“The European retail media network (RMN) landscape has evolved tremendously in the past year,” says Katrina Smart, Commerce Media Director for Europe at The Mars Agency. Retailers, facing squeezed margins, are realising the potential of their customer data as a profit driver.

Smart notes, “Existing networks have evolved and improved their capabilities, and new market entrants have set up their own RMNs to capitalise on this demand after seeing the tremendous growth in Amazon and Walmart‘s networks.”

Recent launches, such as Superdrug’s Optimo network and Curry’s Connected Media, underscore the dynamic shifts.

Progress and challenges in the UK, France, and Germany

Smart sheds light on key insights from The Mars Agency’s “European Retail Media Report Card,” emphasising the need for improvement in ‘clean room capabilities’ and ‘self-serve programmatic and onsite display.’

Industry widely views the report as a valuable tool for brands to compare retail media network capabilities and allocate investments. The study aids retailers in understanding their position and shaping future product roadmaps.

Smart points out that only a few leading networks, including “Amazon ads, Boots Media Group, and Unlimitail currently offer those capabilities at scale,” while others are in the trial phase.

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Clean rooms, combining retailer and brand data, offer exciting opportunities for personalised experiences but face challenges due to the lack of widespread capabilities.

According to Smart, “The European RMN market is expected to grow like wildfire, like it has in the USA.”

However, she cautions that while there are lessons to be learned from the US market, there are also innovations that European retailers can lead, including “live shopping, AR/VR, and shoppable content.”

The report reveals the diverse retail media journeys in the UK, France, and Germany, shaping the evolution of the market across Europe.

Unique opportunities and challenges for brands in a nascent European market

Smart highlights challenges brands face in navigating the European RMN market, emphasising the importance of understanding where to invest their budget.

She states, “We hope our report card serves as a guide to support brands in their decision-making process.” The report aims to provide a comprehensive view of critical RMNs, enabling brands to see the capabilities of each in one place.

Smart emphasises the importance of recognising differences across countries, stating, “When planning across Europe vs. the US, it is also important to remember that each country has different standards and capabilities.”

The report facilitates critical discussions and planning decisions by evaluating the supplier-retailer dynamic and assessing added value and softer metrics.

Empowering brands to connect with target audiences effectively

In discussing how retail media empowers brands, Smart notes that it allows them to reach their target customers near the point of purchase, reducing wastage and optimising ad spending efficiency.

“Retail media should be another layer of a brand’s marketing strategy,” says Smart.

Paid search and an always-on program are suggested starting points, and she advises brands to run ‘tests and learn’ experiments to understand what is most effective for them.

Looking ahead, Smart anticipates a “massive increase in retail media network capability for self-serve,” with simplicity being a winning factor.

She notes, “Innovation is one of the five criteria we consider as part of the report,” and the focus is on core self-serve capabilities like onsite search, programmatic, and audience segmentation.

The report foresees increased targeting capabilities, with trials and beta testing on clean rooms, offsite capabilities, and additional measurement becoming prevalent across markets in the coming year.

Ultimately, brands and retailers should prepare for a dynamic landscape with continual advancements in the retail media space.