5 min read

Future-Proofing Retail Media: The Programmatic Revolution

James Avery
James Avery
Updated on
January 4, 2024
Ad Tech

Retail media’s expansion in recent years begets today’s confusion of what is happening behind the scenes. In spite of exponential growth projections showing retail media will continue to rise and hit $106B in ad spend by 2027, industry stakeholders remain wary of transparency inefficiencies -– and rightfully so. 

Retail media has become a crowded marketplace in need of a rebellion to remedy the market’s ailments. Imagine a scenario where open real-time bidding (OpenRTB) provides stakeholders with privacy and data protection while allowing buyers and sellers to transact retail media placements programmatically. What if there were clear road maps for buyers and sellers to navigate the miscellany of mystery within retail advertising’s platforms, infrastructure and data supply chains? 

It’s time for a centralized OpenRTB industry standard in retail media. This will equip publishers, advertisers, and technology providers with the tools necessary to execute retail media buying with confidence. Here’s how this kind of protocol can set new standards and help minimize today’s slew of retail media challenges.   

The OpenRTB Framework Offers Better Opportunities in Efficiency 

Today’s fractured market forces advertisers to go to multiple retailers to buy retail media placements; a lapse in efficiency that’s led 23% of advertisers’ programmatic ad spend to go to waste. With every retailer spinning up their own network, variations in ad sizing and specifications, advertisers are becoming increasingly frustrated trying to efficiently navigate this fragmented digital market. 

A unified buying solution will streamline the buying and selling process, allowing advertisers to purchase seamlessly across various retail media networks. Unification through OpenRTB framework will smooth the friction advertisers experience while buying placements across multiple individualized standards. OpenRTB evens out the playing field with a set of updates and enhancements that can help advertisers stay competitive and not lose out on time and valuable inventory. 

Take, for instance, a brand like Coca Cola, that will want to appear on multiple grocery sites; say, Target, Walmart, and Albertsons. If each of these retailers have different ad creative sizes and metadata, Coke will have to create three different ads to send to each retailer, wasting time and resources on their side. Instead, if there were standardized sizing and copy across retailers, as suggested by the OpenRTB framework, Coke would be able to more efficiently advertise across disparate platforms, thereby increasing their likelihood to spend.

Programmatic Retail Media Can Identify Strategy and Transparency Gaps 

When looking at the retail media ecosystem and the issues that reside within it, it’s imperative to identify what the current functioning processes are and why a market player’s needs are not being met. For example, retailers on the supply side need ad servers to decide when and where an ad should be shown, how it should proceed, and what keywords and skews they should target. Conversely, advertisers spanning across the demand side include direct IOs and self-servers. 

Fragmentation within the industry deters the supply side from advancing their retail media bids and the demand side from buying more retail media. The current advertising technology in place meets the needs of this process to an extent, but it ultimately causes a chaotic web that blocks transparency in market flows. 

An OpenRTB standard can create a demarcation between demand and supply to level-up the industry as a whole. Implementing standardization industry-wide will allow for greater access and analysis of unified data, and the ability to glean valuable insights that will drive informed decision making. Consequently this will increase campaign efficiency, improve targeting accuracy and maximizes return on investment (ROI) for advertisers. 

Programmatic Standardization is the path to the future of Retail Media

At the center of retail media’s challenges are these ongoing debates: Are digital supply chains too technical in nature and if so, what specifically needs rebuilding? An OpenRTB standard can allow advertising technology to be the accelerant that won’t hurt conversion rates or supply chain business processes, but industry insiders need to pinpoint what their needs are for a successful outcome. 

The needs are simple, but often not well addressed and actioned upon. When we look at historical industry challenges, most revolve around data management. For instance, are advertisers protecting consumer-shared data? Are they then leveraging that data to put forward the most compelling, effective, and personalized marketing strategy? Is the data being used in a way that’s optimizing outputs and return on spend for advertisers?

We know the questions, but we have not yet committed, as an industry collective, to sorting through the challenges. With that in mind, I implore the industry to consider the following:

  • Are we doing our best to enable advertisers to bid on relevant ad inventory?
  • Are we adhering to the latest privacy regulations, keeping in mind the consumer?
  • Are we looking at data standardization in the right way, to ensure consistency and compatibility across different platforms and providers?
  • Are we doing everything in our power to enhance campaign performance by detecting and combating fraud early?
  • Are we, overall, promoting transparency and trust in our data sharing approach?

Key stakeholders from both the supply and demand side of retail media will need to come together to determine what elements need to be included to create a programmatic standard to meet the needs of both and progress the industry forward. Establishing this structure collaboratively is a crucial step towards enhancing transparency, efficiency and innovation across the retail media landscape. 

It’s not clear where exactly the industry will land, but it’s clear an OpenRTB standard can be a significant milestone for the future of retail media. 

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