Thanks to the success of Walmart’s transition into ad selling, retailers and corporations with highly trafficked websites have realized they have a new revenue stream they can be harvesting. Before, major retailers like Walmart and Target were focused on getting ads in front of consumers using a variety of publishers, but now they have realized they can use their own online environments to promote advertising for other brands/products and make a little cash along the way. Most of the media giants have created separate retail network platforms to aid in this shift.
This creates new opportunities for ad buying at a time when third-party cookies are being deprecated and first-party data is becoming more important. McKinsey reports that retail media delivers a return three to five times greater on advertising spend versus traditional media buys. That said, third-party behavioral data has the potential to make retail network platforms even stronger with relevant interest data from outside of the retailer’s web properties. This article will detail why this shift is happening, the opportunity for ad buyers, and what retailers can do to make the most of it.
First Party Data is More Powerful Than Ever Before
Ad buyers and sellers are well aware that third-party browser cookies have been eliminated on some browsers and will be completely gone by the end of 2023. Third-party cookies have been used for just about everything within the ad-tech ecosystem and data platforms are rushing to develop and test alternatives that allay privacy concerns. While no one knows what approach will be the winner, there is no question that first-party data has become even more important.
Large retailers excel at first-party data collection. Media giants have a killer combination of data and direct sales capabilities. These retailers not only have verified email addresses and credit card numbers, but they’re also often a grocery store, pharmacy, clothing store, and auto center all rolled into one. In other words, they know more about their customers than any business ever. And now they’ve discovered they can capitalize on this data.
Retailers That Successfully Made the Shift from Buyers to Sellers
Nine of the top 10 largest retailers in the U.S. have already pivoted to placing their bets that expanding retail advertising is a good thing. This group includes Walmart, Target, Kroger, Lowe’s, Best Buy, Walgreens, and Albertsons. Amazon recently became an ad-tech giant with its own advertising business, earning $31 billion in 2021. This has inspired other direct-to-consumer digital natives like DoorDash and Instacart to sell online advertising for revenue that helps balance out gains/losses from other revenue streams.
Top retail media networks created for ad selling
- Walmart Connect – Walmart created automated, media stack tools under their new ad-selling brand—Connect. They can do search, pay-per-click, display, and more ad tricks, just like the big media players.
- Walgreens wag – Walgreens describes wag as a modern, personalization engine leveraging insights from 100+ million loyalty members and one billion daily digital touchpoints with customers to bring brands a more meaningful way to connect with consumers.
- Target Roundel – Target’s offshoot, Roundel, claims it can connect your brands to Target customers across display ads, social media, search ads, audio, and even TV. They also say they can attribute ad spend to sales.
- Instacart – Instead of creating a separate company for ad selling, Instacart opened its platform up to grocers by launching its Instacard Ads retail media ad-tech service.
However, the challenge for retailers selling ads is that their data is limited to their customers and excludes a substantial portion of consumers. To overcome this limitation, ad buyers and ad sellers can utilize third-party behavioral data to make this channel even more effective. Behavioral data on users’ interests outside of the retailer’s digital properties can improve the personalization and customer insight capabilities of ad sellers. For ad buyers, it can help them more efficiently hone in on the right target audiences and help them create deeper engagement.
There is no question that change is happening in the ad-tech industry and new opportunities are arising for both ad buyers and sellers to achieve advertising success without third-party cookies. The key is to start experimenting now and utilizing data you can access in the future to begin to replace methods that have a clear expiration date.
For companies that are susceptible to market volatility from things like gas prices, employment shortages, and inflation, ad selling could be a key way to build consistency and future-proof retailer’s revenue streams.
Third-Party Behavioral Data Will Make Retail Ad Sellers Even Stronger
Retailers have good incentives to invest in creating an ad-selling revenue stream. Strengthening first-party data collection and adding an analysis engine can attract ad buyers in the new age of advertising where data privacy is king. This investment can pay off with a potentially significant new revenue stream that makes use of data they already have.