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Retail media to ride the wave of Australia’s biggest Black Friday yet

From all reports, we’re in for the biggest Black Friday yet, and the competition between brands to win consumer’s discount dollars looks to play right into the hands of Australia's retail media players. Mumbrella’s Kalila Welch speaks to Zitcha’s Troy Townsend, CitrusAd’s Roger Dunn and TRANSACT’s Mohammad Heidari Far to find out how retailers are making the most of the sales period.

If you have been online at all during the month of November, it’s unlikely you’ve been spared from the inundation of Black Friday promotions that have consumed every shopfront, inbox and social media feed.

The once US exclusive sales event, falling annually on the Friday after all-American holiday Thanksgiving, has well and truly found its audience in the Australian market, kicking off what is widely recognised as the biggest retail sales event of the year. Black Friday and its e-commerce equivalent Cyber Monday have become ingrained in the retail calendar, now even topping once-coveted post Christmas sales on Boxing Day.

It’s a win for retailers on two fronts: consumers scramble to spend on discounted stock ahead of Christmas, and the resulting buzz carries over into demand for retail media assets.

Brand’s growing demands for share of voice during the run up to Black Friday has translated to a huge opportunity for retail media owners, says Zitcha co-founder and CEO, Troy Townsend.

“It’s the closest point to conversion in-store for brands to be able drive drive a conversion on. So we’ve seen a huge uptick this year in the inventory and the booking of screens in-store and we’re seeing that across multiple retailers.”

Troy Townsend, co-founder and CEO, Zitcha

The spike in purchase intent that occurs during the sales period makes getting your product as close to the point of purchase as possible an obvious objective for brands looking to drive sales. And luckily, high customer traffic online and in store means that there’s more retail media inventory to go around, though demand is likely to inflate prices on cost per click (CPC).

Mohammad Heidari Far, managing director ANZ of Omnicom Media Group’s (OMG’s) ecommerce practice, TRANSACT, explains that the competition to maximise visibility at the point of purchase is particularly heightened as consumers become more “choosey” with what they’re willing to spend their money on.

“I think we’re seeing consumers coming into those sales events with a shopping list that already prepped to take advantage of those discounts and deals,” he says.

A tough macro economic environment has characterised an emphasis on that Townsend says has seen “a heap to money drive into the retail media space”, with spend looking to total two to three times that in the 2022 Black Friday sales period.

But it’s not just a bottom-of-funnel play, he explains, with a growing number of brands looking to top-of-funnel inventory like site banners, video and image to drive into the messaging they have running in store.

“From a structural perspective, what we’re seeing is is a broader narrative around the value that the retail media networks are offering brands and brands are really leaning into that.”

Mohammad Heidari Far, managing director, TRANSACT

And lean into they have. One of the more pronounced trends of Black Friday’s growth in recent years has been that it is stretching out earlier every year, forcing brands to push harder for longer if they are to stand out amongst a sea of sales and discounts.

Senior vice president of Publicis’ retail media business, CitrusAd, Roger Dunn explains that the Black Friday sales are a much longer game than just the weekend itself.

“There’s at least a couple of weeks where you’re really getting the message out there with more awareness activity, just so that people know that your brand is available, it’s going to be an offer.”

“And then on the weekend, you’re going to be going hard in terms of really maximizing any promotions, you’re going to want to really blast them out and make sure you’re sort of all over the site.

“Then there’s always that mop up period afterwards as well, like a week or two after when you’re retargeting people that might have visited your product page but haven’t bought yet.”

Roger Dunn, senior vice president, CitrusAd

Heidari Far says the race for brands to be the first to market with their Black Friday messages has become a challenge in the retail media sector.

“Year after year we see Black Friday and Cyber Monday moving the start date further forward and brands have to race with each other to start first, especially in their category. They’re trying to be the first in their category to go like even buy a couple of hours, and that makes a big difference to brands.”

Given that inventory is finite, the competition to be first has seen brands rush to book out retail media far in advance, blocking out the two weeks before Black Friday and the subsequent lead into the holiday season.

Townsend says transform lead times for retail media bookings, which usually sit at an almost “real time” turn around of six days from buy to deliver. During Black Friday, brands are booking inventory around 28 days in advance.

And the demand for retail media services during the biggest sales period of the year is only expected to grow in 2024 as the sector continues towards maturity.

“2024 will be a pivotal year in this space for Australian retailers,” says Townsend. “A lot of them are ramping up and getting their ducks in a row in order to see to see this value.”

And if retailers are to cater for the increasing demand, they’ll have to ensure service meets that of what brands have grown used to from media agencies.

“We’re seeing the tip of the iceberg coming out of the water around what retail media is, but you know, when you look under the water, the amount of work that’s going into making sure this the customer experience is great for the end customer. Because at the end of the day if the customer experience is not right then no one wins, right.”

With that, Townsend says retailers will need to get “really clear” on what that customer experience it looks like, as they continue to innovate within their own service offering in the face of marketing industry that is headed for a number of big changes over the next year.

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