Facebook and Google there isn't the same level of accountability because the consumer journey can't always be tracked to the point of sale.

With research showing that 74% of brands now have dedicated budgets for retail media networks there is no doubt that the above benefits have won businesses over.

Top retail media networks in 2023

The biggest retailers and marketplaces around the world are turning their platforms into retail media networks to increase their profits. Here are some of the most popular and well-established players on the international stage right now:

1. Amazon

For many consumers around the globe Amazon is their go-to shopping platform. With so many product categories available most people can find what they need there. As a retail media network this also means it can accommodate ads from brands across every niche. Considering that 89% of last year's retail media spend went directly to Amazon it's clearly appealing to many of them.

Amazon Advertising offers the potential to maximise marketplace sales and beat out competitors. Similar to Google Ads Amazon uses a self-service platform that allows brands to bid on keywords. They only pay whenever an ad is clicked too.

Amazon offers three main ad types:

- Sponsored product ads which appear alongside organic results when shoppers conduct a search.

- Sponsored brand ads which display your brand's logo along with a selection of products.

- Sponsored display ads which showcase your brand and target shoppers based on their behavior and demographics rather than keywords.

Beyond its own retail platforms Amazon also offers video audio and sponsored display ads across its ad network.

2. eBay

eBay is another marketplace where brands across all industries can sell their wares. Its promoted listings look just like regular listings with two differences: they're labelled as 'Sponsored' and they appear at the top of search results. They can pop up on product pages as 'suggested' or 'related' items too.

For brands that want to build broader awareness of their products eBay marketing offers display ads on the homepage and category pages.

3. Criteo

Criteo is a retail media network that allows brands to advertise their products across a wide range of websites through one convenient central platform.

Right now brands can use Criteo to buy ads across the likes of Costco Target Best Buy CVS Walgreens Staples Walmart Kohl's Meijer and Macy's. So whatever vertical your brand is in you should be able to find a selection of ad placements to suit your needs.

Criteo recently launched its retail media offering in Europe too so more ad spaces with major retailers are likely to come on-stream soon.

4. Walmart

Walmart which sells groceries electronics beauty products furniture hardware and clothing also has its own ad centre. So brands that sell a wide range of products can take advantage of its massive stockpile of shopper data.

Here brands can get their hands on sponsored product listings which will appear in search results or the Walmart Buy Box. They can also run attention-grabbing display ads in high traffic areas of the site and app. Expandable rich media and in-banner video options are all available too. Walmart Connect has even begun to offer advertisers the option to show their ads in-store at self-service checkouts and along relevant aisles.

Brands can target Walmart consumers in the US and Canada. However they can also reach the UK market through its Asda retail media network. Asda also allows you to email review requests to past purchasers.

5. Wayfair

Wayfair sells furniture and homewares to consumers across the US the UK Germany and Canada. Brands that sell products through its marketplace can create sponsored product listings display ads featured videos native advertising placements or custom promotions.

Its in-house advertising platform also uses AI to customize your ad content for each customer. This aims to maximise conversions.

6. Home Depot

U.S. home improvement retailer Home Depot has its own advertising business known as Retail Media+. This retail media network offers brands an array of advertising options including onsite ads offsite ads and email marketing. With 2.2 billion users visiting the Home Depot website each year this is a prime opportunity to target customers with retail media ads.

7. Kroger

Kroger an American retailer that primarily operates supermarkets and department stores across the US has its own retail media network called Kroger Precision Marketing. Through this brands have the opportunity to run sponsored search and display ads directly on Kroger channels. However it also offers sophisticated off-site advertising options including display ads social media promotions and OTT ads too. It can also support brands with product launches household penetration and event and promotion amplification.

8. Instacart

Instacart is an American grocery delivery and pick-up service that operates through a website app and partnerships with various retailers. Their retail media network offers brands a straightforward method of promoting selected products. Within their portal brands simply choose the products they would like sponsored pay and then track their performance.


The Italian marketplace ePRICE offers a Sponsored Products service with a cost-per-click model. Brands can select products to sponsor and monitor performance in real-time directly from the platform. Campaigns can also be instantly optimised to achieve peak performance.

10. Roundel

Roundel is part of Target which is the eighth largest retailer in the US with over 1900 brick-and-mortar locations.

Through Roundel Target offers brands sponsored product ads which appear in the search results of its website. Then there's also placements available in Google searches on streaming platforms and across the site's of its partner publishers.

11. CitrusAd

CitrusAd offers sponsored product placement and banner advertising. But perhaps most uniquely it allows advertisers to pay for a 'Fixed tenancy'. This means you can secure the top selling positions in the stores of certain retail partners.

This Australia-based retail media platform has over 70 retail partners across 22 countries. They include ShopRite Target Lowe's Petco Macy's Tesco and Kohl's - to name just a few.

12. The Trade Desk

The Trade Desk provides all sorts of advertising opportunities and it recently expanded into retail media. Its partners include Albertsons Safeway and United Supermarkets.

It's the ideal option for brands that already use this DSP for their ad buys. Plus its first-party retail data can be used to better target other ad types too.

13. CVS Media Exchange

CVS was one of the first stores to establish its own retail media network. The retailer allows brands to place product ads on their website as well as across third-party platforms using its in-depth first-party data.

With lots of retail locations a loyalty programme and a popular website this is a great retail media option for many brands.

14. Walgreens Advertising Group

Walgreens offers ad placements on its online store in its physical retail stores and across a number of third-party platforms including social media and search engines. Like CVS the big attraction of this platform is the first-party data available. This empowers brands to target relevant consumers for the best ROAS possible.

15. Best Buy Ads

Best Buy specialises in electronics computers appliances video games and thousands of other tech products. It's been around for over 50 years and in early 2022 it launched Best Buy Ads which brought its in-depth customer data to advertisers.

Best Buy offers a comprehensive range of advertising options including search ads display ads video ads social media ads and in-store promotions.

What to consider when choosing retail media networks

The rapid growth of retail media means more and more advertisers are making it part of their marketing. However the growing number of retail media networks available means it can be difficult to know how to get started.

Which retail media networks should you choose? Do you need a complete DSP or will a simpler option do?

To make the process easier here are a couple of things to consider:

Your resources

Obviously you should pick a retail media network that suits your ecommerce budget and the abilities of your marketing team.

If you have the resources needed to run a huge multichannel multinational campaign consider signing up to the likes of CitrusAd or The Trade Desk. However the likes of Amazon Advertising or Walmart Connect can easily cater to the needs of both big and small brands.

Your niche

It also makes sense to choose a platform that suits your product niche. For example furniture manufacturers are likely to find success with retail media networks like Home Depot or Wayfair while an electronics brand is more likely to win sales with Amazon or Best Buy.

Finding a retail partner whose niche matches your own will bring you closer to your audience.

The services on offer

What kind of ads will you need now and in the future? If in-store displays make sense look at the likes of Walmart Best Buy and Target. If you're looking for the opportunity to create expansive multichannel campaigns look to the retail media networks with the most third-party publishers. However if international advertising is a priority Amazon eBay and CitrusAd may be a better fit.

The tracking capabilities available

Once you've narrowed down your list of retail media networks start looking at the kind of analytics they provide. Find out how accurate each retailer's reports are. Are they available in real-time? What information do they include?

In-depth reporting is essential to understanding whether or not your retail media campaigns are working so this is a key factor to consider when choosing your networks.

Other types of retail advertising in digital media

1. Shoppable media

Shoppable media also known as shoppable content is any marketing content that provides a direct pathway to the product page or checkout. The primary benefit of shoppable media is that it meets the consumer demand for convenience. As all digital assets including static ads social media ads and videos can become shoppable it enables brands to meet customers where they shop and provides a convenient pathway to purchase. With at least 40% of marketers already using shoppable media it is becoming an increasingly important advertising and sales channel.

2. OTT advertising

OTT advertising or over-the-top advertising is delivered to internet users through video streaming services and devices. It uses data-driven segmentation and personalisation to target relevant viewers and is much more specific than traditional television advertisements. As the prevalence of streaming entertainment online grows OTT advertising offers a prime opportunity to reach a targeted and engaged audience.

3. Live commerce

Live commerce or livestream shopping is a modern take on traditional home shopping television. Back in 2016 Alibaba pioneered livestream shopping when it launched its Taobao Live platform. However since then it has quickly become a globally popular channel. In the US the most popular live commerce platforms include YouTube Amazon Live and Facebook Live Shopping. The total revenue from live commerce is expected to reach $35 billion by 2024. By combining shopping and entertainment this advertising option provides brands with ample opportunities to engage customers.

Final thoughts

Retail media networks have a lot to offer brands in terms of reach and targeting options. As more brands take advantage of these strategically placed ads it will lead to a competitive marketplace environment for your products. But by carefully choosing the best retail media networks for your needs and creating a comprehensive multichannel ad strategy brands can be sure to reap the benefits of retail media.

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