Retail Media Networks: A Forced Marriage or Perfect Partnership?

By John Paquin


Love them or just live with them, there is no debate that retail media networks (RMNs) have had a spectacular rise to prominence. In a relatively short period of time, they have established themselves as the must-have marketing platform for retailers and the must-buy media platform for brands.

According to eMarketer1, 2022 was "the year of retail media networks," with ad spending projected to top $40 billion, and grow to $61 billion by 2024, capturing one in five digital ad dollars spent by marketers.

What's driving this explosive growth? A confluence of significant technological, privacy, and behavioral shifts in society:

  • A seismic shift in consumer shopping habits and buying options, driven by more than two years of COVID-19 lockdown, resulting in the proliferation of new and direct shopping channels.
  • Retailers are seizing the opportunity to create new and high-margin revenue streams by selling advertiser access to their audiences and site traffic.
  • The impending demise of third-party cookies, shifting marketers' focus to building out first-party databases to continue deployment of targeted digital ads. Retail media networks own a treasure trove of first-party shopper data.

So, what is a retail media network? It is essentially a network of digital channels owned by a retailer that allows marketers to purchase advertising space directed by the retailer's first-party data to targeted shoppers and prospects.

With all the fuss over RMNs, the ANA set out to find out more, fielding a landmark survey over the Summer of 2022 of our members' usage, attitudes and future intentions regarding RMNs. What we found surprised us.

Key Findings

A major concern expressed repeatedly throughout the study was that although RMNs are being credited for driving brand sales, they have not yet convinced advertisers of their ability to drive brand growth. We found that 67 percent of our respondents cited "to drive conversion" as their most important objective with RMNs, while only 7 percent cited "to drive awareness."

The next phase of growth for RMNs and value creation for brands will be through RMNs assuming shared responsibility with advertisers for driving brand growth, and demonstrating the ability of their platforms to drive incrementality and positive ROAS for brands. In other words, the next stage of growth will be driven by results versus relationships.


The short-term outlook for retail media networks is very positive, with most brands expecting that both their investment in RMNs and the effectiveness of their programs will increase over the next two years.

While most CPG and retailer distributed brands are all-in, with 56 percent of respondents in the survey reporting they are currently working with five or more different RMNs, advertisers still need to be convinced of their full value. Much of that value will arrive organically as the landscape changes dramatically with cookie deprecation, which is expected to arrive within that same two-year period.

The greatest opportunity for both brands and RMNs lies with RMNs being able to prove their value to drive both brand sales and brand equity growth and adapt their platforms to support mid-and upper-funnel tactics.

One advertiser we spoke with said, "The jury is still out on if the RMNs are truly driving sales incrementality." Another told us, "There is concern that while attribution shows RMNs are driving brand sales, they are not necessarily driving brand growth. This is especially concerning where incremental RMN spending is being sourced from brand building budgets."

The next phase of growth for RMNs and value creation for brands will be through RMNs assuming shared responsibility with advertisers for driving brand growth as well as demonstrating the ability of their platforms to drive profitable incremental growth and positive ROAS for brands. The next stage of growth will be driven by results versus relationships.

Remember marketers, you are in the driver's seat. The rapid proliferation of retail media networks, along with the reality of fixed/limited funds available against an inflationary and tightening economy, mean it's a buyer's market. Remember that collaboration is also key, as the best solutions are when all parties win. Use the time and leverage the ANA to educate yourself, discuss, and engage.

Because RMNs are here to stay.

The full report can be accessed here.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.