Retail media presents a compelling opportunity for retailers in the MENA region. While brands are struggling to reach their audiences due to the deprecation of third-party cookies, retailers can use retail media networks to scale their traffic and performance by capturing and utilising their first-party shopper data.
In lay terms, retail media is described as monetising advertising space within a retailer’s digital ecosystem that offers a strategic avenue for generating additional revenue for a business.
As the retail landscape in MENA continues to evolve, with increasing digitisation and e-commerce growth (expected to reach $57bn in 2026, according to gulfbusiness.com), retailers are finding innovative ways to leverage their customer data and marketing platforms.
In a region characterised by a diverse and dynamic consumer base, retailers can utilise their deep understanding of local preferences (products, language, payment and social values) to provide targeted advertising opportunities for brands. This enhances the shopping experience for customers and enables retailers to build stronger relationships with advertisers, ultimately boosting profitability.
With the MENA e-commerce market projected to witness significant growth, embracing retail media can be a game-changer for retailers seeking to stay competitive and capitalise on the digital transformation sweeping the region.
IAB published stats around the predicted growth and estimated value added to retail businesses, quoting up to a 5% increase in a retailer’s Gross Merchandise Value (GMV). Not to forget additional margins on media, which could be 85% higher than product retail margins, leading to a total profit increase of +10% when adopting retail media in your business.
How difficult is it for retailers to make the most of this opportunity?
We asked Incubeta’s retail media expert, Boj Holslag, Director of Publishers & Retail Media, who presented ‘The 3rd Revolution in Digital Advertising’ at Google’s Retail Media event in Dubai earlier this month, to guide retailers on where to start.
Where to start when building your retail media network?
There are some similarities when comparing retail media networks with traditional publishers, but the difference comes with the network setup.
For many publishers, their primary business model is to create content to gain traffic and monetise ad spaces, whereas others prioritise paid subscriptions over ad sales. In retail, the primary business model will always be commerce (with a special exception for Amazon), where you have complete control over your consumer’s path, with the objective of increasing product sales. This means that the approach you take to set up your retail media network greatly depends on other departments in your organisation.
Before choosing an approach, consider asking yourself the following questions:
- How will the performance of commerce be affected by media?
- How will your trading deals and relationships change with suppliers?
- Which resources would you need from your data and development teams?
- How will the addition of retail media change your ways of working?
- What do your legal teams have to say about the addition of ad servers and data partnerships?
- Is your finance department already equipped to handle revenue flows resulting from media?
- Which new teams, technologies and partnerships do you need to set up to make retail media a success?
How to set up a retail media network
The following four steps will help you effectively set up a retail media network.
Step 1: Setting up your sales organisation
The first thing is to plan how you will sell your media. If you already have trade marketing teams, you could leverage those resources to sell media. The difference between media and trade marketing is that media sales always come with additional, dedicated media budgets from the supplier. You may choose to set up a dedicated retail media team to sell and manage media campaigns or work with a sales house to represent their network.
The second thing you need to decide in the early phase is if you want to sell to endemic (brands that sell their products in your store, contributing to your sales) or non-endemic brands (brands that do not sell their products in your store, not contributing to your commerce results).
Generally, retailers choose to only serve endemic campaigns in online environments because they don’t want to risk online users clicking away from the retailer’s site.
Step 2: Choosing your technology
Regardless of whether you’re advertising to endemic or non-endemic brands, you will need your technical setup to run, optimise and measure (the effectiveness of) campaigns. Within your e-commerce platform, you’ll probably want to start with display ads, native ads and sponsored product ads, where many advertisers already display ad campaigns, which makes it easy for them to expand to native advertisements that match the look and feel of your website.
Google Ad Manager is the most widely used publisher ad server for these purposes. It has all the features to sell, run, optimise, measure campaigns and utilise data between your platforms.
As a retailer, you own valuable first-party consumer data, meaning you can also utilise these audiences to retarget outside your network on behalf of your advertiser. With these ‘Supplier-Paid’ campaigns, you make a margin on the media campaign while driving extra traffic to your platform. Your audiences can be set up based on your consumer data while utilising other tools like Google Analytics or Google Campaign Manager. If you’re buying media positions outside your network, Google Display & Video 360 is a widely used Demand Side Platform (DSP).
The success of your retail media business is heavily dependent on your data structures, and because the industry is becoming more reliant on first-party data, you have the opportunity to connect and utilise your first-party consumer data in an omnichannel environment.
By using the right tools, like Google Cloud, for your data foundations, you can continue to enrich your data. Propensity modelling (analysing user behaviour and predicting future actions and conversion probability) with the help of AI is one of the promising utilities for retail data. Your (enriched) data can be used for campaign targeting, conversion and iROAS analysis (Incremental Return On Ad Spend).
Step 3: The onboarding
Once you’ve set up your sales structures and chosen your tech, it’s time to set things in motion.
When designing your technology setup, it’s important to keep two things in mind:
The technologies should be able to work together in one unified ecosystem and
Your ecosystem should supply the needs and requirements of all your involved teams.
It’s important to review all data collection and processing with your legal teams during the process to set up the correct consent flows.
The central part of onboarding your ad server is to create visual blueprints of the ad placements, connect data for targeting and reporting and create native or rich media templates. We advise you to work with an expert partner, Incubeta, to support your campaign management.
Step 4: Start expanding
Retailers usually start with their on-site offering as the first stage, and as they mature, they might choose to expand to off-site. The more complex expansions depend on data maturity, like enriching customer databases and utilising machine learning and AI to create predictive models. Many of those data initiatives support both your e-commerce and your retail media business; this means that in the future, both of those revenue streams will grow into a more centralised retail strategy.
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to increase your value and lead during this revolution in digital advertising.
For more information on retail media networks and how Incubeta can help you become a publisher, get in touch with our experts today.