Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Retail media networks and the need for standardised measurement

By Katrina Smart, Commerce Media Director – Europe, The Mars Agency

When it comes to establishing and enforcing standards for digital media and advertising measurement, hope springs eternal. The issue of measurement is no less elusive with the rise of retail media networks and how well they perform in an omnichannel ecosystem.

In September, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), a U.S.-based trade association released the IAB/MRC Retail Media Measurement Guidelines “to bring uniformity and credibility to retail media measurement.”

The guidelines emphasise the importance of adhering to four main principles when it comes to Retail Media Measurement: Transparency and consistency, accuracy and reliability, privacy and security, and compliance with industry standards and best practices. These basics provide our industry with a baseline understanding of how to measure performance.

Let’s start with defining omnichannel marketing and what it should really be known as – connected commerce.

Omnichannel marketing is inclusive of all media channels and reaching consumers via a seamless journey across touch points, both on and offline. “Connected commerce” is the next logical nomenclature, encompassing all of retail media.

Retail media works best when it’s fully integrated across all kinds of other elements of a brand’s customer engagement, which is why a brand’s media partner buys inventory across digital, instore, trade marketing, and so on. Retail media should be a piece of the connected-commerce puzzle. Connected commerce should be seamless and personalised, connecting all those touchpoints through consistent brand messaging throughout the full customer journey.

Brands and agencies must understand the role that each touchpoint plays from the top of the funnel awareness driving media, right through to social, experiential, promotional, ecommerce, and retail media touchpoints. Each touchpoint plays to its own strength to reach that customer. Brands and agencies must understand how each touchpoint and channel interlink, play off, and enhance one another, and how each one plays on its own.

The quest for standardisation

In terms of measurement, traditional media historically has focused on metrics that can be easily measured such as impressions and engagements. Marketers leverage retail media to drive sales and therefore, the true measure of performance is attribution- and outcome-based.

In terms of measurement standardisation for retail media networks, nothing exists beyond the IAB’s overarching recommendations which currently lack true standards, let alone any form of enforcement mechanism from a governing body.  It’s up to our industry to work together to establish a uniform set of guidelines. On this issue, the U.S. retail media industry is further ahead than Europe. This means that as Europe matures, the rest of the regional markets must follow suit.

The IAB guidelines are a good first step in measurement standardisation, but there are so many variations of measurement based on brand objectives that are yet to be accounted for. Every retailer provides its own kind of measurements and methodology.

One common example of this is incrementality. Incrementality measures provided by retail media networks are measuring customer exposed to versus those unexposed to the ads, but not really reporting on if the sale was incremental to base volume. It’s helpful to have a commerce-marketing measurement system that can ingest all the data obtained from retailer clients to create a single methodology and view for measurement.

Ultimately the industry’s goal should be to achieve standardised incrementality. Until that happens, we still must look at each of the different KPIs and objectives at the ad-marketing campaign level. It may seem obvious, but it is important to remember that your KPI’s for Retail Media should always ladder back to your objectives. So, when you look at your measurement you can see if you achieved what you set out to upfront.

Rainbow of measurement

For the foreseeable future, the industry will measure retail media on a case-by-case basis focused on objectives but should consider ways to measure holistically.

For example, think of a retail media measurement system as a rainbow. Your media delivery and engagement are the outermost colour bar that includes impressions and click-through rates. The next colour bar represents shopping action such as coupon redemptions, samples, or basket adds. The next colour bar contains conversions and attribution and so on.

The closer you get to the centre, you are looking at conversion metrics such as return-on-ad spend (ROAS), new buyers, sales lift, and then right in the middle, especially when it comes to retail media, added value. You should be able to answer whether retail media stepped on your relationship with a retailer and where that added value came through.

Other questions to keep in mind: what did your strategic labour and relationship add to increase distribution? Were you able to unlock additional point-of-sale opportunities? Did you unlock additional space and display inventory?