‘This is a permanent shift’: Retail giants like Amazon capture more ad spending

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Add retail media to the (small) list of winners from much of the world being forced to stay at home.

For the advertisers in areas like clothing, pharmaceuticals, electronics, personal care and, in particular, consumer packaged goods media agency execs say ad dollars are moving toward retail and grocery media channels from Amazon, Walmart, Target and others. Ad buyers see this an acceleration of a trend toward retail media channels that was already happening in the market, driven by the deep purchase data held by those ringing up purchases.

“We have seen a huge increase/shift in dollars to retail media across most of our [consumer goods] clients,” said Kacie McKee, head of ecommerce for Wavemaker. “Those that previously held off or only participated in small doses, have asked for full support and coverage. We anticipate this trend to continue to build and to hold.”

Nick Drabicky, vp of client strategy at PMG, has seen a 45% increase in retail media ad spending by clients over the last two weeks. “We believe this is a permanent shift, not a temporary shift,” said Drabicky. “We are investing more in Target, Amazon and Walmart than we ever have.” 

Retail media was already a growing category before the coronavirus hit as retailers like Walmart and Target have worked to bolster their efforts, playing catch up with Amazon. Advertisers have been drawn to retail media as the death knell for the cookie has made first-party data offerings more attractive.

“It’s going to be huge going forward,” said Daniel Owen, evp of Direct Agents. “Consumer behavior is starting to shift. Even the consumers who had never shopped online before are and now everyone is a lot more comfortable with it. I don’t see that dropping off.” A recent survey by Kenshoo found that 75% of consumers are shifting their brick and mortar purchases to Amazon and Walmart. That same survey also found that 67% of advertisers plan to increase or maintain Amazon search spending this month for both essential and non-essential items. 

With consumers unable to find certain items on Amazon, they have turned to other channels. That’s helped those other retail offers with traffic surges and made them more attractive for advertisers to increase spending on those platforms, according to buyers. For Walmart, in particular, Owen found that there has been a 20-25% increase in media dollars allocated to the retailer in recent weeks, adding that the Amazon budgets have not decreased but stayed the same. 

As some advertisers are increasing retail media spending, they are doing so at a time when CPCs and CPMs are down. “The increase of online audience on those channels was larger than the increase in advertiser’s appetite to spend,” said Andre Artacho, managing director of Two Nil. 

With that being the case, for the advertisers who are pushing more ad dollars to retail media channels, “it’s a really good time to test and learn,” said Elizabeth Marsten, senior director of marketplace strategic services at Tinuti, adding that she expects interest in retail media to increase even further later in the year when some advertisers return to the market.


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