Focus On Consumer Journeys, Outcomes To Optimize Retail Media Investments

Retail media networks (RMNs) such as Roundel, Walmart Connect and Amazon Advertising have seen massive growth. Since their inception, they’ve filled a huge gap. Providing advertisers a conduit to both audiences (1st party) and channels (retail sites, apps, etc.) they previously couldn’t access.  It’s all led to a gold rush mentality luring dollars towards retail media. One that has sparked both the proliferation of RMNs and an expansion of their available tactics. 

The impetus behind this tactical growth path for RMNs is simple – create a full funnel offering, unlocking even more advertising dollars in the process. 

But as the retail media funnel elongates, advertisers are realizing it also needs to coalesce with the larger marketing funnel. They can’t be siloed; owned by separate, non-communicating entities in corporate structures. The funnels need to converge, with retail media rolling up into an overall marketing budget, vying for share. 



How is this accomplished? Well, bright, shiny tactical pieces (search, programmatic, etc.) are often the focus. But it’s really the work done within the bookends – before and after those tactics launch – that determine the path. 

Laying the Groundwork 

Thinking Beyond Lower Funnel

When talk shifts to the foundation of a media buy, it’s planning that becomes the focus. Identifying audiences, aligning tactics, developing messaging; it’s the pre-work that can make or break campaigns. It’s also a step that was often missing in early, lower funnel-focused retail media interactions. 

But now, with their newly expansive tactical offerings such as OLV, DOOH, CTV, etc., RMN interactions demand more. They require planning, strategy and alignment with the foundational efforts behind the consumer journey process. 

Retail Media and the Consumer Journey

Understanding the consumer at each stage of the funnel is incredibly important. Mapping the journey - in its purest form - involves first- and third-party data, primary and syndicated research, in addition to fast data from search, social, and analytics. With this information (and the insights derived) brands can conceptualize their consumer to better understand: 

  • Where they conduct their research (online, word-of-mouth, etc.)
  • What tactics they interact with (social, search, etc.)
  • What impact moments drive conversion (what compels them to purchase)
  • Which omni-channel paths they purchase via (BOPIS, online, etc.)

The funnel is a living, breathing thing. It shifts, changes; just like the consumers within it. The adoption of shoppable media tactics has made it even more chaotic. Consumers can deviate from their path at a moment’s notice - either converting or abandoning in an unpredictable fashion. The shoppable piece adds a combustible, almost flash paper-esque quality to the funnel. In some cases, collapsing it entirely. 

Understanding consumers via purchase preferences has never been more important, and forward- thinking advertisers are incorporating such questions into their consumer research process. Questions that focus on channels, retailers and omni-channel preferences across their consumers. 

They’re also finding ways to incorporate the eventual outputs into their overall buy. Using a concrete understanding of their audiences, preferred channels, etc. to guide investment across digital and retail. 

Understanding Outcomes 

Via Measurement

After laying the groundwork by gaining an understanding of the consumer, tactics, and goals; the campaign runs. Then, post-activation the other bookend of retail media comes into play – the outcomes

Most RMNs have focused heavily on providing adequate measurement options that extend beyond – or provide a path towards – return on ad spend (ROAS). Offering studies around lift, incrementality, foot traffic, etc. that can be had if certain spend thresholds are met. But advertisers are now looking even deeper into outcomes. Demanding access to impression data at the individual user-level to better understand results within – and across – tactics.  

Via Analytics Solutions

Amazon Marketing Cloud (AMC) is the best example – a holistic measurement and analytics solution providing access to anonymized user-level data that can be accessed via Structure Query Language (SQL). Then pulled apart and pieced back together in just about any way imaginable. 

Advertisers can now run queries to understand how their DSP campaigns affected their search campaigns within Amazon’s advertising ecosystem. Melding together previously disjointed and siloed activities in a manner designed to inform the next go-round. 

With AMC and in-house, proprietary tools, advertisers can access anonymous, user-level impression data to reverse engineer interactions via multi-touch attribution (MTA). A process that provides fractional outputs for previously binary, last-click values – assigning credit to unique interactions along the consumer pathway. 

In a nutshell, AMC gives credit where credit is due. Multiple tactics can run simultaneously with their true effect on consumers tallied via AMC and 3rd party or proprietary modeling and measurement tools. Thus helping advertisers understand where their money is best spent across a plethora of activation options within retail media. 

Pulling it All Together 

RMNs have driven incredible growth – across both their revenue and offerings – in the past few years. The tactical routes advertisers can take rival – and should vie for dollars against – most efforts in the larger digital ecosystem. But advertisers will never get as much as possible out of these tactics without doing their pre- and post-work. 

A focus on the bookends of retail media – consumer journeys and outcomes – is what separates good retail media efforts from great ones.


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