6 min read

Why Retail Media Networks are central to retailers’ digital strategies – and how do they influence our consumption?

The future (and present) of advertising is digital, but this new ecosystem requires you to make a choice on which retail media network to go with.

Retail media networks are booming. The stay-at-home mentality brought about by the pandemic and the mass adoption of delivery services for goods and products has created a perfect storm. Read on to understand what retail media is and why it is central to digital marketing strategies.

What is retail media?

Retail media refers to the ads that retailers put up on their e-commerce web page or app in the hopes of influencing customer decision-making at the point of purchase. This allows brands to increase their visibility within the digital store, similar to how supermarkets single out certain products within aisles.

They can appear in a variety of formats, but the most popular retail media ads are often blended in seamlessly with search results. This is similar to the ads we see at the top of the first search results page on Google and include a small logo indicating that the search result is “sponsored.”

What are retail media networks?

Retail media networks are the platforms on which brands can advertise their products and are run by the retailer themselves. If you want to advertise your brand on Amazon, you’ll have to set up your sponsored content on Amazon’s retail media network.

These networks allow brands to determine how, when, and which products are advertised to potential customers. This includes determining which keywords activate your sponsored content as well as on which page your products appear. This can include specific search terms but is not limited to this specific moment within the customer journey and can include locations such as the home page or checkout.

Why are retail media networks central to retailers’ digital strategies?

Retail media networks are considered part of what is known as the third big wave of digital advertising. The first being search, and the second being social media advertising.

Similar to how supply and demand work, advertising follows consumers wherever they might be. With the rise of e-commerce and the online shopping boom that was propelled due to the pandemic, consumers are shopping online now more than ever.

Retail media networks also allow brands to take full advantage of the valuable first-party data that retailers have at their disposal. As regulation tightens and the market moves away from third-party cookies, advertisers will have to find a more reliable way to get their hands on clean customer data.

This access to retailers’ first-party data is also an excellent opportunity for brands to provide highly personalized advertising. With the ability to perfectly time when ads will appear and for which specific customers, advertisers can ensure maximum ad conversion.

This metric of ad conversion has also never been easier to track. Retail media networks can provide brands with clear conversion tracking, which means clear-cut ROI tracking as well. This provides advertisers with incredibly accurate feedback, which they can use to optimize their efforts even further.

The use of AI in ad personalization is being heralded as the next big wave in digital advertisement. We can certainly extrapolate that the benefits brought about by retail media network strategies will only grow as companies invest in incorporating AI models into their advertising campaigns.

If you’re still not convinced that retail media should be central to digital retail strategy, just take a look at some of these numbers:

  • Retail media margins far exceed other retail margins, with an onsite gross margin reaching values of 70-90%.
  • 80% of brands have more confidence in the ROI from advertising within retail media walled gardens compared to other e-commerce retailers.
  • In 2021, digital retail media advertising spending worldwide was estimated at 77 billion USD. The projected value would increase to 143 billion by 2024.

The most common types of retail media

While retail media comes in many shapes and sizes, these are the three main types you are probably familiar with.

Sponsored products

This is the form of retail media that you are probably most familiar with. These ads are displayed at the top of search results and product sections on e-commerce websites. Much like sponsored search results on Google, they’re an excellent way for big and small companies alike to get new products on customers’ radars.

Video and display ads

This option is also available to brands who invest in retail media networks, and while they function differently from sponsored products, they complete the same basic function. They appear on specific pages of the retailer’s e-commerce site and link consumers directly to the purchase page of the advertised product in question.

Brand stores

You might have seen a physical example of a brand store within a brick-and-mortar location. In the digital realm, these brand stores take the form of a specific page within the e-commerce platform that includes all of the products sold by the retailer from a specific brand. It’s a great way to provide loyal customers with easy access to all your offerings within a retailer’s website.

Branded Content

Many retailers are beginning to see the benefits of collaborating with influencers and other celebrities in order to cash in on branded content. This helps brands associate their products with certain groups, making them more likely to engage with retail media campaigns. 

Product Collaborations

This is a very common interaction within retail. A brand makes a collection or product collaboration with a retailer and then provides these products exclusively to the collaborating retailer in question. This provides certain product lines with an air of exclusivity and makes the retail marketing strategy for the product very straightforward.

What are the dominant platforms in the retail media market?

Amazon Advertising Solutions

Amazon is, without a doubt, the biggest name in the retail media industry. 89% of the U.S. retail media ad market goes through Amazon Advertising Solutions. As of 2022, the e-commerce giant has reached over 200 million members in its Prime program in the U.S. alone. It remains unmatched in terms of access to in-depth transactional data.

Amazon Advertising Solutions includes a range of offerings from sponsored products and brands to sponsored displays across all of their platforms.

Walmart Connect

Walmart Connect, Walmart’s retail media arm, is prototyping selling in-store radio ads space for their B2B customers for the first time ever. Walmart’s in-store retail media kit also predicts a possible integration of in-store ads with online offerings.

The kit includes TV wall ads on in-store screens, self-checkout ads that can verify when the ad leads to a future digital or in-store purchase, and sponsored store events.

Target Roundel

Target is the eighth biggest retail business in the United States, with over 2 million daily visitors across 1900 stores. Its online platforms attract over 30 million unique visitors each week.

Formerly known as Target Media Network, Roundel is Target’s rebranded retail media platform.

With over 1,000 partners, Roundel works with popular brands like Coca-cola, Microsoft, Unilever, and Disney.

There are a number of other retail media networks out there as well, not only from bug retailers like eBay, Walgreens, and Best Buy but smaller organizations as well. Retail media has become an important part of the overall marketplace ecosystem.

What should you consider before investing?

While investing in retail media is an excellent way to boost your visibility among digital customers, it’s important to keep a few things in mind before going all-in.


When choosing a retail media network, you should obviously choose one that suits your budget as well as the abilities of your marketing team.

If you have the proper resources needed to run an international omnichannel campaign, you should definitely add it to your list of possible investments. Networks like Amazon Advertising Solutions and Walmart Connect can also be great options for budgets, both big and small.


Depending on the kinds of products you sell and the niches you supply, it’s crucial that you pay close attention to the kind of customers that frequent the retailers whose media networks you’re thinking of joining.

If you happen to sell furniture or construction supplies, Home Depot and Wayfair are great options, whereas companies that focus on selling electronics might have an easier time finding customers on Amazon or Best Buy.

Digital vs. Physical

Depending on the kind of products you’re selling, some might be more suited for physical stores as opposed to digital ones. Candle or perfume manufacturers might be better suited for retail media networks that offer in-store benefits like Walmart.

For products that are more uniform and can be easily evaluated online might want to consider using a 100% digital retail media network like Amazon.


Once you’ve narrowed down your list, you should start determining your final selection by the kinds of analytics they provide. Find out how accurate each retailer’s reports are and if they’re available in real-time. 

Knowing how well your retail media campaigns are performing is crucial to understanding your ROI, and the best way to gain that knowledge is through in-depth reporting. Understanding what kind of analytics each retailer can give you is key to improving your retail media budget efficiency.

Types of Services Offered

It’s important to match up your retail media strategy with the kinds of services that different retail media networks can offer. You might be looking to gain access to an international client base or insert your sponsored content into a wide range of channels.

Most retail media networks have a particular specialty when it comes to retail media services, so make sure you know what’s out there on the market and find one that matches your marketing strategy.


When deciding to implement a new type of marketing strategy, it’s important that you understand all of the ins and outs as well as the benefits and disadvantages of each option available to you. 

One of the best ways to get the assistance you need in these fresh endeavors is to reach out to a third party that specializes in digital marketing strategies. Investing in a consulting agency before committing to a retail media strategy could be a cheaper and more effective way to determine what’s right for you.

Get strategic and operational aid for your advertising strategy

Choosing the right retail media network can be a lot more difficult than it sounds, and even with the best analytics possible, interpreting data from retailers and turning it into useful insights for your marketing team is no easy task.
MJV has been helping clients with innovating their advertising and marketing for more than 25 years. If you’re thinking about starting your own retail media campaign, why not reach out to one of our consultants to find out how MJV can help you get the most out of your budget and strategy?

Click on the image to download our trend report The Multiverse of CPG & Retail.