Understanding Retail Media Networks and If They Work for You

Passion Digital Passion Digital 21/04/2023 5 minutes

With privacy concerns looming large and third-party cookies phasing out, companies that have huge volumes of first-party data can turn this into a profitable revenue building avenue, not only beneficial to them but also brands wanting to serve customers with personalised shopping experiences. Rituparna Chatterjee, from our Insight & Strategy team, explores retail media networks and if they work for your business.

What Are Retail Media Networks?

Retail media networks are an advertising business that retailers — like Tesco or Boots — or non-retail companies — such as Uber or Deliveroo — sets up for brands to help them buy advertising space across their digital channels. In simple terms, it’s like advertising in-store but in a digital format. Today, retail media solutions have disrupted the advertising space by enabling marketers to leverage a retailer’s first party-data without breaching customer privacy and reach out to potential customers with relevant advertising. 

Retail media is not a new concept. Traditionally, it meant advertising at or near a customer’s point of purchase, which included tactics like in-store promotions, sampling, coupons, loyalty cards, etc. However, growing concerns over privacy regulations over the years made brands that have vast amounts of first-party data realise the potential of leveraging that data to build their own advertising network.

Amazon was the first to launch their retail media network in 2012 and has since then generated billions in advertising revenue. Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies by 2024 and Apple’s App Tracking Transparency are recent measures that continue to show the importance of first-party data and how companies with access to their customers’ data can make the most of the situation by launching their own advertising platform. 

Why Are Retail Media Networks Relevant? 

While privacy has been one of the major reasons for the growth of retail media solutions, it is not the only one. Today, more and more consumers are leaning towards online shopping. As of 2023, there are 2.64 billion online shoppers worldwide, making up 33% of the world’s population, and this number is set to rise to 2.71 and 2.77 billion in 2024 and 2025, respectively.

Digital sales often have lower margins and retail media networks enable retailers to offset this and drive profitability and growth. Retail media is predicted to be the fastest growing niche of UK commercial media in 2023, with GroupM forecasting the industry will enjoy growth of 25% this year — as well as an estimated growth to £6.5 billion by 2027, making up 16% of all UK digital ad revenue.

From a brand perspective, retail media solutions help them to potentially reach a large, targeted audience and gain valuable insights on consumer behaviour and preferences, which they can leverage to offer a better shopping experience. 

The digital advertising landscape will continue to evolve, with more niche brands jumping onto the bandwagon. Marriott is one such example. In May 2022, Marriott announced the launch of Travel Media Network in partnership with Yahoo. Their advertising network will leverage Marriott’s customer search and purchase data for brands to serve relevant ads to travellers. In July, UK based online food ordering and delivery platform, Deliveroo also launched their advertising platform ‘Deliveroo Media and Ecommerce’ to help brands advertise to customers across their app, website, social media and email offerings.

Why Should Brands Consider Online Retail Advertising?

Apart from increased exposure, there are various other benefits of leveraging online retail advertising in your marketing strategy. 

A major advantage of retail media networks is that they help brands connect better with relevant shoppers, who are already in the mindset to buy. Seeing a brand’s advert on the retailer’s site will help the brand to stay on top of their mind while they shop.

Another benefit is that brands can better understand the link between ad spend and sales by analysing the customer journey from the time they engage with the ads to making the purchase.

The benefits are not just for brands, but also customers as they are able to receive personalised shopping experiences. For instance, as shoppers browse for specific products on a retail network, they are served sponsored ads from brands that relate to what they are looking for. These ad placements help shoppers discover and try new brands/products. As per Salesforce, 66% of consumers want businesses to understand their requirements and 52% of online shoppers are fine with sharing their personal data in exchange for personalised offers.

How Does Online Retail Advertising Work?

There are different places where a brand can place their advertisement across a retailer’s site depending upon where they want to target customers in their online shopping journey. A few of the common pages for placing adverts are shown below:


This page potentially allows brands to reach a wider audience on the retailer’s website and capture consumer interest through a display ad before they get distracted by other products. This is good for building brand awareness. However, these ads are very expensive so if you’re a smaller brand with less budget it may not be an option.

Super Mario Bros film ad displayed on the homepage of Amazon UK

Category page

Placing your ad on a related product category page helps you reach a very specific audience that is actively searching for your product category. 

A sponsored Skechers’ ad on a women’s shoe category page on Amazon UK

Search page

Listing your product on the search page is effective in drawing attention towards your brand and attracting those actively searching for the products you provide. 

Sponsored ads from Reebok on the search page of Target

Product detail page

Two things happen when a shopper lands on a product detail page: either the shopper decides to buy the product and adds it to their cart, or they decide to not buy the product. To leverage the benefits of advertising on these pages, brands can either place ads that complement that specific product or offer alternatives that might interest them. 

Sponsored ads on a product detail page of Walmart

Selecting Your Retail Media Solution 

With so many retail media networks now in the market and with more entering, it can become overwhelming for brands to choose the right one for them. Here is our quick guide to help you decide. 

  • Consider a retail media network that aligns with your niche
    If you are in the travel space, think about tapping into Marriott’s network, or if you own a restaurant, maybe consider Deliveroo’s ad platform. If you sell products across various categories, then Amazon or independent retail networks like Criteo or CitrusAd can be a better solution. For instance, Criteo and CitrusAd allow brands to advertise their products across major retailers 
  • Think about the robustness of their reporting capabilities
    Find out if there is a way to measure your ad campaign’s performance and how accurate and accessible those results are
  • Ask yourself about the type of ads you want to run
    If you want to launch expansive, multi-channel campaigns, then consider retail media networks with the highest number of third-party publishers to improve your reach. 

In summary, whether it is a general retail media network like Amazon or sector specific like Deliveroo, choose one that aligns with your brand, goals and budget. 

If you would like to gain an edge over your competition, understand more about your online audience and maximise your marketing budget, then please get in touch with us today.