The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Media Rating Council during September’s inaugural IAB Connected Commerce Summit unveiled proposed retail media standards that aim to address key pain points for all stakeholders across the industry.
These standards were crafted by the IAB Retail Media Measurement Working Group, which included dozens of key retail media stakeholders from the likes of Albertsons Media Collective and Kroger Precision Marketing, retailers like Target and Ulta Beauty and brands such as The Coca-Cola Company and General Mills.
The proposed guidelines come amid a retail media boom, as the category has become increasingly popular among advertisers and US spend is anticipated to grow and reach $106.12 billion by 2027, more than double the $45.15 billion in anticipated spend this year, according to Insider Intelligence projections.
At Threefold, we’ve been digesting these proposed standards since they were made public last month, and to put it simply, we are elated that more consistent standards are on the horizon. The retail media industry is at an inflection point — there are more than 600 global networks — and we are excited that the IAB is taking charge in helping to usher in the next era of sustainable growth that works in favor of retailers, brands and consumers.
Ahead of the deadline for public comment on Oct. 13, we wanted to share just a few of our thoughts on the proposed standards, and what they could mean for the retail media industry.
What we think
As a whole, we find these standards to be both thorough and comprehensive in their coverage of a broad range of retail media topics: from measurement accuracy to transparency and consistency. These comprehensive standards propose a high — but fair — bar for retail media networks; they propose not just what networks should provide to brands but also how they should do so.
The proposed standards are authored from a largely digital viewpoint with a focus on metrics that include ad delivery and viewability. Standardization in this area is paramount and will only continue to grow in importance as media agencies look to purchase retail media across networks and need the ability like-for-like comparisons across networks to make the best-informed decisions. We know that like-for-like comparisons are key for brands as they look to make well-informed retail media investments. That’s why Threefold has already integrated such capabilities into our proprietary PlanApps technology.
True and effective retail media is omnichannel — that’s what our 15 years of experience originating and operating 10 global retail media networks tells us, as Sean Crawford, Threefold North America managing director, recently wrote for The Grocer. The proposed guidelines correctly express the need for in-store standardization and suggest standards such as in-store zones to standardize audience targeting. Other proposed in-store guidelines include greater in-store data validation, regular in-store audits, the use of third-party validation services, real-time monitoring systems, data validation protocols and the regular calibration and maintenance of data collection devices.
This is a worthy start, and in-store standards across the retail media industry will continue to play a key part in this discussion, as about 80% of purchases occur at brick-and-mortar retail and US retailers double down on their in-store media strategies in the next era of RMNs.
While the 56-page report is extensive, there is, of course, further room for development as the industry and its needs evolve. One area where we believe there’s room for greater consideration is how these guidelines address the implementation of standards. A significant reason inconsistencies exist in the first place is because of challenges that can’t be rectified overnight. The need to modify, update and adapt legacy data systems, for instance, is just one variable that will slow the adoption of standardized guidelines. We as an industry must acknowledge this will be a long-term journey. Likewise, we must be clear about deadlines for compliance, especially as they pertain to external auditing recommendations in the guidelines.
One solution: recommending that RMNs self-audit at the outset, providing brand partners with a roadmap that details where they stand in their journey and adds insight as to how the network plans to evolve and provide more transparency, and therefore, value. The next part of that journey could involve industry-led network rankings — think a scorecard — that provide advertisers and agencies a clear picture of how networks compare.
Finally, as we look toward the future we must look toward long-term impacts and benefits of retail media to truly access its value to retailers and brands. As an industry, we must work collectively to ensure we don’t undersell the larger impacts of retail media by keeping our focus solely on granular digital data. We must consider broader results of rich, first-party data-led activations and media campaigns, including category share growth, category growth, customer lifetime value and customer acquisition. It’s a harder question to define, but we must ensure cross-industry collaboration.
We’re looking forward to seeing how these standards evolve and will continue to be part of this vital conversation at the forefront of the health and longevity of our exciting industry.