The Future of Retail Media Isn't Just Online

Brands have used traditional retail media ads to reach shoppers for as long as stores have existed. These lower-funnel campaigns are typically found in-store or offline in the form of coupon mailers and static signage. Marketing close to the point of sale is a convenient way to remind shoppers to buy products while they’re already at the store. 

Like other forms of advertising, retail media has evolved significantly. As shoppers made more purchases online, retail advertisers shifted marketing spend to channels like digital ads, social media promos, and mobile coupon codes. E-commerce sites and major brands are serving ads directly to shoppers on their own websites and brands pay these organizations to list their products prominently on the site and entice buyers to purchase them. 

But before you go all in online, consider this: nearly 90% of grocery retail spending still happens in physical stores. Marketing teams should consider taking a more holistic approach to their retail media strategy and combining online and in-store campaigns to accomplish goals beyond just sales lift.



Here’s what marketers need to know about the future of retail media and some ways they can start expanding their in-store reach now. 

There’s confusion about who owns retail media and how it should be measured. It often gets placed within shopper marketing due to its tie to specific retailers. This, in turn, means the default metric is sales lift or return on ad spend. However, today’s retail media has capabilities beyond traditional in-store marketing and should be viewed in terms of its impact at multiple stages of a campaign. As retail media measurement techniques continue to improve, we can expect to see this channel increasingly leveraged by multiple teams (brand and shopper)—and ideally overseen by the CMO. 

Embracing the future of retail media: think small

If you think retail media is just for huge retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Target, think again: About half the market is represented by smaller retailers that can provide brands with ample opportunity to reach their shoppers. In fact, most consumers trust small businesses over big-box retailers when it comes to quality and satisfaction. 

Smaller retailers can stay competitive in the retail media space by embracing and implementing modern ad strategies. Here are a few key things you can do to capitalize on this growing opportunity.

1. Look beyond online advertising

Online advertising is an important component of modern digital marketing, but it accounts for just 10% of grocery retail spend. Modern technology gives brands an opportunity to affect the 90% of dollars that are spent in physical retail.

For instance, digital screens in store aisles, checkout counters, and parking lots of grocery stores offer opportunities for ad campaigns that encourage additional purchases or increase brand awareness by providing a frequent touchpoint in a high-traffic area. One common mistake brands make is directly comparing digital in-store advertising with its online counterpart. In order to be successful, brands should look at the unique benefits of brick-and-mortar including, ad viewability, brand safety, and dwell time.

2. Consider the entire customer journey

Consider the larger context in which shoppers engage with their in-store ads, which means thinking about what they are doing before and after their shopping trip.

For example, a bank may want to advertise in a grocery store or mall because people literally have their wallets out and are thinking about how they could gain points from using certain credit cards. The bank, considering the customer journey, knows that people will be more likely to think about their purchasing habits and spending money while using their credit cards at a grocery store.

3. Seek opportunities that deliver real value to your brand

Major online retailers are pushing brands to invest in retail media as part of their ad campaigns. However, this push can’t just be a “tax” on brands, especially since most brands are not getting favorable returns on their ad spend with retail media networks.

As media networks develop and evolve, we’ll see even more creative ways to incorporate retail media into the shopper experience while helping brands achieve their marketing objectives. These networks will need to deliver real value and provide shoppers with a better overall experience to make the investment worth it for brands. Online is important, but it’s a tiny fraction of the market. 

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