September 30, 2023

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Retail media networks 2023—brand and agency guide

What retailers have recently debuted retail media networks?

After a robust rollout of new retail media networks, including the debut of Dick’s Sporting Goods’ own last summer, the number of new entrants has been declining as nearly every retail chain is already trying to make media work for their business. Even cannabis brands are seeing the potential—late last year, Fyllo, which provides tech tools for cannabis companies, created its own retail media network for cannabis advertisers by providing in-store media display screens.

Look back: Dick’s Sporting Goods launches retail media network

Dollar General in April talked with Ad Age about how it is working with Meta to scale its media network, which it brought in-house last year. The efforts are working; the network more than doubled this year to 51 vendors from 21 last year, with an eventual goal of 125 vendors. Meanwhile, after launching its Member Access Program retail media network last year, Sam’s Club is upgrading the offering with better targeting capabilities to avoid redundancies with the kinds of ads served to consumers. In April, Sam’s Club took things a step further by naming new technology and agency partners to help manage its offerings and optimize campaigns for brands. At the same time, retailers such as Lowe’s are taking more duties in-house. Kroger also said recently it would be bringing more of its self-serve retail media ad tech in-house. In fact, Criteo, which partners with several retailers on their media networks, recently addressed the in-housing trend on an earnings call in June. Criteo CEO Megan Clarken said that only the largest retailers, including Kroger and Walmart, are sizeable enough to build their own operations. Other players need a partner like a Criteo, she said.

“In-housing is something that belongs at the top end of town,” said Clarken on the call with analysts. “We’re here to provide a platform of which people, our clients can ultimately use all of or use a piece of it in the case of the very large players who are looking to bring that on board themselves.”

Read more: Why retail media networks are moving in-house

What are the current challenges in retail media?

At first, retail media seemed like an unblemished area heralding robust growth in ad dollars. Yet as the much-hyped category grew, and more retailers launched their own unique networks, several challenges arose that paint a less rosy picture.

One of the biggest issues is a lack of standardization across networks, which puts the onus on advertisers to add more of their own resources for each retailer offering. There is no universal consistency. The other large concern is around measurement; brands have a difficult time viewing campaign performance since most retailers use their own proprietary metrics and data.

Read more about retail media’s measurement problem

Many brands also feel compelled to invest in a retail media network if they already sell at that retailer, a pressure one Forrester analyst likened to “tithing to the church.” Indeed, a survey from the Association of National Advertisers this year found most advertisers to be “reluctant buyers” who were heavily influenced by retailers to invest in their networks.


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