Retail Media Networks Need a Data Spine Flexible Enough for the Real World
In May, Marriott joined the growing list of brands launching retail media networks (RMNs). Marriott’s flavor promises advertisers access to 164 million members of its “Bonvoy” travel program. While Marriott’s RMN doesn’t build on established partner-brand relationships and co-op budgets the way a brand like Walmart can, Marriott’s sheer size and scope across many screens (from in-room TVs to loyalty apps) makes its offering enticing.
From a technical standpoint, Marriott decided to partner with Yahoo to power its offering. In order for a brand to be successful working with Yahoo and Marriott, the offering needs to do more than enable targeted advertising. Analyzing performance compared to other ID-based marketing efforts or looking at fragmentation of data is important, too. In fact, there are a number of use cases, from creating a consistent experience across screens to reconciling logged-in and non-logged-in visitors that Marriott needs to solve for.
While Yahoo can deliver the ad platform and database scale, Marriott should be an active participant in creating an ID graph or “data spine” that's flexible and interoperable enough to satisfy these different use cases.
Use Case No. 1: Targeting Consistently Across Screens
A brand like Marriott has a lot to offer from an omnichannel standpoint. It has TVs in its hotel rooms, loyalty apps and a robust series of websites. In order to offer scale to a big brand marketer, the hotel chain will need to knit all of these impression opportunities together into a cohesive whole.
Advertisers will be looking for the ability to frequency cap, to create successive messaging as people go through a travel journey, and to get unified reporting at the end of a campaign. This requires data reconciliation not only across Marriott’s own audience, but likely with the brand partner and potentially with back-end partners that Marriott might work with to enable some of its advertising. To reduce cost and complexity, it’s better for Marriott to prioritize developing a full 360-degree view of its customer and prospect profiles so its core data capability can be leveraged vs. working with a partner that black box solutions will take away from the hotel chain's unique data asset and limited integrations, cost extra or have a slow lead time for clients.
Use Case No. 2: Loyalty Programs and Other Authenticated/Non-Authenticated Scenarios
A loyalty customer for Kroger might only log in when he/she is about to make a purchase on their laptop at home, but might browse the site from their phone — not logged in — to get ideas during the day. More competitive brands will become experts at enabling brands to reach people accurately across these scenarios.
Brands like Marriott, Kroger and other big retailers with RMNs are relying on their huge authenticated audience to entice brand clients. However, achieving scale will require these brands to also have IDs for non-authenticated users. Even better, they should be able to reconcile authenticated and non-authenticated users as much as possible.
Use Case No. 3: Reconciling In-Store and Online
A retailer like Ulta Beauty is also thinking about omnichannel from an in-store perspective. The ultimate ID strategy would not only ensure that shopping information is captured in-store and connected to someone’s digital ID, but that a partner brand could reach someone both online and in-store in a consistent way.
ID-based marketing for in-store scenarios includes clientelling, where a store assistant might have information on a tablet about order history or loyalty status, or the opportunity to show a personalized experience on a kiosk or even an augmented reality device. Here, the need for accurate IDs means the difference between a highly relevant in-person experience and a misstep.
Use Case No. 4: Data Partnerships
No one should hold the keys to the gateway between a retail network brand and the partners that will help them scale their new business. With their own data spine, RMNs have the most possible flexibility. They can share insights directly with brand partners, ingest data from relevant partners, or even expand their network to include other publishers or retail websites while keeping ownership over their data and their business.
Creating a RMN is more than opening up new ad inventory on a website. RMNs compete directly with major platforms like Google and Amazon.com, which have the very best ID-based advertising to offer brands. RMNs are touting the value of their own data as a major reason for brands to spend with them, which is all the more reason why their ID-based capabilities need to be top notch.
To create a mature RMN, retailers need to think and act like the platforms, ensuring that they retain ownership over their data, that brands get access to audiences at scale, and that they have maximum flexibility to expand their business on their own terms. A robust data spine is the key to success.
Nancy Marzouk is the CEO MediaWallah, which helps companies create complex 360-degree views of customers and prospects to continue to market to them across channels, IDs, data types, partners, and their own business silos — all with the most advanced security protections, and regardless of changes to the market landscape.
Related story: Retail Media Networks and Loyalty Programs — Better Together
Nancy began working in digital media in 1997 migrating to software in 2009. She is a recognized thought leader in marketing technology and known for solving problems. In 2013, she founded MediaWallah to solve what was broken and hindering the industry from moving forward. Delivering key value and results for CMOs, MediaWallah offers the "holy grail" allowing data to be connected at the most granular level and power marketing at every level.
She has been a frequent speaker at industry conferences such as OMMA, Digiday, Adtech and iMedia. She also has written Op-ed pieces for publications including Adweek and been quoted in several industry trades such as Ad Exchanger, ClickZ and Mediapost.
Nancy also served on the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) Cookie Management Task Force helping advance the industry's dialogue on privacy issues.