1. Media & Marketing

Retail Media is Omni-Funnel: How to Master It

When you imagine retail media’s place in a marketing funnel, do your eyes look toward the bottom? If so, you may miss out on the full-funnel benefits of retail media networks (RMNs). As marketers, we’re already sold on the performance advantages of RMNs: enormous sets of first-party consumer data, precise attribution and analysis, a future beyond third-party cookies.

However, the economic uncertainty of recent years has made some of us focus too closely on sales conversions, neglecting brand-building and nurturing loyalty. Siloing these objectives into separate media channels with competing budgets leaves value on the table and hurts overall results. Fortunately, RMNs have the power to raise brand awareness, nurture customer loyalty and show off our brands’ creativity while closing the sale, because retail media is full-funnel.

No Media Channel is Upper- or Lower-Funnel

It’s true: any media channel can expand brand awareness, and any media channel can deliver product or sales messaging. In one client example, it was discovered that consumers who saw a Streaming TV ad were over 2.5X more likely to purchase the product from a sponsored display or search ad versus those who saw the sponsored display or search ads alone. The highest purchase rate occurred when customers were exposed to all three ad types within the RTM, so the effects of a typically “upper funnel” ad type were clear in driving purchase rate.

In another example, social media platforms are typically thought of as top-of-funnel: they have a wide reach, but not everyone using them is in a purchasing mindset. The rise of social commerce, however, disrupts that notion entirely.

TikTok is, so far, the Bright Shiny Object of social commerce, having recently launched TikTok Shop and partnered with Google to sell search ad inventory. Other platforms, like Instagram, Pinterest and even Reddit have been building out their commerce capabilities so users can discover cultural trends and purchase them immediately.

As social adopts commerce, commerce adopts social – Amazon, for example, increased its ad spend on TikTok by 30% in the first half of this year. Amazon relies on TikTok’s trendsetting power (“TikTok Made Me Buy It”), and TikTok relies on Amazon’s clutch on the American market. They’re a perfect example of the marriage between awareness and purchase found in retail media.

So what does that mean for the rest of us? In our commerce strategies, we can employ tactics to capture, educate and encourage our audience at all stages of buying. For example, when setting up an RMN search strategy, mix general search terms like “pet food” with slightly narrower terms like “best raw pet food for dogs” – allowing new consumers to discover the brand while you deliver product messaging and deals like “Stella and Chewy’s sale” to shoppers who know about it but aren’t sold yet. Diversify your approach so you don’t wear out your audience with ad fatigue. And continue to invest in upper funnel tactics to unlock incrementality.

How Marketers can use First-Party Data

You’re advertising your brand on a few RMNs, you’re gathering loads of delicious first-party data…now what? That data is only helpful if it’s analyzed and used properly to optimize your approach going forward. Learn about your consumer base to create more personalized messaging for each segment of your audience, which will, in turn, attract new consumers of the same ilk.

For example, if you already know some of your consumers purchase your products from Target, you could offer a deal at Target using QR codes or discount codes to pull new Target shoppers into your audience. See how the funnel circled back to the top?

You should also use shopper data to build better lookalike audiences, so your ads reach more people who are the most likely to become new customers, and always run retargeting campaigns to those who have seen you before but not purchased (yet). These are all mid-funnel tactics informed by the data from retail media.

Retail Media Offers Opportunities for Creativity

RMNs aren’t just about numbers and charts; they’re increasingly offering marketers tools for creating diverse ad formats to influence different audiences. Walmart Connect, for one, has prioritized making its creative partnerships with VidMob, Whyte Spider and other services accessible to self-serve ad platform users to enhance the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Mobile ad tech provider Kargo has exclusively partnered with Albertsons Media Collective to build shoppable ads for Meta, and rich-media creative agency PadSquad partnered with Amazon Ads to provide interactive elements like product cards, haptic ad interactions and reactive scroll technology through Amazon’s demand-side platform (DSP). Marketers who take advantage of these opportunities to diversify their ad creative see a significant improvement in average cost per action (CPA) and incremental reach.

The Funnel Blurs as Retail Media Matures

Still in its adolescence, the retail media landscape has some kinks to work out: fragmented platforms with different measurements and a lack of standardization. Fortunately, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Rating Council (MRC) have jointly released a set of guidelines for standardization that should help media buyers to better know what’s working and where to invest their ad dollars. With better data analysis comes better utilization of data, to bring awareness to new consumers and nurture those on the fence.

Better standardization also will build deeper relationships, founded upon trust, between brands and retailers. Claire Wyatt, the VP of Business Strategy and Marketing Science at Albertsons Media Collective, referred to the RMN as a “co-op garden” (as opposed to a walled garden), meaning shared efforts equal shared results.

Advertising used to be a people business, and while the digital technology that informs it today certainly makes processes more efficient, we have an opportunity with emerging areas like retail media to reach people at all purchasing stages in ways that genuinely serve them.


Talia Arnold is the Managing Director of Exverus Media, twice named the fastest-growing full-service media agency in the U.S. Arnold’s 18-year expertise in media planning, buying and analysis has secured long-term relationships with Fortune 500 companies, many of which choose Exverus over larger agencies. Arnold regularly publishes original research and speaks at industry conferences. As a result of her leadership and creativity, Exverus is a 6X winner of Adweek’s Media Plan of the Year and 2x Ad Age Small Agency of the Year: Media.

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