The Human Element: The One About Retail Media

Executive Summary 

  • In the latest episode of The Human Element podcast, we sat down for a conversation with two of dentsu’s retail media experts: Brian Monahan, Global Client President and Head of Retail Media Solution, and Kavita Cariapa, SVP Head of Commerce Activation, to talk all things retail media at CES – exploring its position in the broader media landscape as well as discussing the challenges and opportunities anticipated for 2024.   
  • In essence, retail media is a distinctive advertising method where publishers signal conversions directly, offering insights into consumer behavior through point-of-sale data. Agencies play a pivotal role in activating retail media, from engaging in display functions and spanning hands-on execution, to strategic planning and consultation. 
  • CES presents an opportunity for retailers to understand current consumer needs and the challenges they seek to address, transforming futuristic tech into practical solutions for utilization. 
  • Looking ahead to 2024, there will be continued focus on the connection between buy-side and sell-side expertise to empower dentsu clients with a competitive edge. The challenge ahead involves inflationary pressures, compelling retailers to raise prices and leaving consumers disheartened about the diminished purchasing power of their dollar. However, amidst this challenge lies an opportunity for brands to prioritize loyalty and enhance customer shopping experiences. 


The One About Retail Media 

To work in retail media, you have to be consumer obsessed, and at CES 2024, navigating through the convention center, one can't help but marvel at the futuristic products, the consumer insights, and what can happen when minds unite to explore the limitless possibilities of technology and creativity. 

We sat down with Brian Monahan, Global Client President and Head of Retail Media Solution, and Kavita Cariapa, SVP Head of Commerce Activation, to talk to the convergence of tech and imagination, and how together they can become a catalyst for potential breakthroughs in the world of retail media.  

For marketers, the sheer abundance of information and opportunity at CES is staggering, and from this, the buzz around transparent TVs and other tech marvels ignite anticipation for the ideas that could shape the future of retail strategies. 

When exploring the future of retail strategies at CES leads many to ask what the actual definition of retail media is and how it fits within a brands’ broader marketing strategy. 

 So what exactly is retail media?  

Retail media is media where the publisher provides a conversion signal. It is not targeting but incorporates the ability to reveal who bought what. Unlike digital media, where tracking conversion is a collaborative effort, retail media's uniqueness lies in its direct access to point-of-sale data, offering advertisers valuable insights into consumer behavior. While retail media encompasses familiar advertising formats such as search, display, social, and TV, the focus extends beyond conventional strategies.  

Retail media is also unique in the fact that it is both a vertical and a layer – a set of publishers with inventory on their owned and operated retailer websites, as well as a layer of placed media across the internet to track conversion events – this dual nature reflects this line of businesses’ multifaceted character. 

To grasp the distinctive features of retail media, it's important to recognize the unique role that agencies play in activating the media on behalf of their clients. 

An agency's responsibilities extend beyond search and display functions, to span hands-on execution, strategic planning, and consultation. The landscape has evolved into a more intricate scenario, requiring synchronization across brand media and shopper media. This complexity poses a distinctive challenge for agencies: finding ways to seamlessly integrate these diverse media solutions, while also measuring loyalty, lifetime value, and guiding clients towards profitable sales. 

Dentsu is unique in the fact that they represent both the buyer and the seller, strategically propelling client growth on dual fronts. This involves aligning the objectives of both parties to deliver valuable content to a shared consumer base. Notably, retail media stands as the only medium where the goals of the buyer and the seller are perfectly aligned. 

Looking ahead to 2024, the emphasis continues to be on connecting buy-side and sell-side expertise. 

The focus lies in bridging the expertise of buyers with that of sellers to empower clients with a competitive edge. The current strength of retail media lies in its effectiveness in reaching customers at the precise point in their shopping journey. With media consumption reaching unprecedented levels, the opportunities for shoppable moments have also peaked. Among all retail media products, search stands out as a prime-time-level asset, operating at an industrial scale. 

As we navigate the opportunities, 2024 also presents challenges due to inflation.  

At the end of the day with inflationary pressures, retailers are being forced to increase prices, while consumers are demanding lower prices due to the value of their dollar being worth less. This tug-of-war may lead consumers towards private label products, posing a challenge for national brands. Agencies are tasked with advising clients on navigating these challenges, focusing on awareness, branding, and building customer loyalty.  

Why retail media at CES? 

CES solves problems that consumers and the world are facing. It is about technology, but at the end of the day it is a showcase of creativity in its finest form. With retail media, the sharp signals from the customer are always present, whether they are preparing for a new baby or renovating their home.  

This is where brands and retail media networks collaborate at the core – addressing challenges for their customers. While futuristic tech may evoke images from books and movies, retail media transforms these innovations into practical canvases for utilization. 

Looking at 2024 as a reset year, the focus is on innovation, redefining processes, and exploring new avenues for growth. The challenges posed by the pandemic have created opportunities for brands and retailers to innovate and meet the evolving needs of consumers. The industry's maturation is pushing for real conversations between brands and retailers, emphasizing the need for advertising strategies that truly resonate with consumers. The need to stimulate growth is sparking a creative renaissance, compelling marketers to focus intensely on the execution of retail media and discuss what genuinely resonates with consumers beyond programmatic display. This year emphasizes the creation of engaging, cool experiences and the addition of genuine value to enhance the shopping process. 

The Human Element: A Carat Podcast, explores how insight and humanity impact modern marketing to build stronger brands. Want more of this conversation? Tune in to the full podcast episode here. 

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