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THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

Wakefern Launches New ‘Media Exchange’ Platform

4 Apr 2024

Mars United Commerce is committed to being leaders in innovation. To help our clients stay ahead of the competition in a fast-paced, constantly evolving environment like retail media, we closely monitor network launches and other key events across the industry’s top retailers and solution providers.

Wakefern Food Corp. recently unveiled a new retail media network in partnership with Inmar Intelligence. As Mars United begins transitioning our clients from the grocery cooperative’s previous platform, Andy Howard and Missy Foster offer their perspective on the initial benefits the new platform will bring to brand advertisers.

The largest retailer-owned cooperative in the U.S., Wakefern comprises 50 independent member companies that operate 362 supermarkets in nine Eastern states under six banners, most notably ShopRite and Price Rite Marketplace.

Wakefern took center stage in the retail media world with an announcement it hopes will change the future of the cooperative’s retail media performance. In a transformative move for its network, Wakefern has transitioned operation of its search and onsite display advertising from CitrusAd to Inmar Intelligence. (The change was effective Feb. 28.)

Renamed “Wakefern Media Exchange,” the network features a host of new advertising opportunities within a single, unified platform; cross-channel optimization capabilities; and self-serve campaign management. (See below for more details on key components.)

Inmar’s new duties spearheading management of sponsored product ads (search), onsite display advertising (including homepage tiles), and shoppable recipe pages dovetail with its existing work handling Wakefern’s digital coupons and offsite media to deliver a “one-stop shop” of back-end services for brands and agencies. The goal is to improve the shopping experience while expanding and aligning advertising opportunities.

The strategic alliance with Wakefern also marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of Inmar, which started as a coupon clearinghouse, then played an integral role in the digitization of coupons before expanding with innovative tech solutions for commerce and analytics. Wakefern represents the first retail partner for Inmar’s burgeoning media network.

Key Strengths & Challenges

Mars United has been closely monitoring the development of Wakefern Media Exchange and provided feedback during the initial phase of the transition. Among the new platform’s strengths:

  • Greater flexibility and control for brands when supporting various tactics within the Wakefern ecosystem.
  • A self-serve option for both search and offsite media, which brands and agency partners can turn on quickly through the network’s new “Smart Mode” setup capability.
  • Minimal to no fees for utilizing the self-serve platform.
  • Partnership on strategic planning and sponsored product
  • Opportunity to leverage an Inmar partnership with Aki Technologies to run personalized “Moments” campaigns (which can include multiple creative versions, dependent on budget).

As with the rollout of any new platform or capability, there are bound to be some bumps in the road. Here are a few general watchouts for advertisers getting start with the new platform:

  • Sponsored search and onsite media are new tactical offerings for Inmar, so we highly encourage advertisers to allow more time for launching campaigns and be patient with the reporting cadence on the back-end.
  • It takes time to develop benchmarks. It probably will take 60 to 90 days (or more) before initial measurements are shared — and those will likely change over time.
  • Alignment between the retail media network, merchandising and other departments within Wakefern have not been clearly laid out, so it will be vital to work closely across teams to ensure everyone is aware of what’s going on.

Conclusion

Having watched other retailers make similar transitions to consolidated retail media networks recently, it came as no surprise to learn that Wakefern had decided to take the same step. And teaming with a longstanding vendor partner such as Inmar Intelligence, which has managed the retailer’s offsite advertising and couponing capabilities for many years, was a natural fit.

Overall, the launch of Wakefern Media Exchange is an encouraging step that gives advertisers an opportunity to generate stronger campaign results through a well-defined process and greater collaboration across the retailer’s landscape. With the launch, Wakefern is starting to position itself as a key retail media player in the regional grocery space.

To date, we’ve been very impressed with the communication provided by the Wakefern Media Exchange team, which has been quick to respond, very transparent, and enthusiastic about partnering on training and strategic planning.

Over the coming months, we’ll continue to monitor the platform’s dashboard capabilities from both a managed and self-serve perspective. We’re also eager to see how effectively the new network will deliver on measurement and innovation.

Key Components of Wakefern Media Exchange:

Campaign Creation

  • Campaigns can be controlled and optimized in near-real time.
  • The intuitive user interface of Inmar’s media tool lets advertisers launch offsite campaigns in minutes.
  • Digital offers can be supported with awareness campaigns by leveraging the interface to streamline setup and auto-generate campaign creative.
  • The “Smart Mode” option accommodates easy campaign setup using available creative templates.

Platform Consolidation

  • Inmar is promising a dashboard that provides a holistic view of campaigns across search, onsite, and offsite.

Reporting

  • Automated features provide comprehensive and custom insights into campaign performance against specific KPIs.
  • Streamlined functionality offers the ability to view category, brand, product and keyword data at the campaign level in near-real time.
  • Available metrics include standard metrics, performance trends, ad revenue and, for sponsored products, online sales with a 14-day attribution window.
  • Initial managed service reporting for sponsored product or onsite media campaigns will be provided within 4 to 6 weeks after launch.
  • New reporting features on the roadmap: transactions, in-store attribution, share of voice, cap-out, and daily reporting.

API integration is also expected in a few months. Mars United is already in discussions to integrate our proprietary Marilyn martech platform.

About the Authors

Andy Howard is Senior Director of Commerce Media at Mars United Commerce, where he develops media strategies for leading brands across national and regional grocers. He has over two decades of experience in shopper marketing and commerce media, helping brands develop strategies and practices to win with both shoppers and retailers. Andy has a passion for empowering brands with innovative thinking, inspiring holistic planning with retailers and pushing the limits of measurement.

Missy Foster is Director of Commerce Media, leading regional grocery and Kroger activity for some of the agency’s top brands. With over 17 years of expertise in shopper marketing, commerce media and retail media networks, she is deeply invested in helping brands strategize both in-store and online, with the common goal of winning at retail. Missy is passionate about growing retailer partnerships, pushing performance boundaries, and being a trusted advisor and liaison to her clients and coworkers.

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