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Candid Conversations and Aha Moments from our Exclusive Gathering with Criteo

Earlier this month, we hosted an exclusive retail media brunch in collaboration with Criteo, bringing together 100 professionals from FMCG, CPG, and retail backgrounds.

Our brunch served up fresh insights, debunked industry misconceptions, and uncovered desires from either side of the retail coin: what do brands really want from their retail partnerships? And how can retailers guide their supplier partners in discerning successful strategies to encourage additional investment?

We kicked off the morning with a brief introduction from Nicole Kivel, Managing Director at Criteo, who looked at the Retail Media landscape in Europe and the global state of play.

We then invited Rosie Houston, Managing Director of Threefold, and Ollie Shayer, Omnichannel Media Director at Boots UK, for a fireside chat hosted by our COO, Emma Dean, to delve into the intricacies of building a successful Retail Media Network from the ground up.

The morning concluded with a call to Retailers on retail media investment and brand needs featuring Larissa Dumitru, EMEA Head of Ecommerce at GroupM, Aurelie Nerbusson, Head of Performance Media at L'Oréal, and Mark Nilski, Retail Media Lead at Lenovo.

Here’s our summary of those sessions.

The retail media landscape today

The speed of monetisation maturity emerged as a decisive factor in winning the terrain of tomorrow's retail media landscape. However, hyper-growth, while promising, comes with its own set of growing pains and challenges on the path to realising the £100+ billion opportunity, a journey that demands collaborative efforts and innovative solutions from brands, retailers, and agency partners alike.

Retail media is now metamorphosing into commerce media. Here, agencies play a pivotal role, influencing outcomes and serving as a bridge for brands wanting to connect. The key message throughout was this: everything must revolve around the consumer.

Retail media is a shape-shifter. It's a dynamic landscape that extends beyond brick-and-mortar stores and digital realms. The definition itself has recently been under scrutiny. No longer confined to a singular channel, one definition could be ‘any media that is owned or operated by a retailer, in proximity to a retailer, or which leverages a retailer’s 1st party data in its execution.’

The biggest risk when defining what it is vs what it isn’t is only considering your ‘piece of the pie’. It is in store, .com, digital offsite - it’s all of it. And all of it’s important. But it’s even more important when it’s pieced together in the right way - omnichannel, not multichannel – creating a seamless experience for the customer along the path to purchase.

A glance at the US and UK markets revealed an interesting dance between digital and in-store retail media. Despite a higher percentage of in-store shoppers in the US - 96% vs 88% in the UK - digital retail takes the lead, fueled by budget growth, real-time results, and monetary shifts from other channels.

We often hear "retailers as the new publishers" but it was argued, over brunch, that this view is too simplistic. Yes, retailers sell ad space online, but they bring unique strengths like in-store ad placements, rich loyalty scheme data, and a closed-loop measurement system. However, this distinctive position also poses challenges, demanding a nuanced approach, collaboration between departments, and a focus on personalised ads using first-party data.

One thing that was clear is that retail is no longer seen as solely a conversion driving tool. A recent P2PI & SMG research report, showcased at this year’s Retail Media Summit UK, shows in-store and .com media performed very similarly to, and in some cases better than, other more traditional ATL channels (such as OOH) for making respondents aware of products they weren’t previously aware of - making an argument for retail media being able to act as a launchpad and point of discovery for brands and NPD.

Additionally, it’s not only the retailers' suppliers that are the customers – non-endemic brands are also prospective customers for the retailer in this evolving landscape (30% of Uber eats ads are non-endemic).

Retailer fireside chat with Boots: building a successful RMN

Three pivotal areas were identified as crucial for success:

Organisational Structure: A top-down approach needs to be taken to unravel historical team structures curated years ago when the marketing landscape was very different and, arguably, somewhat siloed. Lines between historical trade teams (the gatekeepers to investment) and marketing teams (the guardians of assets and brand) are merging. A blend of retail experts, commercial savants, marketing and media specialists, and data scientists are essential for crafting a resilient retail media team fit to deliver a first-class strategy.

Data and Technology: The significance of building addressable and meaningful-scale audiences through loyalty cards and personalised offers was spoken about in great detail, as well as ensuring you’ve got the right technology in place to “do something of value” with your first-party data. The data itself isn’t your holy grail; it’s what you do with it that sets your RMN apart from the rest.

The customer holds the reins: Retail media's growth hinges on enhancing the customer experience. Personalisation and relevance matter, and customers expect value in exchange for their data.

The call for collaboration echoed throughout the session. The future, it was argued, hinges on standardisation, with retail media networks proliferating. To ensure success, the industry must move beyond singular channels, embracing a holistic, truly omnichannel approach.

The digitisation of in-store experiences and the emergence of more retail media networks were predicted. However, the complexity for brands in navigating this landscape necessitated a plea for standardisation and collaboration across the industry.

A call to retailers: what do brands really want?

Our brunch concluded with a call to retailers, stressing the importance of aligning retail media investments with brand needs. The UK was acknowledged as leading in retail media advancements within Europe.

However, the industry was urged not to be overly fixated on future prospects but to address the challenges of today. A focus on transparency, accountability, and mature conversations about retail media incrementality were underscored.

Brands are in pursuit of solid measurement, especially for offline channels. Standardisation, transparency, and a culture of learning and growing together are top priorities. The industry's increasing suspicion of Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) and Return on Investment (ROI) prompted a shift in focus. The metric itself became the subject of scrutiny, emphasising the need for execution and collaboration across departments rather than fixating solely on results.

When it comes to successful results, humility in scrutinising those results was discussed with a nod to the importance of continuous improvement. Brands are hungry for data and opportunities that unlock incremental budgets, acknowledging retail media's equal potential to traditional awareness-driving channels. An earnest plea for a more full-funnel, customer-centric approach and collaboration between brands and retailers was made. The room was cautioned against chasing the latest trends and urged to engage in difficult conversations.

As the event concluded, the future of retail media seemed both promising and challenging. It was clear that success would depend on a delicate balance of collaboration, innovation, and a steadfast commitment to understanding and serving the evolving needs of both brands and consumers.

Who are SMG?

Headquartered in London and New York, SMG (part of the Next15 group) is the global leader in connected commerce marketing, responsible for trading more than £1 million in retail media every day.

After successfully connecting brands with shoppers at the point of consideration and purchase for 15 years, they have evaluated over £1.25 billion of historic media investments to assist shopper marketers in making more informed investment decisions aligned with their objectives.

SMG is home to the retail media network specialist Threefold, which currently operates six of the largest retail media networks across the UK and North America, including Boots Media Group, Morrisons Media Group, Co-Op, The Very Group, Signet Jewelers and UNFI.

They also house the award-winning commerce media agency Capture, which specialises in delivering truly connected commerce campaigns for brand giants such as Procter & Gamble, Diageo, and General Mills, to improve ROI.

SMG's independent, panoramic view of retail media positions it as the leading market innovator. Its technology platform, Plan-Apps, is the most widely used operating system for commerce and retail media optimisation in the UK. It is designed to help retailers grow and scale their omni-channel offerings while enabling brands to seamlessly book, measure, and maximise their shopper media to drive better retail performance.


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