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Unlocking the Full Potential of Retail Media

7 Mar 2023

Best practices for making retail media an integral — and integrated — part of your overall marketing strategy.

By Ethan Goodman, The Mars Agency

The following article is the first in an “Unlocking the Full Potential of Retail Media” series.

Part 1: Delivering Total Business Impact

From The Mars Agency’s vantage point as an end-to-end commerce marketing agency, we find that most brand organizations and agencies treat retail media like any other media discipline.

That mindset, however, is fraught with challenges and leads to sub-optimal outcomes. It leads organizations to adopt a general media approach rather than a nuanced retailer strategy, with media investment and channel selection decisions driven solely by traditional media KPIs like lowest CPM or highest ROAS, highly tactical executions, and measurement focused only on standard media results.

Our strong belief, and the strategy that guides our work with some of the world’s largest CPGs, is that retail media has much more to offer and should be treated as an integral — and therefore integrated — part of your overall marketing strategy. You can’t achieve maximum results from retail media when it’s managed in a silo.

A best-in-class approach to retail media requires deep expertise in, and tight integration with, the other key elements of not only your customer engagement activity — trade, shopper, ecommerce, merchant relationships — but your consumer promotion and brand initiatives as well.

Such a holistic, connected commerce approach treats retail media as just one lever in the overall machine — not the machine itself, despite its growing importance in the overall plan. Adopting this mindset can still deliver the expert media management your organization needs — but also a whole lot more:

  • the requisite retailer-level specialization, nuance and focus that’s required to win.
  • investment decisions that are driven by media and strategic considerations at the customer level.
  • integrated omnichannel experiences rather than tactical executions.
  • a more comprehensive view of measurement that goes far beyond media metrics.

These additional elements add up to retail media activation that can play a major role in improving the total business impact of commerce marketing on your brands. It’s not about winning with retail media but using retail media as a vital lever for winning bigger with your key customers and your business overall.

Making It Happen

To achieve this holistic vision of connected commerce, we endorse a two-pronged approach to integration. You need to make sure that your retail media efforts are integrated vertically (or top-down) to ensure a seamless connection all the way through “the funnel” from the brand’s national media efforts, through consumer promotion, to retail media.

Doing this will eliminate the potential for duplicated efforts, identify potential synergies that can make the total media investment work harder, and ensure that the plan is working harmoniously all the way through.

Success also requires a second, horizontal (or side to side) layer of connectivity across all activity with your retailer partner: what’s happening in the store, through trade promotion, shopper activation and e-commerce. This is where retail media really begins to shine.

The integrated approach leads to more informed, more strategic investment decisions at both levels of planning: when allocating your marketing dollars across national media, consumer promotion and customer marketing, and then when determining your tactical spending within the shopper marketing and retail media sphere.

You’ll still evaluate the factors that typically drive media decisions, like historical media performance and consumer/shopper preferences and behaviors. But you’ll also be informed by other important considerations, such as the retailer’s strategic priorities and your total business relationship:

  • Where does the retailer want its suppliers to invest?
  • Where can you test & learn to improve the partnership?
  • Where can you invest to earn added value elsewhere (like in-store)?
  • Where can your investment impact joint business plans and/or upfront commitments in a more holistic way?

Gaining this level of understanding into the business requires CPGs to stop thinking about retail media as a distinct piece of the marketing plan and start building the necessary relationships internally across functions and externally with your retailer and retail media partners to make it happen.


About the Author
The Mars Agency’s EVP-Commerce Media, Ethan Goodman is a renowned marketing strategist with deep expertise in digital commerce and shopper marketing. He’s been named a “Young Influential” by Adweek and both a “40 Under 40 and a “Who’s Who in Shopper Marketing” by the Path to Purchase Institute, where he also serves as a Distinguished Faculty Member.

Prior to his current role, Ethan built, grew and managed The Mars Agency’s Ecommerce and Innovation practice groups, and also guided the team that created SmartAisle — the world’s first voice-powered shopping assistant for brick & mortar retailers.

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