With Retailers Thinking Like Media Owners, Media Owners Must Think Like Retailers

The growth of retail media networks (RMNs) in recent years has been impressive. As the world moves away from third-party identifiers, retailers are using their own channels to unlock the potential of their valuable shopper audiences — so much so that retail media is now the fourth-largest advertising medium, according to data from WARC.

Media owners also have found their position in the advertising ecosystem changing as third-party tracking cookies deprecate. Direct collaborations between publishers and brands powered by first-party data are providing a foundation for successful campaigns. Platforms such as ITV’s Matchmaker and Channel 4’s BRANDM4TCH are leading the way on this front.

But the advertising industry moves fast. Rather than being satisfied with their evolved role in a first-party world, progressive publishers should be asking themselves, “What’s next?”

My prediction is that media owners will begin to turn things on their head. While retailers are achieving great things by growing audiences in a way that a publisher would, media owners that adopt a retailer mindset could also be in line to reap some serious rewards.


Retailers Become Media, Media Becomes Retailers

Retailers that have managed to grow their RMNs successfully have done so by thinking more like media owners. They’ve understood that growing and maintaining an engaged audience centers around producing high-quality content. Nike’s Training Club app and L’Oréal’s Content Studio are great examples of brands that have gone beyond simply selling products and branched out into territory usually dominated by publishers.

So with retailers thinking like media owners, what if media owners started to think and behave more like retailers? The partnerships among retailers, media owners, brands and data providers that lie at the heart of retail media networks could surely also enable other data-driven collaborations.

Media owners aren’t just providing a platform for advertisers. They have their own product — the high-quality original content they produce. Broadcasters then could look to get more out of their product by extending the customer experience beyond the TV show. In partnership with brands, media owners could utilize product placements, in combination with targeted communications with their audience, in order to boost sales in a revenue-sharing deal.

Shoppable ads on CTV platforms already make it possible for viewers of a cooking program, for instance, to buy the items and ingredients being used on screen quickly and easily. These experiences could go further through partnerships with supermarkets, where a QR code enables the consumer to fill their shopping basket with all the ingredients for a week’s worth of recipes and buy them with one tap on their mobile device.

In fact, subscription video-on-demand services would already have the user’s payment information, and with the appropriate consent, could activate one-click purchase functionality for a variety of products on all kinds of shows without the viewer even having to scan a QR code.

Even with linear TV, the potential for product placement within popular shows that broadcast at a fixed time and have a dedicated audience is clear. With programs such as I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! and Love Island, ITV is already using product placement and extending existing collaborations, such as the one it has with Boots (a Matchmaker partner).

Unlocking New Revenue Opportunities

Aside from boosting sales and driving media revenue, retail media networks bring other benefits too. They nurture stronger relationships within the advertising ecosystem — rather than being kept at arm’s length by a meshwork of intermediaries, retailers, brands and media owners are able to collaborate directly.

Similarly, through the scaled audience solutions that media owners are building for first-party collaborations with advertisers, strong bonds are being established. With these relationships there is a great deal of potential for exploring new revenue opportunities.

Among them, the media owners, retailers and brands have the necessary data to get the insights to inform their campaign, activate it and measure the results. We expect to see more of these kinds of collaborations happening in the future, as publishers and brands begin to explore these opportunities further.

The Role of the Data Clean Room

At the heart of these explorations will be the data clean room or data collaboration platform. As with any first-party data collaboration, it is paramount that media owners ensure they have the technology in place to facilitate security and privacy. When multiple datasets are involved, each party must be in complete control of their data — not only to satisfy regulators but also consumers.

Media owners should be looking to implement a data clean room that provides complete reassurance to any partner they collaborate with, such as the platform Channel 4 has built. Non-movement of data is a must; however, the solution must also be flexible enough to generate insights from datasets instantly and at scale. Media owners and the brand need to be able to see their customer overlap, connect with identity providers and create audience profiles quickly in order to activate their campaign, then measure performance in real time without any risk of data exposure, leakage or misuse. 

The clean room solution also needs to be user-friendly and simple enough for marketers who aren’t data analysts to implement. Overly complicated technology will hold these collaborations back, limiting the potential of campaigns. But with a solid foundation that allows media owners and brands to unlock the full value of their first-party data with total flexibility — while ensuring complete customer privacy — these collaborations can flourish.

With the deprecation of third-party identifiers, innovative new approaches to connecting with audiences based on first-party data are required by publishers and brands. While retail media is already making waves, closer collaborations among media owners, retailers and data providers also provide other opportunities.

The potential for the development of new revenue streams enabled by partnerships between innovative media owners and retailers is clear. Extending the customer experience beyond the TV show through product placement and relevant advertising is just one of the experiences we expect to see emerge in the coming months. But above all, it’s vital that these collaborations utilize private, secure, scalable and agile data clean rooms if they are to fulfill their potential.

Lucy Cunningham is Enterprise Sales Director at InfoSum. Joining in 2022, she drives the adoption of data collaboration technology across UK brands and agencies, with a heavy focus on the thriving and exciting retail media space. Prior to joining InfoSum, Cunningham led the day-to-day operations of Nectar360’s Digital Commercial Team, where she was responsible for monetizing its rich loyalty card data across various retail media solutions. Cunningham has over a decade’s experience gained across a variety of companies including Fetch, Total Media and Somo.

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