From digital to retail media and beyond

Eight weeks into his new role, Cartology’s director of client partnerships and sales Robbie Hills reflects on what he’s learned so far in the rapidly evolving new media landscape.

I have been in the digital industry since 1999, watching the rise of search engines, video display media and CTV and being a part of the advertising industry that has shifted, then shifted again and then again! I’ve seen customer behaviour transform and brands adapt. 

Now, arguably we are in the midst of the next wave with retail media, and the category can be seen to be driving strong innovation in many areas. What we’re seeing is a seismic growth of the industry and the increasing importance of digital. 

I’ve only had my boots on the ground for eight weeks, but reframing my experience in digital within the context of retail media has given me a fresh perspective. Digital is an integral part of the retail media ecosystem and that ecosystem is so much more than it’s perceived. 

So, three observations if you will: 

Don’t put it in a box – it doesn’t fit

If you asked me to describe retail media in one word – I’d say evolving. Retail media isn’t a single tick box on a media plan or a sponsorship of a category. It is unapologetically many things at once, Out of Home, radio, digital, BVOD, social, print and more. And it is as you guessed it, constantly evolving. 

For this reason, while there’s no specified taxonomy for retail media, it needs to be considered and planned for in its own right, as its own medium. This is where we have the opportunity to drive some real value for clients, where retail media is planned holistically, big picture, leveraging real first party and often transactional data to understand customers and reach them not just in their purchase mindset but at those key moments where they’re looking for inspiration and discovery. 

Real customer insight is our secret weapon

Running global client data and tech teams for the past four years at Google for Samsung, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, McDonald’s and P&G, I’ve seen a really clear focus on one thing – bringing data together to give customers a valuable and personalised experience. 

Bringing data, product and tech together, using the power of personalisation at scale – that’s the big opportunity for retail media.  

Australia as a market has digital maturity possessing data strategies and innovation that is just as good as anywhere in the world. Retail media may be three or so years young in Australia, but every year the ability to use data is only going to get better and the ability for analytics of what we are doing to ensure the end customer gets a better experience will only improve. 

With the upcoming depreciation of cookies (from Google) and no doubt with the Australian regulatory environment likely to change in the (very) near future, the need for advertisers to have a viable, measurable and actionable data strategy in place is paramount.

Accountability is key 

What makes retail media unique is the accountability in media spend and closed-loop reporting that it offers. You know that if there is an ad on screen selling chocolate biscuits, retail media can prove the sales impact on any given day – online or in-store. You can’t get that insight or accountability everywhere. 

Our reporting model is ever-evolving and we’re working hard to grow our capabilities and give our clients a more comprehensive understanding of campaign performance. This enables us to measure sales overnight, customers over time and ensure together with clients, advertising investment is working as hard as it can, to drive bottom line return. 

There’s a lot of opportunity with retail media, and there’s no idea too big or small. Challenge retail media with the customer outcomes you’re trying to achieve, and let’s make those investments work harder together.

Robbie Hills, Cartology’s director of client partnerships and sales.


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