Thought piece:

Why transparency in the shopper media industry is key


Shopper media that delivers incremental sales is a win-win for any retailer and brand. But when it is seen as an investment in the first place, it’s only natural for brands to want to understand performance in order to optimise. And retailers should care too.


Nevertheless, a large majority of retailers remain fearful of being transparent about how well their media estate is performing. The fear being that evaluation may show up less than positive results potentially putting brand investment at jeopardy. But it needn’t be a scary thing for retailers. It should be seen as a positive step forward to helping to facilitate and own best in class shopper marketing campaigns.

The benefit to the retailers is they can start to unearth where the value is within their media estate. This will allow each retailer to media plan more effectively for brands, understanding what channels to use and how best to use them based on category, product and campaign type nuances.

For brands, they can assess the performance of their investment into the shopper media industry in conjunction with other types of media such as TV. As a minimum, brands will be able to see how they can unlock more value from their current investment in shopper. And the best-case scenario is that favourable results are found which helps FMCGs secure additional investment in to shopper

But there are differences to doing this from an in store vs. online perspective.

In store media

Currently, retailers are providing campaign analysis, usually via redemption rates, customer data and usually a form of test vs. control analysis on how well instore media has performed, however brands sometimes find it hard to decipher what has really worked for 3 reasons.

  1. There is a nervousness around whether results have been reported in such a way to paint a more positive picture of how well a campaign performed to ensure investment is maintained with that retailer. It may be that certain figures are omitted for example. There is a likelihood that this isn’t in fact the case, but how can retailers prove that to brands?
  2. When brands attempt to understand the performance of their total cross-retail shopper investment, whether to compare or look at an overall picture, each retailer tends to have a different way to analyse and report on performance. This makes it harder for the brand to justify where to place marketing spend, including if it means helping to increase investment in certain retailers.
  3. When methodology is so varied within the industry and often even different to ATL media reporting, it makes it difficult to gain any understanding of how well shopper marketing is performing in comparison to other types of media such as TV, Digital or OOH. For brands this is key to looking at their marketing mix as a whole and for retailers it could be an opportunity to prove how much more effective shopper media can be than some traditional media channels when it comes to brand growth.

How can the situation be improved?

Retailers need to look beyond their own media estates, working together and even with independent agencies like Capture and Lobster to establish a consistent and reliable analysis methodology for shopper media. Once this is agreed upon, this should represent the industry standard for evaluating in store media.

Online Media

Despite online channels usually having more readily available metrics to analyse, gaining analysis and indeed full transparency remain a challenge.

Currently retailers will typically share little or no data for online media. If something is shared, they will typically be ‘behavioural metrics’ such as impressions and the number of clicks on an advertisement, which is perfect when looking at objectives like awareness and engagement. Some may even provide a pre vs. post campaign sales comparison, however when brands often activate alongside promotions, it’s difficult to know if the uplift in sales is due to the promotion, the media or both. But, it’s understandable because a true sales performance analysis as a result of the media is tricky unless the retailer’s website is set up to allow for test vs. control serving of ads.

As a result of not having a fully robust way to assess the incremental impact online media has on sales, some of the largest FMCGs are pulling back investment for online and reapportioning it to other channels that are able to activate in proximity to store as they can then measure the impact on sales of specific stores.

Whilst a set of cross-retail industry standards for analysing online media should be the long-term ambition, reporting is still in its infancy compared to in store media. But without ability to effectively analyse performance of media alone, the channel risks losing more marketing funding.

With that in mind, retailers need to initially develop a way of allowing for test vs. control comparison for media on their ecommerce sites. This could be done by geo-targeting online advertisement on retailer websites, allowing the incremental impact of the media to be assessed in those ‘test’ regions where the media was live vs the ‘control’ regions where it was not. Or indeed serving ads to specific user groups based on account information in addition to the regional data.

Some brands have had to begin pioneering this evaluation method themselves given the lack of action from retailers to do this; potentially with a concern that any reliable online analysis will show a poor return from their websites.

If a retailer does begin trailblazing in this space to develop an online evaluation methodology, there is an opportunity to gain incremental investment from some of their largest brands who have a real appetite to test and learn in this environment given no retailers are offering this right now. Over time, this will help both the retailer and brand work out how to continually improve the performance of this type of media.

Ultimately understanding full campaign performance robustly should not be seen as a hindrance to increasing marketing investment into Shopper. In fact, it should be viewed as an opportunity for all retailers, brands and independent agencies to champion best practice, optimise media estates and ultimately support brands in showing their investment will make a positive impact on sales to encourage repeat investment.

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