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Lessons on building a Retail Media Network from the ground up

Nearly every retailer now has some form of Retail Media Network, but not every retailer does retail media the same way. And not every retailer is doing retail media in the best way.


Partnership Director Amber Roberts shares the stage with Skai's Nich Weinheimer, Walmart Connect's Diana Finster and Costco's Mark WIlliamson at Skai's ShopAble event.
Partnership Director Amber Roberts shares the stage with Skai's Nich Weinheimer, Walmart Connect's Diana Finster and Costco's Mark WIlliamson at Skai's ShopAble event.

I had the opportunity to share my perspective during a panel discussion this week at Skai’s ShopAble event in New York City. Joined on-stage by moderator Nich Weinheimer (Skai), Diana Finster (Walmart Connect) and Mark Williamson (Costco Wholesale), I shared how Threefold has approached retail media for our partners in a discussion aptly titled “Lessons from the Trenches: Growing a Retail Media Network.”


The thing is, retail media isn’t a new thing, but it has become really sexy, and everyone wants in. That’s great, but it's easier said than done. Back in the day, what we now know as retail media involved retailers’ in-store cardboard cutouts, aisle fins and other analog touchpoints that are still relevant today but represent only a fraction of the possibilities. The dot-com boom revolutionized advertising, allowing retailers to execute digital retail media through their websites and mobile apps. Now, as we enter a new era of retail media, we see a focus shifting back to the store, where digitization and robust first-party loyalty data enable new opportunities to reach shoppers at their preferred point of purchase.


When building a retail media strategy from the ground up, retailers must think in omnichannel terms, leveraging both digital and physical assets. While Amazon is the king of digital retail media, other retailers’ value proposition to brands is those physical stores that welcome millions of shoppers on a recurring basis. Walmart Connect, for instance, uses tactics like in-store audio and in-store sampling in its retail media strategy to create experiences for the Super Bowl-sized audience that shops across its US stores each and every week, Finster said.


Retail media isn't just a side hustle


Costco Wholesale’s Williamson said the most significant thing retailers must consider when setting up retail media is what they want to be when they grow up. Well said. Retailers must create clear plans and paths forward that explain what role retail media will play in their business across several areas including marketing and merchandising. To be truly effective, retailers must not think of their retail media as a side hustle but as an integral and integrated part of their business. Viewing retail media as a side hustle introduces pain points for retailers, brands and for shoppers, who aren’t getting the best possible experience.


To exist as a viable long-term media partner for brands, retailers can’t view supplier brands as a “piggy bank” but must consider brands as clients and deliver on mutually agreed goals. Retailers often have power over brands, but in retail media, that relationship is turned on its head, and retailers must show brands that investment in their RMN is worthwhile in an ever-crowded marketplace of choices.


That value is shown in a few ways, but largely by creating a robust measurement proposition. Brands want clear insights and closed-loop reporting that explain campaign performance. But that can be easier said than done for many retailers that still deal with legacy systems that aren't adequately suited to deliver these robust metrics across in-store, online and off-site. Amid increasing calls for measurement standardization, brands want retailers to show them metrics they can use to compare performance across RMNs to have a clear picture of what’s actually happening. While this problem can’t be solved overnight, the first step is transparency. Retailers need to be clear about how metrics like ROI and iROAS are calculated to enable brands to make like-for-like comparisons more easily.


Setting up an RMN is a unique process for each retailer. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, as each retailer has its own unique challenges. Retailers must do their due diligence, evaluate their existing media estate, onboard the best technology and find the right partners to create that ideal environment to secure brand investment if they want to survive among the hundreds of existing RMNs.


Threefold is unique in that, for over 15 years, our experts have built and operated RMNs for major retailers across categories with different goals, challenges and opportunities. As the current operators of Retail Media Networks for Asda, Co-op, Boots Walgreens, Morrisons and The Very Group, we know the potential of retail media to drive business-transforming growth.


Want to talk about how Threefold can be that partner for you? Send me a line at amber.roberts@threefold.team to learn more about Threefold’s array of services, like our robust RMN evaluation and consultancy, our white-label solution, which embeds our experts within an existing team to build and operate your network, and Plan-Apps, our proprietary retail media operating system. Let's propel your business forward with more revenue, greater loyalty and better experiences!


About Amber Roberts

Amber Roberts is the Partnership Director at Threefold, where she leads the team building retailer partnerships in North America. Amber joined Threefold in 2023.

As a seasoned retail veteran, Amber has spent nearly two decades working across the industry, from Fortune 100 and Global 300 companies to startups. Amber previously spent about four years working for Kroger, where she was one of the first digital hires, established the framework for its current RMN offering and launched several multi-billion dollar businesses and alternative revenue streams.

Most recently, Amber worked as a consultant for small- and mid-sized grocery retailers to develop their omnichannel marketing strategies.


About Threefold

Founded in 2008, Threefold is the world's leading Retail Media Network (RMN) specialist, headquartered in both New York and London. As part of the SMG agency network, which employs over 380 retail media experts, Threefold's primary mission is to unlock incremental CPG budgets, curate media campaigns that supercharge sales and elevate its retail partners into top-tier omnichannel media owners, spanning in-store, off-site and online.


Threefold's services include consultancy, evaluation, and a white-label in-house solution that has seen the agency build, run and operate over 10 Retail Media Networks to date. In the UK, Threefold runs and operates Walgreens' Boots Media Group and Morrisons Media Group and additional live partners include major retailers like Asda, The Co-op and The Very Group.


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