Retailers need to own their media

Jon Southcombe, CEO of Retail Marketing International, discusses how retailers need to take control of their own media channels to ensure a cohesive media strategy.

Jon Southcombe
Jon Southcombe

For many brands, retail marketing is one of the most important channels available to them, as it offers the most direct route to their customers. On top of this it is now a credible, measurable channel that really delivers results for advertisers, thanks to the rise of EPOS data.

The challenge, and indeed the opportunity for both retailers and brands, is to co-ordinate the wide range of different retail communication channels (covering everything from six-sheet posters, digital signage and floor graphics, to point of sale, loyalty marketing and customer media) that are on offer in the modern retail environment, to present cohesive presence and messaging.

However, most creative agencies are not used to bringing this all together into one holistic strategy. As a result, retailers tend to have a number of third parties running the various channels for them – often selling them off to the highest bidder. This means that brands have to deal direct with the retailer and are frequently faced with having as many as three different media sellers working within one retailer and competing for their marketing spend.

These third parties often have little consideration for whether their particular channel is relevant to the brand’s campaign. While this may be good for the retailer’s bottom line, it does little to create a joined-up strategy on behalf of the brand and retailer to communicate with the customer and drive sales.

The current model leaves retail marketing perceived as fragmented, falling into a number of different budget categories; from trade and sales promotion to execution. However, the Co-op’s Media Centre is the perfect example of how effective these channels can be when run centrally; with one gate keeper the retailer has ultimate control over what messaging goes out where, creating a consistency and cohesion that is absent in many of the large retailers.

To do this effectively, retailers have to take control of all their media channels themselves, and see them as a way to create an extra revenue stream with very few overheads as well as a way to ensure a consistency of messaging and branding throughout their stores.

In short they need to become custodians of their own brands rather than allowing them to be devalued by the input of too many different agencies. Becoming a media owner in this way, and having the responsibilities that this brings, is a significant step for a retailer, but if it’s done well there are considerable benefits.

Another issue that is often seen as a barrier to the potential growth of retail marketing is compliance; which ranges from 42% to 85% across the industry. This is something retailers need to address.

When they step over to becoming media owners, they also have to embrace the discipline that comes with it: if a poster is due to go up on a Sunday for two weeks then it should do, and clients should only get billed for when that poster is in situ. This requires a very different mindset to the way in which most retailers are used to working with brands in the existing trade relationship.

However, this new model, when combined with the advent of online media planning tools, means that retail media is not only a powerful channel but also an increasingly manageable one for brands and an increasingly profitable one for retailers.

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