4 retail media hot topics at Shoptalk 2024

Retail media was once again a huge presence at Shoptalk 2024—an event bringing together key players to discuss the latest trends, innovations and strategies driving the future of grocery and CPG—amid the other retail solutions. No surprise, considering the US retail media market is expected to reach $85 billion by 2026 according to Forrester Research.

A common theme at this year’s event was the increasing convergence of retail media and traditional media. We saw it from both sides: retailers leveraging tech and service providers to help drive more traditional media investment, as well as traditional/social media companies aligning with retail media.

Jaclyn Nix, executive vice president of brand sales for Epsilon Retail Media, and Adam Skinner, managing director of unified retail media, attended Shoptalk and identified four hot topics coming out of the weekend.

1. AI everywhere

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an increasingly important tool for media and was a key theme at Shoptalk. At the event, AI was referred to more generally, but generative and predictive AI are important to retail media. Predictive AI helps marketers decide whom to reach, where to reach them, when to reach them and what to say to predict the most successful outcome. Generative AI, in contrast, helps marketers create: It generates the content shoppers see.

Optimized retail media needs both: Predictive and generative AI need to work together like art and science. It can be helpful to think of predictive AI as the science—it’s the methodology that enables deep insights and data-driven decisioning using machine learning techniques to produce better business outcomes. Generative AI is like the art—it can bring a more human understanding of data and insights through content generation that can evoke emotion. When you put them together—the art and science of AI—you can drive deeper insights and better decisions across platform and channel.

One exciting AI session at Shoptalk was titled “Leveraging AI to scale personalization.” In the panel, Doordash’s Jessica Lachs, global head of analytics and data science, shared how DoorDash is solving for the issue of product unavailability at the time of purchase by leveraging AI to automate and personalize product SKU substitutions for out-of-stock products, ensuring customers receive what they want without delay.

The session also discussed how the integration of audio-out-of-home (AOOH) advertising with AI is setting a new benchmark for the in-store experience, revolutionizing how retailers can connect with consumers. Speakers discussed how the fusion of AOOH advertising with AI is not only evolving the in-store experience, but also redefining the boundaries of retail marketing.

2. Third-party cookie deprecation

Cookie deprecation is happening—and fast. Recently, on January 4th, 2024, Google took a big, notable step when they deprecated third-party cookies in 1% of Chrome browsers globally. They say that their plan is to deprecate 100% of Chrome third-party cookies in Q3 of 2024, pending regulatory approval.

This total third-party cookie deprecation inevitability means that the marketers who rely on third-party identifiers—even a little—will see significant disruptions to their retail media operations once they're gone. In fact, our survey on marketers' perceptions and readiness for the deprecation of third-party identifiers revealed that 70% of marketers feel that digital advertising will take a step backward as a result of these changes. It will only get more difficult to identify unauthenticated customers on the web, which means retail media campaigns may see a drop in messaged revenue and ROAS.

The solution? Reaching actual people (not emails or devices) in the most relevant environment is critical to drive the success of a media program in a cookie-less world. Retail media solutions with identity resolution solutions anchored deterministic data elements makes it not only reliable in finding the right consumers, but also stable against regulatory shifts.

3. Growth of video

Shopping is no longer a linear journey, and connected TV (CTV) is an increasingly important retail media tactic. In the “The Future of Retail Media” panel with Andrew Lipsman, founder & chief analyst of Media, Ads + Commerce, Emily Bibeault, ecommerce director of Campari America, said that targeting customers on CTV required 78% fewer impressions, and customers converted 21 days sooner compared to display. Effective retail media solutions should meet shoppers wherever they are.

Another session titled “Shoppable Video Offerings that Stand Out” covered how shoppable video is transforming the way consumers interact with brands, merging entertainment with instant purchasing capabilities. The panel showcased innovative shoppable video strategies that stand out by offering immersive and interactive experiences. In the session, Walmart’s head of media, Jill Toscano shared how Walmart is revolutionizing the shopping experience by integrating shoppable video, influencers, and user-generated content (UGC) into its digital marketing strategy, setting a new standard for retail engagement.

During the discussion, CEO of Digitas North America, Amy Lanzi, said, “Consumers are telling us - they want to see more branded content. They are looking for (engaging and immersive) stories from brands. Consumers are wanting to buy directly through video whether it is CTV or OLV, and this is really driving their future intent and purchase.” And in a recent podcast episode of “Next in Media,” Dave Peterson, general manager, global head of retail media at Epsilon, shared that he sees CTV being a great channel for retail media.

“For me, it’s a marriage made in heaven,” Peterson says. “The promise of retail media is that it can reach real people, individually; and with CTV, you have the opportunity to reach people that are addressable by buying against audiences. Retail media and CTV are very, very synergistic. It’s taking all that great data and the measurement behind it at retail against a very important medium in CTV.”

4. Reporting standardization

The IAB/MRC Retail Media Guidelines have started to align on what standardization means for retail media. This was echoed at Shoptalk by brands like Kenvue who want greater standardization across retailers, as well as for retail media to be treated like traditional media.

This will be increasingly important to help drive confidence and reporting parity between retailers. Peterson sees a growing need for this standardization.

“We need to be able to have standards so that as a marketer, as a brand, I know that if I’m seeing measurement from provider A versus provider B, I can have confidence that they’re doing it the same way that is apples to apples,” Peterson says. “That’s really important.”

The next generation of retail media

As the retail media landscape continues to grow and become ever more crowded, it’s important for marketers to incorporate the most effective strategies and technologies.

Epsilon Retail Media is bringing people-based intelligence to retail media with a next-generation platform unlocking opportunities to drive stronger outcomes for advertisers and increase sales and shopper loyalty for retailers. Learn more about the first retail media platform to couple AI with person-first identity.