Retail Media Upfronts 2023: What we learnt

Posted on Monday 23 October 2023 | IAB UK

A newcomer for 2023, Retail Media Upfronts welcomed Amazon Advertising, ASOS Media Group, LiveRamp, Nectar360, and Tesco Media & Insight Platform to The Steel Yard for an in-depth look at the opportunities this burgeoning channel presents for advertisers

Retail media is nothing new”, announced James Chandler, IAB UK’s CMO. “Brands have long worked hand-in-hand with retailers. But for me, it's really been that sophistication - the precision of digital advertising - that’s taken it to a whole new exciting level”. Over the course of the morning, we heard why data, loyalty programmes, and customer understanding are the keys to unlocking success in retail media. Here are our top five takeouts…


1. Retail media isn’t just a performance channel

Paul Hackwell, FMCG Industry Vertical Lead, Amazon Ads UK, dispelled three common retail media myths: that retail media is only a performance channel; you can’t measure the cross-channel impact of it; and you can only use a retail media network if your brand sells a product in that store. “Very few shoppers at the point of purchase actually go on to convert if they’ve never heard of your brand before”, he said. Sophie Maxwell, Pureplay lead, SC Johnson, then joined the session to discuss a recent Mr Muscle campaign, showing how getting your product in the environments where your would-be customers naturally shop is so important.


2 A brand new partnership

Another exciting announcement came from LiveRamp, who are partnering with Co-Op to launch a new era of data collaboration. Dean Harris, Head of Membership Commercial at Co-Op, described how the duo will better connect the rich transaction data they have with paid media and digital channels. “We can now serve our members with more relevant messages and our brands will be able to target people and refine their own investments in retail media”, he concluded. Helen Johnson, Group Director, Axis/SMG, raised the point that in these inflationary times, you really have to win the right to be in the shoppers’ wallets. Loyalty schemes are a winner for retailers, but don’t just focus on information collection, says Johnson: “What are you giving back to the shopper in return for their data?”


3. Putting a human face to cold hard data

The three key ingredients to a successful retail media strategy? Insight, scale and measurement, said Uche Ofili, Head of Media Agencies, Tesco Media and Insight Platform, dunnhumby. Gaining useful insights from the customers, shaping millions of omnichannel journeys each week, and measuring the lifetime effectiveness of customer purchases. The Tesco Clubcard loyalty programme facilitates this and Ed Sellier, Client Strategy Manager, explained its true value. “We believe we have the knowledge of our customers at an aggregate and a deeply personal level”, he said. “A Clubcard offers a window into the soul of the UK, we know what’s shaping purchase journeys, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.” And when you secure that data? Tesco understands it's about bringing that quantitative data to life through the qualitative data research that humansies it.


4. Let the data guide your spend

“Everything should start with a customer-first mindset and the customer experience”, declared Amir Rasekh, Director at Nectar360. ”Retail media has to be relevant and it has to be personalised”. This mentality could explain why Nectar is the largest coalition loyalty programme in the UK. Alice Anson, Nectar360’s Digital Media Director, reflected on the speed of innovation in the industry and underlined their focus on the digitisation of the store environment to enhance customer experience, referencing Nectar360’s recent announcement around in-store connected screens. Yara El Saadani, Commerce Strategy Director, EMEA, Group M, encouraged retailers to lean on media agencies: “We have the tech to demonstrate through data where you should be spending your money based on category opportunity, your share of voice currently and where you want to get to.”


5. Know thy customer

The team at ASOS Media Group closed out Retail Media Upfronts with a deep dive into how they partner with brands to bring the products and content their loyal base of twenty-somethings expect. “We’ve been working really hard to ensure that we’re showcasing our great content, ideas and concepts at ASOS, at the right part of the customer journey”, said Elton Ollerhead, Director. For ASOS, it's about reaching those customers at a time that makes sense for them and working with brands that will enable their customers to express their full selves. How do they do this?  “We give brands the license to play outside of their brand guidelines”, explained James Cahill, Creative Director. “Our audience demands it, they come to us for the ASOS tone of voice”, highlighting once again, how crucial an understanding of the customer is for your retail media strategy.


Find out more about Digital Upfronts 2023 here.

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