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What are retail
media networks?
And why do they matter?

2 minute read
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What are retail media networks? And why do they matter?

“Retail Media Networks are the self-service advertising platforms that span individual retailers or a multitude of retailers.”1 This means that Retail Media Networks (RMNs) are digital ad businesses set up by retailers to monetize their online traffic and to offer their first-party data for targeted offsite advertising. Even before the pandemic retail media was already a growing category with large players like Walmart and Target trying to play catchup with Amazon.

Amazon started its advertising business back in 2012. It was valued at $4.61 billion in 2018 with a 4.1% share of the US digital market and was the number three digital ad firm of the year, behind Google and Facebook, but besting Oath and Microsoft.2

Copying Amazon’s playbook, Walmart3 and Target4 entered the scene in 2019, and more retailers and pharmaceutical companies are expected to follow in the coming years. So why the big interest? In short, RMNs provide retailers and brands with the following opportunities:5

  • Additional revenue for retailers
  • Improved retail footprint
  • Closed-loop reporting and creative support
  • Better shopping experiences for consumers
  • Partnering with tech companies such as Google, Facebook & Criteo6

For brands, especially those in the CPG industry, Retail Media Networks provide a variety of options to reach a large, targeted audience. That is why 85% are expected to spend on RMNs in the next few years.6

Retail Media Networks also enable brands to tap into the retailers' first-party data and track the return on ad spend (ROAS), so they can address the shoppers’ needs on each stage of the shopper journey and measure their ads’ performance at the same time. Other key capabilities RMNs offer to brands include:


Key Capabilities of Retail Media Networks - Merkle Image Credit: Merkle



A quick look into Amazon’s playbook

For brands, native digital ads must blend in with product search results. However, retail media display ads are about guaranteed placement on the retailers’ real estate. The following are some ad examples on Amazon:

Sponsored ads

These ads appear “at the top of, alongside, or within shopping results as well as on product detail pages. Ads may appear on both desktop, tablet, and mobile.”7


example Sponsored Ads - Tinuiti Image Credit: Tinuiti


Display Ads


example of Display Ads - CNBC Image Credit: CNBC


These include image ads that appear as consumers shop on Amazon, read on Kindle or using any third-party site:

Conquesting Ads

These image ads surface when shoppers search terms for rival products


example of Conquesting Ads - Amazon Image Credit: Marketplace Pulse


Retail media networks are here to stay

In the shopping journey, RMNs are very close to purchase, and that’s why they are attractive to brands. Now that people are shopping more and more online, even for food and medicine, brands cannot afford to pass up on any opportunity to be front and center for their target audience.

Where can brands start in the Retail Media Networks space?

RMNs can be considered as additional channels to a brands’ omnichannel strategy. Unlike in other channels that are heavy on text, Retail Media Networks rely mostly on digital assets such as images and videos. Therefore, brands need tools that can help them manage an increasing number of digital assets and then be able to efficiently distribute them to the right channels.
One such tool is a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system. A DAM serves as a central repository for all images, audio, and video files, and promotes the accessibility, discoverability, enrichment, and distribution of digital assets.


  1. https://welcome.comperemedia.com/blog/retail-media-networks-and-their-role-in-omnichannel-strategy/
  2. https://content-na2.emarketer.com/amazon-advertising-2018
  3. https://welcome.comperemedia.com/blog/retail-media-networks-and-their-role-in-omnichannel-strategy/
  4. https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/target-rebrands-in-house-media-network-as-roundel-during-first-newfronts-appearance/
  5. https://welcome.comperemedia.com/blog/retail-media-networks-and-their-role-in-omnichannel-strategy/
  6. https://www.merkleinc.com/thought-leadership/white-papers/rise-retail-media-network
  7. https://advertising.amazon.com/resources/faq/?ref_=a20m_us_dsp_re_faq#sponsored-products