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Retail Media Networks minus retail? Why non-retailers are joining in.

As the retail media landscape has exploded with new Retail Media Networks nearly every week, a noticeable trend has emerged: non-retailers increasingly launching their own media networks. Companies such as T-Mobile, JP Morgan Chase, Uber, Klarna and Marriott have joined the retail media wave, leveraging their unique assets to enter the advertising space traditionally dominated by retail giants like Amazon and Walmart. And this trend shows no signs of slowing down. Earlier in May, for instance, we heard Expedia had become the latest U.S. company to launch a retail media business

As more non-retailers venture into the media network space, the advertising landscape will become more diverse and competitive, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative solutions. This trend promises to drive the industry forward but will likely lead to consolidation.
Tara Hekmat is a Client Manager at Threefold.

But why are non-retailers diving into media networks, and how do we see these new players prompting evolution in the advertising landscape alongside established RMNs?


Why non-retailers are launching media networks

1. For the Business. Diversification of Revenue Streams: Non-retailers are excited to tap into new revenue sources. By creating media networks, these businesses can monetize existing customer interactions in new ways, with media businesses offering high margins and the potential to become one of the most profitable sectors of these companies. 


Launching a media network can set a company apart from its competitors. For example, for T-Mobile, this move is part of a broader strategy to differentiate itself in the crowded market.


2. For the Advertiser. Leveraging Customer Data: Companies outside the retail sphere often possess valuable customer data. Financial institutions like JP Morgan Chase have extensive consumer spending data, which they can use to offer highly targeted advertising solutions. The demand for first-party data isn’t going anywhere, even as the inevitable death of the cookie has once more been delayed. Companies and organizations that own reams of personally identifiable information derived from digital properties, like mobile applications, websites and other loyalty programs, are wizening up to the fact that those assets are very monetizable. What’s more, financial institutions have a comprehensive view of their shopper across numerous verticals: Chase, for instance, reaches across brands, retailers and shopping verticals. This strengthens the degree of personalization, helping brands deliver offers that stoke consumer interest.


3. For the Shopper. Enhanced Customer Engagement: Media networks allow companies to engage with customers on a deeper level, serving personalized offers and experiences that will best resonate with their target shopper. Marriott, for example, uses its media network to provide personalized travel recommendations and promotions, enhancing its customer experience and building loyalty.


The potential impact on advertising

1. Shopper Resistance or Receptivity. Non-retailers must be careful in their execution, as their users aren’t always in a shopping mindset. Questions arise about whether consumers will accept the monetization of their financial or personal data. Will users be comfortable with targeted ads based on their banking behavior, or will they push back against such practices? Consumers typically use bank websites and apps for transactions, not shopping. In a study by Integral Ad Science, only 12% of U.S. consumers were receptive to advertising on financial websites. This highlights the challenge: ensuring that ads are relevant and not intrusive.


2. Advertiser Overwhelm. The growing number of media networks could overwhelm the market. With many players and inadequate standardization, the landscape might become more complex rather than streamlined. Advertisers may become more selective, choosing platforms that offer transparency and effective results. This trend could lead to industry saturation, where only a few networks succeed. According to EMARKETER, more than half of advertisers prefer to work with a maximum of four media partners. Measurement and data capabilities are crucial in this contest. Retail media networks excel in closed-loop measurement, tracking ads from exposure to purchase. Non-retailers like banks, however, can only see where consumers shop, not what they buy, potentially limiting their ability to measure ad effectiveness. Perhaps we’ll see these non-retailers focus on upper-funnel campaigns, delivering awareness and consideration for advertisers. 


3. Sophistication of Offerings. Non-retailers can't become media giants overnight. Industries new to the space must consider what types of data they have, whether that data is addressable and what kinds of activations are actually going to appeal to their advertisers. Furthermore, we need to remember the dynamics of each vertical: hospitality brands like Marriott may struggle to achieve the same level of personalization as grocery stores due to less frequent customer interactions. Non-retailers need to be tactical about how they will profitably scale & deliver their media and data offerings.  Strategic partnerships, such as Marriott’s tie-up with Yahoo, can provide the necessary expertise and infrastructure to launch and scale media networks effectively.


As more non-retailers venture into the media network space, the advertising landscape will become more diverse and competitive, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative solutions. This trend promises to drive the industry forward but will likely lead to consolidation. Brands and agencies will seek platforms offering the broadest reach and highest inventory, resulting in a more streamlined market.


Collaboration between retailers and non-retailers could further enhance media networks, creating sophisticated and integrated advertising solutions. Imagine grocery retailers, telecom companies, and financial institutions working together, leveraging data from multiple touchpoints to improve targeting precision, create seamless consumer experiences and enable accurate campaign measurement. 


However, the shopper must remain at the center of these developments. Companies must balance ad visibility with relevance to avoid disrupting the customer experience. As businesses seek to monetize their customer purchase data, they must ensure that advertising enhances, rather than detracts from, customer engagement.


Are you a non-retailer thinking about how a media network could transform your business? Send me an note at tara.hekmat@threefold.team.


About Tara Hekmat

Tara Hekmat is a Client Director at Threefold, where she partners with retailers and CPGs to launch and optimize end-to-end retail media strategies, curating omnichannel campaigns that supercharge sales to deliver improved performance. Prior to her role at Threefold, Tara spent 6 years on the Capture team within SMG, collaborating with CPGs to plan, execute and measure their retail media campaigns across top grocers. Want to chat about how Threefold can supercharge your retail media strategy? You can reach her at tara.hekmat@threefold.team.


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, Co-op Media Network, Morrisons Media Group, ASDA's LS Eleven Media Services and retail media for The Very Group.

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