Retail Media Networks Will Be The Next Big Advertising Channel

8 Dec 2022

The fastest growing ad-supported digital media channel is Retail Media Networks (RMN’s). It’s a retail-owned digital platform that sells ad space to marketers. With RMNs advertisers gain access to a retailer's first-party data such as purchases made at the point-of-sale that enhance a marketer’s targeting capabilities with personalized messaging. Another advantage is an advertiser can send a relevant message when a consumer is in a shopping mode instead of using other digital platforms and in a brand safe environment. Additionally, accessing first-party data from retailers is a suitable and privacy compliant replacement for cookies.

GroupM estimates globally retailers garnered $88 billion in ad revenue last year and will reach $101 billion this year. This represents 18% of all global digital advertising and 11% of all advertising. GroupM projects retail media advertising to grow by about 60% by 2027, exceeding the expected growth for all digital advertising.

Forrester projects strong ad revenue growth for RMN’s in the U.S. market with ad dollars doubling over the next four years. McKinsey is also forecasting robust growth, expecting ad spend to grow from approximately $45 billion to over $100 billion by 2026. Fueling the growth are advertisers, it was reported this year 74% of brands have a separate retail media budget, a threefold increase from 2021. McKinsey expects 80% of RMN ad spend will stem from incremental ad budget increases. eMarketer predicts RMNs will be the third big wave in digital advertising following search and social.

Rick Ducey, ManagingDirector, BIA Advisory Services, says, “Retail Media Networks have become a valuable resource in brands’ marketing mix. As retailers become their own media, selling available ad inventory in their digital platforms (websites, mobile apps, social media, etc.), is a no-brainer and a win-win for the retailer and the brands they carry to engage consumers in their purchase journey at the point of sale.”

Ducey adds, “This inventory is accessible programmatically. But what if…local media publishers also rep this ad inventory. Some large media companies have hundreds and hundreds of local sellers on the streets who could sell that premium inventory at higher rates than can be achieved in programmatic platforms.”

In its latest ad spend forecast Magna Global said large retailers have been developing advertising sales through keyword search or display ads on apps and websites as e-commerce revenue continues to flourish. Magna notes, retail media is being fueled primarily by consumer brands that are reallocating their “below-the-line”, trade-marketing in-store budgets toward digital retail networks. In addition, retail-owned media networks tend to be immune from the privacy-based limitations on data usage and targeting, since they are accessing their own first-party data.

Nikhil Lai, Senior Analyst, Performance Marketing at Forrester says, “Advertisers use of RMNs encompasses the entire purchase funnel from awareness to point of purchase. Essentially, retail media holds the entire funnel accountable to delivering a verifiable revenue impact. In addition, the results of retail media campaigns can inform brands’ pricing, product, packaging, and distribution strategies.”

With retail media network’s ability to link impressions to direct purchases, a McKinsey report found 70% of marketers had enhanced returns from advertising on retail media networks compared to other media. As a result, the estimated cost-per-thousand CPMs to advertise on a retail media network are costly in the range of $20 to $50 making it comparable in pricing to connected TV.

While RMN’s have been around for several years, its usage quickened during the pandemic when stay-at-home consumers relied heavily on ecommerce. Last year the ad revenue for Amazon (AMZN -3.4%) Advertising, the largest RMN, totaled $31 billion, a year-over-year increase of 48%. With double-digit growth expected again this year, Amazon could reach $40 billion in 2022.

The revenue success Amazon has experienced has prompted other retailers to ramp up their retail network capabilities which involves building the infrastructure and hiring talent. Walmart (WMT -0.8%), Target (TGT -3.8%) and Kroger (KR -0.6%) have been actively collecting shopper data and improving their advertising capabilities.

There are however, many other prominent retailers that have launched an RMN recently with more expected. For example, CVS launched the CVS Media Exchange and competitor Walgreens (WBA -1.7%) started the Walgreen Advertising Group. Also, Dollar General (DG -1.3%), Ulta Beauty, Petco, eBay. Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Marriott, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Macy’s, Best Buy (BBY -3%), Michael’s, Nordstrom, Kroger and Albertson’s (that have announced plans to merge).

According to Forrester’s fourth quarter 2022 “CMO Pulse Survey”, 45% of advertisers say that their biggest challenge with retail media is that they have “too many RMN’s to manage,” 40% say their biggest challenge is difficulty comparing performance across RMNs.

Forrester’s Nikhil Lai says, “Advertisers should prioritize a few networks, rather than spreading their budgets too thin across dozens of RMNs. To solve the challenge, advertisers should work with solution providers, like Skai, Pacvue, MikMak, and CommerceIQ, who provide visibility across RMNs.” Forrester reports one-quarter of retailers with an RMN are making over $100 million in annual ad revenue.

eMarketer estimates in 2022 Amazon will have a 76.9% share of retail digital media ad spend. By comparison, Walmart is the second largest at 6.1%, followed by Instacart at 1.9%. The gap between Amazon and rival retailers have been slowly narrowing. For example, in 2021 Walmart’s RMN Walmart Connect generated $2.1 billion ad revenue, a 136% increase from 2021. Target’s RMN rebranded as Roundel reached $1 billion in ad spend last year. This year Instacart is expected to surpass $1 billion for the first time.

Forrester reports on average the margins for RMNs range from 50-70% and even more with on-site advertising at 70%-80%, notably higher than other ad-supported media. Forrester’s, Nikhil Lai, notes, “Advertising’s high-margin income offsets losses in other parts of retailers’ businesses, such as first-party product sales, third-party seller fees, physical store sales, and subscription services.”

Financially, the future of RMNs is promising. Nikhil Lin expects growth will come from such data poor product categories as CPG and consumer electronic brands. Both verticals want to influence shoppers at the point-of-sale and are driving the adoption of retail media today and for the foreseeable future.

The growth of RMNs come at a time when despite inflation and other concerns about the economy, ecommerce has been setting records. Adobe Analytics reports this year Black Friday generated a record $9.12 billion in sales, a 2.3% increase surpassing $9 billion for the first time. Online sales for Cyber Monday also set a record totaling $11.3 billion for the day, +5.8% from 2021.

Source: Forbes, Brad Adgate