The Growth of Retail Media Is Approaching a ‘Moment of Truth’


August 9, 2022 | By RetailME Bureau

Words by Pedro Roman, Director of Personal Shopper Solutions, EMEA, Zebra technologies  

Retail is one of the fastest growing markets for media advertising, mainly because retailers own so many advertising platforms. E-commerce websites, m-commerce apps, shop-and-scan devices, magazines, in-store digital displays, baskets, trolleys, and store announcements all come with captive audiences. Even endcap banners and checkout lane flyers can be influential, compelling impulse purchases. As such, one industry analyst predicts retail media will hit $50 billion in revenue by the end of 2022.

But retailers must be careful not to overwhelm shoppers with irrelevant ads, and brands must ensure their money is being spent wisely. Just because there is a captive audience does not mean it’s the right audience – or that an ad will break through the noise. Both the beauty and bane of digital media is that it’s possible to push an ad to the mass market anytime and reach consumers everywhere. At a certain point, though, people start to become numb to what they see and hear, and advertising spend proves ineffective.

That’s why many retailers in the Middle East are at a crossroads.

Those who want to succeed in the age of hyper-personal communications and data-driven decisions must meet shoppers where they are and give them what they need – whether that’s information or an incentive to buy. Yet, there are over 400 million people in the Middle East, half of which make trips to physical stores either daily or weekly. Nearly as many (45%) say they also shop through their phones regularly, while over two-thirds of Middle East consumers now consider themselves more digitally oriented than they were before the pandemic.

Successfully personalising ads for each shopper based on their current preferences, intentions and spend potential might seem like an impossible task. However, the maturity of personal shopping solutions (PSS) is making it easier to boost brand visibility and conversions, at least in stores, as ads can be based on individuals’ real-time selections and behaviors. You can have a one-on-one conversation with consumers without anyone – or anything – else competing for their attention in that moment.

How to Harness the Here and Now

A research report by Kearney indicates that brands can grow their sales by 50% if they can get their products from page two of internet search results to page one. If they can get their products in the top 10 spots in a search, they can grow their sales by 86%. Those are great goals if you’re targeting online shoppers. But what about in-store shoppers? How do you compel them to “add to cart” as they’re browsing aisles at brick-and-mortar locations?

You offer them a concierge-type experience based on their purchase history as well as the items they’re searching for and scanning via the PSS mobile device in this moment.

When a customer walks into a store and picks up a PSS device, they can automatically login using their loyalty account. That gives you, the retailer, an automatic glimpse at what they may be purchasing in this trip so you can start to push brand or category-specific ads that match past transactions.

As they move through the store, you can geolocate where they linger. If they spend an exceptionally long time in the small appliances section, you can proactively offer demo videos, ads or even discounts for those products. If they’re browsing the beauty section, you can show them a how-to video, new product or self-assessment to find their perfect product before directing them to all recommended products. Alternatively, you can show a short ad as they approach a promotional display to entice them to stop and check out what’s new instead of just passing by.

You could also use the PSS device to promote a companion product every time an item is scanned. If they buy croutons, suggest a well-matched salad dressing. If they buy coffee beans, creamer recommendations could crop up. Or, take it a step further and offer a trending salad or latte recipe or offer tips on how to plan a picnic or host a brunch.

Depending on the basket size and how the ad flow is structured on the PSS, you could hypothetically expose a single shopper to dozens of new products in a single half-hour trip in a very personalised and relevant way. Would they have otherwise paid attention to those ads if pushed via social media, television or even a magazine? Possibly not. Could they still dismiss the ads on the PSS device? Of course. But you’ll know they see those ads before they close them out. A connection is made, even if just for a moment.

Is PSS the Most Targeted Retail Advertising Platform?

As we’re learning, retail advertising should enrich the shopping experience, not just push products. Creative digital displays or impressive sculptures that amaze or tap into the current zeitgeist may capture their attention but offering a personalised shopping concierge free of charge will keep their attention on a single, handheld digital display that you control while they’re in the store. Plus, the more they use a PSS device, the more data you collect about their shopping preferences. You’ll be able to piece together patterns in footfall and demand for inventory on an individual and collective level.

Even better, PSS enables retailers and brands to partake in privacy-safe targeting. Though some personal information may be shared via loyalty cards, that information is more likely to be comprised of past transactions and online versus in-store shopping patterns. More sensitive data can be controlled by the consumer and protected by the retailer via the loyalty account. And if a customer opts out of the loyalty card login and shops as a ‘guest,’ PSS ads can still be targeted based on current item lookups and scans as well as users’ proximity to ad-backed product categories or SKUs.

So, if your current advertising techniques aren’t as effective as you would like, consider how much more influential you could be if you were there with each shopper – ‘speaking’ to them via the PSS – the moment they make a ‘buy or fly’ decision. Then consider PSS core to your retail advertising strategy going forward.

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