In Conversation: Navigating Retail Media

Are we witnessing a revolution in retail media? Innovation Associate, Owen Eddershaw explores this question in a discussion with Troy Townsend, Co-founder & CEO of Zitcha - the all-channel retail and commerce media technology platform.

In Conversation: Navigating Retail Media

Podcast / 15 Apr 2024

In this conversation, Innovation Associate, Owen Eddershaw and Zitcha Co-founder & CEO, Troy Townsend explore the forces driving the more recent surge of interest in retail media, they explore why this emerging landscape can be so attractive for both retailers and advertisers and ultimately how you can effectively tap into its potential. Troy shares valuable insights on how to actually get started with retail media, both from a retail perspective, as well as a brand or advertiser perspective. They also explore how Zitscha is empowering brands and retailers to navigate this new world.

Whether you're a retailer looking to monetise your consumer traffic, or if you're a brand seeking to connect with shoppers in a more meaningful way, then this conversation is for you.


Owen: Hi everyone, it's Owen here. I'm an associate in True's innovation advisory team, and I'd love to welcome you to listen to what I believe is a very insightful conversation that I shared with Troy Townsend, who's the co founder and CEO of a retail media platform called Zitcha. The clues in the name, we explore in quite a wide-ranging, but hopefully punchy discussion, the world of retail media.

We'll dive into the forces driving the more recent surge of interest in the space, explore why this emerging landscape can be so attractive for both retailers and advertisers, and ultimately how they can effectively tap into its potential. Troy will share some really valuable insights on how to actually get started with retail media, both again from a retail perspective as well as a brand or advertiser perspective.

And then we'll explore how Zitcha is actually empowering brands and retailers to navigate this new world. So, whether you're a retailer looking to monetize your consumer traffic, or if you're a brand seeking to connect with shoppers in a more meaningful way, then hopefully this conversation is for you. So, let's get started.

Owen: Why do you think, anyway, that retail media is suddenly, sort of, picking up so much speed, you know, as a concept, it's not necessarily a new thing, but you're starting to see smaller retailers waking up to the fact that there's an opportunity there for them, not just the Amazons and the Walmarts of the world.

Troy: I mean, I think, yes, I think it's multifaceted, right? The economic environment that we're in, the ability now for retailers to find new high-margin revenue, I think is probably a big driver. So that's why you're going to see, or that's why we're seeing just such a monumental shift in retailers starting to go down the path of building an RMN.

Different to trade, RMN is very specific. I think, too, you have this amalgamation of media also working through the privacy legislation, cookie deprecation, the need for marketing and digital marketing to sort of live in a brand, say, one PD landscape, and I think the big thing is that retailers are now starting to to say this as a big opportunity, right?

I mean, it's been led by Amazon, but you know, they, they're sort of saying now, you know, transactions are the new cookies, right? And they sit on a heap of them. So I think, I think that's what's starting to get retailers up and about and moving. I mean, we've still got such a long way to go.

Retail media is, you know, to a large point, on-site. So it sits within e-comm teams and it's been pretty easy to sort of stand up and own within a retailer. Um, now we're starting to see, you know, the rise of omni-channel retailers starting to sort of bring all their inventory to market, right, which brings added complexities and, you know, a lot more challenges to retailers. So it'll be interesting to see how that plays out. But that's the main reason, you know, it's, it's high margin revenue, you know, and a lot of retailers need as much of that as possible at the moment. So I think it's just been the perfect storm.

Owen: Yeah. That makes perfect sense. And I guess then from the brand side, is that the main draw that you're seeing - access to, you know, first-party data that a target...

Troy: Well actually the biggest draw card from a, from a brand perspective is one, they get, you know, to a large extent, skew level reporting, which they've never had before across any medium, any digital medium at all.

So I think, you know, that is going to be the major driver of massive dollars into the space. The other is, you know, it's the closest path to the customer, you know, the closest point of purchase. So those two things, whether it be in a digital shelf or whether it be an in-store experience, in bricks and mortar, you know, you don't get much better than that when you sort of sitting there when you're about to buy and make a decision.

So, I think those are the main draw cards, you know, the elusive in-store transaction for every CPG brand or every brand that sells through a third party is now coming to pass that, you know, it's that perfect mix of what you want to get out of, you know, out of your media. You know, the old saying of I know 50 percent works, but I just don't know which 50 percent is now going to be fully thrown on its head.

Owen: Yeah. Completely. And in my mind, it feels as though, and I don't know, I'd love to get your opinion on sort of whether this is true and why it might be true, is the in-store opportunity still pretty underutilised relative to the e-commerce side of retail media?

Troy: When you look globally, like all are under utilised, right. So it's still very nascent, but a lot of the press and a lot of the focus has been on e-comm. I mean, that was driven a lot by the massive shift into e-comm through COVID. But you're starting to see this transition. Definitely you'll see in 24 and 25, the rise of the in-store experience, the in-store experience is a lot harder for retailers, right?

Like there, there's a lot more nuances in the in-store over the onsite. Onsite is typically being driven by e-comm teams and they can sort of stand alone. Whereas the in store environment is owned by the merch teams. So very, very different beasts. So you're going to see, and also not only that is the CapEx to actually run screens and digital transformation, all of that sort of stuff adds, it adds more complexity into the mix.

But there is a big bucket of money, 90%, you know, for every omni channel retailer, 90 percent of all transactions still happens in a store. So, you know, that's the spot that a massive amount of money will start to flow into. Um, we're already seeing it now, like we have full broadside integration screens and audio, and we're just seeing a heap of funds start to move into that because once an in-store environment is starting to take place, you can connect the dots really, really easily. Right? So whether you're doing offsite through Meta or Google or programmatic or path to purchase through digital out of home or connect to TV, you can sort of start to see the journey really map together.

So, that's why you'll see the next two years in store, probably two to three years, there's a lot of opportunity that will come out of that as that digitised, for sure.

Owen: Yeah, super interesting. And if you put yourselves in the shoes of the retailers, if I'm thinking, you know, I see the opportunity, I see the value in retail media, both in-store and online.

What steps do you think I need to take, not only first of all to set that up, but also to make it an attractive proposition?

Troy: Yeah, I mean, number one is your internal transformation, right? There's the internal pieces of how do I connect the dots together? So who's going to sell it, who's going to own the relationships, how does that work holistically? So I think that's, that's the first piece. Second piece is what do I build to actually connect all that? How do I build, whether it's using an RMP like Zitcha, or whether it's building internal, you know, you're going to need to build a capability in order to be able to service that in one spot, to be able to see and connect the dots.

There's a lot of disparity, I mean, let's be honest, a lot of retailers still live in spreadsheets and do things through people and, you know, transitioning that is hard because it's, you know, you're, you're building something that a lot of people have worked, you know, you're changing things that people have worked - workflows and things like that that they've done for many years.

So I think that's going to be the big piece to see that in, the other will be reporting, right? So making sure that the data layer within the retailer is right to be able to track to transaction so you can start to really, you know, connect the dots of value into each part of the of the mix whether it be onsite, offsite or in-store.

Owen: And I think that's always what we hear. It's just, you know, every retailer we speak to thinks that their data is way worse than everyone else's and they're nowhere near being able to draw value from it. So I guess where do you see the balance between, you know, definitely there's a fundamental need to have a robust data layer so that, you know, you can ultimately report as you say, but equally, would you say some retailers are probably put off thinking that data isn't good enough when actually probably they could still do it.

Troy: We've started to build retailers, you know, where it's like, right, what are the opportunities that you have. You know, the in-store environment's interesting, right? Because everyone's really playing from scratch on that. So you need a loyalty platform. Like there's no doubt that you need, you need to have loyalty. You need to have transaction. You need to have customer data to build a robust RMN, but you can build that over time as well. And sort of work through what are the, what are the critical things that you turn on as you're building your RMN to add value. So, you know, I think, you know, a lot of retailers that, that might shy away from it.

I mean, they're only going to shy away from it for an amount of time and then they'll have to get into it, you know, so this won't be a, 'will I', or 'won't I', this will be a must to maintain the right margins within, your retail environment and to compete. So, you know, the sooner that most retailers sort of wrap their heads around that, the better they'll be over the next five years.

Owen: Yeah, yeah, and one of the other concerns that sometimes gets raised by retailers around like, you know, brand protection, is it right for our retail experience to have any form of retail media within it? What's your view on the controllability of putting in those robust systems?

Troy: There's no doubt that the customer experience is, it has to be at the forefront for a retailer. So every retailer should be approving everything that goes live across their network so they can maintain that the value to their end customer at the end of the day, you know, doesn't matter whether it's in-store or on-site or off-site, the brand needs to hold true, like the retail brand and the customer of that retailer needs to hold true. So, making sure that the processes and, parameters around what they sell, what media they sell, how they sell it, and what they approve needs to be super clear for the brands that are spending across that. I mean, a lot of retailers are starting to play around with this sort of endemic and non-endemic, what does non-endemic look like within their environment?

So I think it's super critical for value back to the end customer, because as soon as you lose the end customer, then your value, your network goes south. Right. So that being at the top of the priority list is supercritical.

Owen: And particularly, I guess like in luxury spaces, do you think that there is a role at all, or I know that a lot of the luxury players you speak with, they have the deepest roots of concerns around, you know, is this going to tarnish our brand experience?

Troy: Yeah, I mean, again, I think in any environment, if you get it right and you sort of get the structure right, then it can work, right, so, you know, we've got some retailers that hold their brands at the highest level, but you got to think about that, you know, you have an in-store environment where, you know, you want to be able to sell space, right, so your luxury brands will take that space and use it and they'll drive the value, right, so my view is it sits across the gamut, it's just how well you set your structures up in the starting place around, you know, how you sell it, where you sell it, you know, in a luxury environment, you're not going to turn it into a NASCAR, you know, Outfit, right?

Where it's just brands, you know, buying for spot. You've got to be specific on the spots and the value of those spots and who, you know, who, when can, can those slots be, be taken up and purchased, right? So every retailer, when they sit down to build an RMN need to have a really clear view of that.

Owen: A hundred percent. Just to flip this to the brand side of things or the advertiser side of things, are there any nuances to this as a channel or a form of media that you'd think should be recognised by brands relative to other media channels?

Troy: Yeah, totally, I think they're buying from a retailer, not just a publisher. And retailers have nuances, you know, not every one retailer is the same. Right. So, you know, there's a view of standardisation and reporting and those sorts of things. But, you know, the one thing that is super critical is, you know, retailers have specific relationships with their customers. They do specific things for them that other retailers don't do. So there are nuances in the space, you know, you can't buy across three retailers and expect to get the exact same result. And I think that's the major challenge for a lot of brands is, you know, they're seeing differing results and they're trying to standardise those results, but they're buying from specific retailers, right, so they're never going to get standard results. It's not a single platform. So I think that is the critical thing for a lot of brands to understand.

The other really critical thing is, you know, brands always think about more and more of how they've been brought up in this space is like ROAS is the result of what value is, but actually, you know, they should be looking at the space full funnel. They should be seeing the ability to run brand, they should be seeing the ability to run conversion. You know, they've got such a broad gamut, more than any other publishing medium to go, right, well, I want to do theater in-store and I want to run, you know, offsite campaigns and I want to run, you know, across e-comm.

That has just such a broad gamut of opportunity of media type and function. So I think a lot of brands and I think it's media as well, you know, everyone's getting into the trap of ROAS, ROAS, ROAS, right?What's the return on every dollar? but not sort of thinking about it holistically around, you know, what you're buying and what you're trying to do with that customer at that time. So those two things, you know, compound pretty heavily on brands when they're trying to just go, right, I spend a dollar here, what's my return, you know, and I want to standardise that across Amazon, I want to standardise it across Walmart and every retailer that I spend money with.

Owen: It's very interesting, yeah. And just to wrap up, I think this has been extremely interesting, but I'd love to just hear in your words, a bit from the retailer perspective, what you guys at Zitcha are doing, and then on the brand perspective, what you guys are doing, and when should people look to use you and why should they be looking to use you?

Troy: Yeah on the retail side, we're heavily focused on giving the retailers the ability to bring all the right tools to make the brand experience super seamless, see everything in one spot. As a retailer, you would use Zitcha as an RMP when you're looking to build an RMN.

Everything from, we sit across the delivery, so making it super simple to bring all your supplies. So think about all the supply that you bring to market from a media perspective, whether it's onsite, offsite or in-store. But the other thing is really working through how do we help planning? How do we help plan, join business plans between the retailer and the brands to be able to look at what they're spending across trade and across over and above in their marketing spend. So those three things, the planning piece is super important to add value back into the delivery side. We connect the dots of all those channels. We make it nice and easy for the retailer to manage their network, but also make it super simple for a brand to buy across all those channels in one spot. Right. That's the other thing, there is no doubt that this space will have friction because, you know, you're going to have to buy across multiple retailers, that's going to be a thing for a time, but once you're in the retailer, being able to buy really, really simply, and not just from top tier, tier one, CPGs and brands, but all the way through to your long tail brands to be able to self serve.

At the end of the day, this is about driving scale into these retailers, right, and that's where trade and retail media really started to shift. It's like trade was always very specific and planned out. That's all you could do for the year. Whereas retail media can come in, you can do your trade, but you can also buy that media, you know, in real-time as you want. So making that buying experience for brands really simple is a critical piece for us.

Owen: Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you so much again. You're an absolute font of knowledge, so I appreciate you taking the time.

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