ANA: Brands Shifting Shopper, Trade & Brand Marketing Budgets To Retail Media

A new ANA report on retail media networks characterizes marketers as “reluctant buyers” who embrace RMNs with mixed feelings.  

The study (titled, “Retail Media Networks: A Forced Marriage or Perfect Partnership?’) revealed that brands view RMNs as “have to buy” versus a “want to buy.” 

A survey underpinning the report found that 88% of respondents believe they are somewhat or heavily influenced by retailers to buy advertising on their RMNs. The survey conducted last summer polled 138 members, 80 of whom utilize RMNs. A follow-up qualitative survey was also used to gather additional insights for the report. 

The report found that a majority--two-thirds of respondents—use RMN’s “to drive conversion (sales)” as the most important objective. Only 12% indicated “to invest for future brand growth” was the most important objective. 



In the report, a retail media network is defined as a network of digital channels owned by a retailer that allows marketers to purchase advertising space directed by the retailer’s first-party data to targeted shoppers and prospects. Retail media advertising can include online display advertising and paid search across retailer assets, as well as off-site display, video, and social placements (i.e., to other web and social sites) targeted by the retailer’s first-party data. 

“The rapid proliferation of RMNs have made them a must-buy media platform for brands, yet they have also created more marketing decision-making complexity for advertisers,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. 

The report attributed the increased spending and overall growth of RMNs to a relatively recent confluence of technological, privacy, and behavioral shifts in society, including: 

  • Retailers recognized an opportunity to create new and high-margin revenue streams by selling advertiser access to their audiences and site traffic. With RMN overall operating margins in the range of 50% to 70%, retailers with historical single-digit margins have unlocked enormous economic potential via the monetization of their shopper touchpoints, interactions, and intelligence. 
  • The impending demise of third-party cookies has shifted marketers’ focus to building first-party databases to enable the continued deployment of targeted digital ads and customer engagement, and RMNs own a treasure trove of first-party shopper data. 
  • A shift in consumer shopping habits and buying options, driven by two years of COVID lockdown, has resulted in the proliferation of new and direct shopping channels. Retailers experienced exponential growth in online traffic, interactions, and transactions with their shoppers, amassing audience traffic comparable to many ad-supported digital media platforms. 

Respondents also said spending on RMNs was not incremental and was being shifted to RMNs from existing budgets for shopper marketing, brand marketing, and trade spending.  

And there is concern that those shifts would result in an emphasis on driving short-term sales at the expense of building brand equity. 

That said advertisers are optimistic about the future of RMNs. Most brands said they expect that both their investment in RMNs, and the effectiveness of their programs will increase in the coming years.  52% believe RMNs will be viewed more positively as a “valuable marketing tool” in the next two years, compared to 31% currently viewing RMNs that way. 

The report also found: 

  • 56% said they are currently working with five or more different RMNs, and 58% of respondents said they expect to be using more RMNs than they do now over the next two years. 
  • RMNs are considered foundational platforms for brands. They are seen as recession-proof, less prone to budget cuts in more challenging economic times, and a way to counter potential shopper shifts to store brands. 
  • Lack of standardization across RMN platforms poses a challenge. Brands believe a lack of measurement standardization and transparency are preventing advertisers from deriving full value from their RMN investments. Improvement is needed and expected in these areas. 
  • Advertisers believe that although their RMN activations are not fully optimized to deliver expected KPIs, they can eventually get there, as 73% said they expect to be spending somewhat or significantly more on RMNs in the future than they spend today. 

The full report can be accessed here.

eMarketer has projected RMN ad revenue will reach $52 billion in 2023, and $61 billion in 2024, capturing one in five digital ad dollars spent by marketers.

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