What is a Retail Media Network?

Retail media is a rapidly growing industry, with retail media ad sales in the US alone estimated to reach $40 billion this year and more than double over the next four years.

The rise in ecommerce, fueled in large part by the pandemic, has led to retailers becoming some of the most important publishers in the world. In fact, retail media is now considered the new "endcap" for brands to reach prospective buyers.

A retail media network refers to the channels that retailers give advertisers access to and collect first-party data from, such as a website or app. These networks allow advertisers to reach in-market consumers when they are in a purchasing mindset and also allow them to collect valuable insight into customer behavior.

However, the potential for retail media extends beyond marketing on a retailer’s website or app. Brands are looking to reach customers earlier in their journey, and retail data and measurement can add tremendous value for brand teams, helping them reach the right consumers wherever they are. Retail media can help brands understand their customers better and create more personalized ad experiences that drive awareness and ultimately sales.

Recent changes in the industry, such as new regulations, the rise of programmatic connected TV (CTV) advertising, and the impending demise of third-party cookies, have made it necessary for brands to find more durable and  privacy-safe data solutions, and have created an opportunity for retailers.

What makes retail data essential to brand marketing?

The data that retailers have to offer is uniquely positioned to add value to brand marketers because of four primary differentiators: retail data is deterministic, accurate, rich, and holds brands accountable.

Retail data is deterministic

Retailers collect data primarily through loyalty programs or online transactions, where they collect not only emails and phone numbers, but also, importantly, they collect consent from consumers to receive marketing and advertising messaging. This makes it a more consent-driven, privacy-safe way to share data and market to customers.

Retail data is durable

Since retailers collect data connected to emails and phone numbers, their data is durable. This makes it easy to take those identifiers and translate them to a cookie-free internet, whether that's CTV or opted-in or authenticated views on publisher sites. Inventory is becoming increasingly consent-driven, which allows brands to continue to make connections to their audience in a way that is safe and compliant.

Retail data is accurate

Retail data is extremely accurate because it is true purchase data matched to email. The best predictor of future purchase behavior is often past purchase behavior. Retailers have seen years, if not sometimes dozens of years, of buying behavior. Often customers are loyal to a brand and that brand can watch their customers’ buying behavior evolve. Retailers are able to see what buyers have bought in the past, what they are currently buying, and most importantly, use those signals to predict what they are likely to buy tomorrow. These are extremely rich signals that other third-party data providers don't have access to.

Retail data adds accountability to brand marketers

Given the economic challenges that the world and country are facing, and given the fact that so much more programmatic ad spend is going to high-cost inventory like CTV, brand marketers are now holding their media to accountability standards that they'd never held it to before in order to optimize toward true sales. Brand marketers need hands-on access to data in order to effectively target their audience and drive sales, so it’s extremely important to have data that is deterministic, durable, and accurate…which is exactly what retail data is.

Giving brand marketers the data they need is how retailers are going to unlock brand dollars on top of the shopper dollars they're already making a killing on. Ultimately, from both the supply and demand point of view, there is ample opportunity for growth and revenue. From a supply side, a very powerful new arsenal of data that retailers have been building up can now be unlocked and monetized. On the demand side, brands see abundant value in the data that retailers have to offer. Brands are eager to use this data on their own terms and with tools that they are familiar with so that they can link it to their existing models and processes.

How retailers can turn their audience data into revenue with Narrative and The Trade Desk

The partnership between Narrative and The Trade Desk makes it easier for buyers and sellers in all industries to share, collaborate, and monetize data. The Trade Desk works with retailers across the globe to build data solutions for them to monetize their data with brand marketers. Narrative provides the technology and software that allows advertisers or third-party data providers to send their data quickly, safely, and easily into The Trade Desk and other endpoints.

Automate the standardization of your data without extra hassle or cost

One roadblock for retailers and marketers is that it can be expensive, tedious, and time-consuming to get data into a platform and normalize it so that it makes sense to those who want to use it. There are technical problems that many organizations face: How do we actually move the data? How do we do it in a way that's secure and privacy-safe? How do we make sure that it's repeatable and instant so people have the data as quickly as possible?

Historically, consulting services were the middlemen that organizations called to transfer data. But in this current fast-paced advertising ecosystem, services like this are often expensive and provide little added value.

With Narrative, organizations can take their data and put it in a place where it can be easily ingested and used without having to hire middleman services. Using the app Dataset Manager and a new software called Rosetta Stone, any data can be transformed into a format and stream that can be easily understood and accessed. This allows business users to be able to transfer data seamlessly to an advertiser on their own.

Without Narrative’s software, a retailer’s technical team would be responsible for transforming data from one system to another. But with Narrative, this complex endeavor is made into a quick and easy self-service process that any business user can execute end-to-end.

Create custom data segments and deliver data directly advertisers

Narrative enables data providers to upload their data into a system in its original format, where the data is cleaned, standardized, and organized. Data providers can then slice and dice their data to build bespoke segments and audiences using Seller Studio. Once the data has been organized and packaged to a seller’s specifications, it is then delivered seamlessly to a platform where it can be leveraged, such as The Trade Desk.

But in order to get data in The Trade Desk, it needs to be tied to an identity that The Trade Desk understands. Narrative takes retailers' data and maps it to UID2s, which are unencrypted universal identifiers that can be used to establish identity without third-party cookies.

UID2s last longer than traditional cookies and are more privacy-safe by design. And since retailers are actually getting permission from their customers to use their data, these data points don’t have the weight around them that traditional identifiers have had. Once data has been turned into UID2s, Narrative can then deliver it seamlessly into The Trade Desk system so it can be leveraged by advertisers.

Dramatically cut down the time it takes to complete a data transaction

Narrative and The Trade Desk make it easy for brands to use, access, and activate retailers’ data. Not only are the right platform and tools provided, but the process is dramatically simplified and accelerated.

Digital advertising moves very quickly. If a brand wants to acquire a retailer’s data and that retailer takes two months to deliver, the brand in question may have already moved on to simpler and faster data acquisitions.

For example, a brand may seek data from a sports merchandise retailer like Fanatics that can be used around the World Cup. The World Cup is an event with a set date so this data acquisition is time sensitive. Fanatics would have to take two to six weeks to get this brand their data if they used a services-oriented business.

But by using Narrative, Fanatics can speed up the supply chain to as little as a couple hours and get this brand their data in the timeframe they need it. Within hours, data is ready to be used by the buyer. This process can then be repeated as often as it needs to be.

Case study: How Fanatics monetizes their sports consumers audience with Narrative and The Trade Desk

Fanatics, the global leader in licensed sports merchandise, is taking advantage of these capabilities and working with Narrative and The Trade Desk to capitalize on the value of their own data. As ecommerce exploded over the last few years, retailers like Fanatics became some of the most important publishers in the world, especially on the open Internet, and their data is extremely valuable to advertisers.

Fanatics is the global ecommerce provider for all officially licensed sports gear. They sell email campaigns and display advertising on their owned and operated sites. But their brands began expressing interest in acquiring the valuable data of their sports' consumer base and using it in other platforms.

The tech teams at Fanatics were great at standing up robust ecommerce platforms, but when it came to having a solution where they could push a data asset for the World Cup, for example, their production queue would be extremely long. Additionally, attempting to have a sync between the UID2s and the Fanatics tech teams seemed to be a near impossibility.

Narrative was able to help Fanatics slice and dice their data and deliver it to endpoints like The Trade Desk. Together, all teams built a solution that is quick, timely, and also delivers the scale that Fanatics needed. Now, when brands come to Fanatics for a custom data solution based upon the assets that they have, they can deliver that data to that endpoint for activation within a matter of hours or days.

As the retailer and owner of the data, Fanatics has ultimate control over where their data goes into The Trade Desk. If they only want to approve 20 advertisers to access their data, they can control that their data is sent only to those seats on The Trade Desk and nobody else gets access to it. If they wanted to have their data be on the shelves of The Trade Desk marketplace, they could allow that as well.

Fanatics is able to push their data to Narrative in whatever format they are most comfortable with and Narrative’s technology adapts and learns how to deal with that data. This is a huge shortcut compared to the amount of time and resources that many organizations have sunk into complicated data engineering and data integration.

Fanatics also has the capability to create data segments outside of their core sports consumer. For instance, Fanatics is able to glean non-sports-centered data, such as the percentage of their consumer base that is mother or female, which customers are memorabilia purchasers, how many of their buyers have additional disposable income, and more. If a brand wanted to understand everybody who bought a double XL shirt, Fanatics is able to prove that asset. If a brand wanted to understand people that bought a Swarovski crystal football, they have data on that consumer.

Within every retailer’s data is interesting information that brands can use to reach new audiences and help with brand awareness for these in-market consumers. If a family is buying multiple onesies, there is probably a good indicator that they may have a baby on the way. And so a diaper company, for example, might acquire that useful signal to help them target and reach those buyers across the open Internet.

Narrative also allows Fanatics to overlap reports, so if one client wants to bring in some data that another client also has, Narrative can identify and highlight where the overlap is. Fanatics will also be able to launch measurement solutions, enabling advertisers to use their data to understand where within the sports landscape their converters or non-converters lie. The possibilities of these technologies continue to grow and improve.

Using the capabilities that Narrative and The Trade Desk platforms provide, Fanatics is now tapping into even more revenue opportunities and growing their data monetization initiatives in an exciting way.

Deliver data seamlessly to advertisers with Narrative

As a retailer, you are in the best position to begin generating new revenue streams from the data you already automatically collect. The demand for first-party retail data is soaring and the technology to package and deliver that data is the best it has ever been.

Narrative provides the tools and support you need to get started with monetizing your valuable first-party data. Using an easy, point-and-click interface, you’ll be able to ingest your data in its original format, slice and dice your data into custom products, and deliver that data to your buyers seamlessly. It’s fast, easy, and secure.

Learn how you can start generating revenue from your first-party data. Get in touch with our experts today.

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