Meijer Expands Media Network, Deepens Data Sharing

Meijer may be a grocery name everyone in Michigan knows. But thanks to enhanced measurement tools, the Grand Rapids-based regional chain thinks it should be on the lips of national brands looking to better connect with Midwestern shoppers. And like the hundreds of retailers rolling out ad networks, the company is carefully balancing retail media's revenue potential against fickle shoppers' brand expectations. Derek Steele, group vice president of customer strategy and marketing, and Jeff Leitch, director of Meijer Media and category marketing, tells Retail Insider how the company is trying to stand out from larger competitors.

Retail Insider: Retail media is dominated by vast companies like Amazon and Walmart+. Why is a retail media network a good idea for a regional grocer?

Jeff Leitch: I've been in media for my entire career, 18 years, most on the media sales side. Digital media specializes in identifying the right people, serving the message and measuring the results -- and retail media brings all that together very effectively. We first started in 2019, and have been asking ourselves since: How does retail media integrate with what we do, and how does it best serve our customers?

They don't see shopper marketing or retail media. They don't see traditional or digital. They just see how we work with brands to create their shopping experience. So we’re outsourcing less. And we’re focused on delivering industry-leading premium solutions. It’s what our customers would expect, so it’s what our brand partners should expect.

Retail Insider: So what does a customer-first experience look like?

Derek Steele: Right from the get-go, we wanted to make sure people didn’t face what I call the NASCAR experience, where they’d land on a page and get hit with a mishmash of stuff. We are trying to drive this idea of relevancy from a customer’s experience.

If a person is searching for Bush’s Baked Beans and we steer them into Oreos, that person will say, "Hang on, what’s going on here?"

So, we took some time to develop a strategy to connect the data. One of the advantages a retailer like Meijer has is that customers interact with us frequently, giving us a rich data perspective. And our customers give us a lot of credit. Relative to some of our competitors, our customers give us a unique right to win because of that relationship.

Retail Insider: Does that mean you reject ads if you feel the content isn’t relevant or up to your standards?

Leitch: Our partners appreciate our flexibility. But if the creative does not match the experience we provide and expect for our customers, I wouldn’t say we reject them. We come back with recommendations. And we have the capabilities to help our partners.

Steele: It helps that we have so much experience in shopper marketing. We know what people expect to see in Meijer and what it should look and feel like. And retail media is just a digital extension of that.

Retail Insider: You’ve just announced some enhancements, including expanding the ability to measure closed-loop marketing performance through onsite display, Google Advertising Manager, and off-site display with DV360. As a result, partner activations rose 53% this quarter, with campaign volume up 76%. Why is this important?

Leitch: Closed-loop measurement is a highly sought-after capability. Part of our challenge is to catch up with others and leap ahead. This kind of measurement reporting on both display advertising and off-site advertising, in essence, helps provide better omnichannel performance.

Retail Insider: Some in the industry are already discussing an inevitable shakeout -- that there likely isn’t room for hundreds of these networks. Do you agree?

Steele: We are still a year or two away from consolidation. Our strength is that we are an established 90-year-old brand. We have a foothold in the lives of people in the Upper Midwest. We’re trusted. And we’re making sure that any brands we partner with will bring us up and not drag us down.

Leitch: We’re learning from other retail media networks in all industries. There are also large technology companies that want to have some influence that will shape the future.

Retail Insider: I understand why regional brands are a great fit for you, but what’s the sales pitch for a national advertiser?

Steele: This just happened. A national brand came to us and said, "We’re great on the East and West Coast but lagging in the Midwest." What they were doing on other networks wasn’t working. Are there bigger networks they could use? Sure. But the Midwest customer still matters, and we’re a great partner to help brands figure them out. It's not about a mass audience, but trying to move the sales needle. And we’re nimble, with a long history of helping brands innovate.

Next story loading loading..