The Fight for Independent Measurement in Retail Media
We’ve long been talking about media sellers grading their own homework in digital advertising. And it’s no different when it comes to retail media.
If anything, brands are stuck between an even bigger rock and a hard place in retail media. Not only does the measurement come directly from the media seller, but the same measurement is often front and center during joint business planning (JBP) between retailers and manufacturers to determine spend commitments. With major solutions like Google falling short of their promises to third-party publishers, the need for independent measurement is vital. Involving an impartial party will lend increased credibility and trust to retail media, leading to better outcomes for retailers and brands.
The Challenges With the Retail Media Measurement Status Quo
The two biggest challenges facing retail media measurement are fragmentation and the lack of incrementality.
Each retail media network has its own definitions and methodologies for measurement, making compatibility across retailers extremely difficult. The measurement that does exist across the self-service tools for buying retail media is almost entirely reliant on some flavor of last-touch attribution, which lacks a notion of incrementality.
The result is a fragmented ecosystem with a weak understanding of how those investments drive true incremental growth for both brands and retailers.
The attempts at overcoming this today have primarily been through centralizing the reporting of retail media WITHOUT aligning the underlying measurement. Aggregating the measurement from each retail media network and re-displaying it on a single screen doesn't solve this because each RMN still measures those metrics differently. While they all might refer to a metric as return on ad spend (ROAS), underneath there are apples and oranges being compared.
Solving for aggregation requires not just centralized reporting but a standardized measurement approach being applied which while being consistent accounts for differences in media and ad types. Standardizing attribution windows may seemingly enable this type of comparability, but in doing so it misses the differences in duration that different media types operate at. Off-platform upper funnel media may inherently require a longer attribution window than on-site search, for example.
Why Neutral Measurement Solves This
For both retailers and manufacturers to accept measurement it needs to be conducted by a third party that has no structural financial interest in directing the flow of those media dollars.
Not only does this remove any potential conflict of interest, but it enables the measurement partner to work across multiple retailers and the ecosystem more broadly.
Robust measurement requires an understanding of not just the activity within a single retail media network but across the broader set of marketing and sales channels the brand is working with. Given the reluctance of retailers or media platforms to share data directly with competitors, only a neutral third party is in the position to work with such a cross-channel dataset.
Developing robust measurement off a single channel of data is like trying to develop a weather forecast knowing only the temperature. Yes, it's an important ingredient, but it's ONLY one piece of the puzzle. Media-buying platforms can only optimize towards the signal they have, which is inherently limited.
Measurement that incorporates a broader purview of activity across multiple channels will be able to develop a more robust understanding of what's driving incremental growth and feed this signal back across the various buying channels.
Similarly, a neutral measurement partner that doesn’t buy media can work closely with not only the brand but its agency (or agencies) as well given they aren’t competing for control over the media budget. This enables closer partnership and coordination due to the lack of conflicting business models.
Brands can only establish a causal connection between their media investments and sales across all channels when they get a holistic view of performance and where to invest their next advertising dollar. Brands can only do this with measurement independent from media buying platforms.
David Pollet is the CEO of Incremental, a provider of trusted cross-channel analytics to help brands measure retail media investment impact, optimize marketing spend, and achieve growth.
David is the Chief Executive Officer at Incremental. A skilled go-to-market growth leader with experience scaling SaaS startups and public company divisions ranging from $5M-$100M+ in ARR, David has 25 years of experience in sales, marketing and strategic leadership roles. In his role as CEO, David is responsible for accelerating the company’s growth and transforming GTM operations as Incremental establishes its leadership in the ecommerce category. Prior to joining Incremental, Dave was most recently CRO at convergent TV platform Cross Screen Media, and has held leadership roles at companies including Drawbridge, Neustar, Bank of America, and LendingTree.