How Target and J&J prioritize their retail media tech investments

Retailers and their brand partners have had some time to experiment with retail media networks—particularly following the digital boom precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Target, for instance, first launched its retail media group Roundel in 2016. And during last month’s Path to Purchase (P2P) Retail Media Summit, the brand, along with its retail media tech partner CitrusAd and brand partner Johnson & Johnson, was able to share more than five years’ worth of experience in a panel discussion.

Let’s dive into some insights from the panel session from Renee Doerre of Roundel (Target), Sean Cheyney of CitrusAd and Jordan Witmer of Johnson & Johnson on how brands can successfully navigate the complicated world of retail media technology.

Self-service equals speed

Since the introduction of retail media networks, brand partners have been interested in self-service options—and Roundel took that to heart. In 2021, the retail media network partnered with ad-tech companies, such as CitrusAd, to provide that ability to its brand partners.

In the P2P panel session, Witmer shared why Roundel’s self-service option, facilitated by CitrusAd, matters so much to Johnson & Johnson.

“In a self-service model, you can eliminate some of back-and-forth,” Witmer said. “It used to be the sending of, ‘Hey, I noticed something,’ emails to the retail media partner, and then the partner would check to make sure they see the same thing. And then they would come back and say, ‘Yes, we think we should do it.’ And then three weeks later, they say they’ve made a change on something you told them about 20 days ago. A self-service capability really unlocks speed for us, and thus optimization.”

In an increasingly competitive retail landscape, speed is crucial, Witmer believes.

“Agility for advertisers is becoming the new upfront,” Witmer said. “We get more value out of being able to move faster than we get moving big slugs of money to get some discounts that become really, really structured. We’re able to extract more value the faster we can go.”

A unified user interface helps avoid the ‘NASCAR jumpsuit’ syndrome

Every internet user has faced “horrendous stalker ad scenario,” as Cheyney put it during the panel.

“We’ve all experienced bad ad experiences as consumers. You go on one site one time and then you’re going to get targeted everywhere; you’re going to see 30 ads a day, perhaps. That’s a bad guest experience,” Cheyney said. “The in-store experience would never operate like that. If somebody walks into a Target store, you’re not going to show them something and then follow them around the store and show them that same product or hand them a coupon at every aisle. … It’s not about turning your website into a NASCAR jumpsuit. It’s about really using that space in a smart way.”

So, how does a marketer avoid a bad customer experience? Having channels talk to each other enables frequency control, Witmer said.

“All these walled gardens, some self-serve, then retailers like to keep the onsite inventory so themselves so nobody knows how much margin they’re making … it’s all valuable but we need to be able to play between the two,” Witmer said during the panel discussion. “We need a solution that allows us to look at apples to apples across the open web, social platforms, onsite, in-store. A unified user experience for us allows us to create a better customer experience so that we’re not creating the NASCAR jumpsuit that’s always J&J.”

With retail media, it’s absolutely crucial to know who your shopper is and provide them a unified experience across all touchpoints: onsite, offsite and in-store.

Transparent measurement keeps your goals the focus

Pre-pandemic, black boxes used to be the norm. Now, black boxes are slowly starting to melt away, said Cheyney. Nowadays, transparency has become king.

“For myself, having spent the first half of my career on the brand side, a lack of transparency was a major frustration and a battle I was always fighting,” Cheyney said. “And so, to see now that transparency has become more of the norm, allowing brands to make the quick, data-driven decisions they want, that’s really exciting.”

Doerre discussed the importance of real-time, transparent measurement to ensure all parties—retailer, brand partner and, most importantly, customer—are having the best possible experience.

“How do we make sure that we don’t impede the experience—the ease and the use of the buying journey for the customer—while also helping Johnson & Johnson succeed?” Doerre asked. “It’s important to consider how the investment they have when they invest … is actually accretive to their business, as well.”

This is where transparent measurement comes into play: to ensure a customer is getting the best cross-channel experience, as well as showing brand partners that their retail media investment is well spent.

This article was originally published on Adweek, July 2022.