Q&A: Answers to Your Most Pressing Commerce Media Questions 

September 28, 2023

Born from the COVID pandemic and the “death of the cookie,” commerce media’s growth is unprecedented. By 2027, 25% of all advertising dollars will be spent in that space. But more than a way around cookies or a response to an increase in online shopping, commerce media is presenting advertising with something it has always wanted: full-funnel, closed-loop attribution. 

Commerce Media Q&A

We spoke with Melissa Lawrence, Senior Business Development Manager at Fluent, to learn what it takes to launch a commerce media strategy, who it benefits, and predictions for future trends and development in this emerging channel. Read the Q&A below for more on what retailers, publishers, advertisers, and consumers stand to gain from digital advertising’s “third big wave.” 

Melissa Lawrence Headshot

The line between commerce media and retail media is often blurred depending on who you talk to. Can you explain the differences between the two? 

Retail media refers to ad placements on a retailer’s ecommerce site or app. With retail media networks, brands can buy advertising across digital channels owned by the retailer (and sometimes third-party companies) to influence the customer at the point of purchase.  

Commerce media incorporates elements from brand and performance marketing to meet full-funnel objectives. While major players like Amazon and Walmart dominate the retail media space, commerce media has helped even the playing field, giving non-retail businesses new opportunities to engage and monetize their audiences across the open web.  

Commerce media is being dubbed the Third Wave of Digital Advertising. That puts it on par with search and social. Do you agree? 

The analysts and the consultants seem to agree that it will meet these high expectations. But beyond the charts and analytics, it just makes sense. Commerce media is a highly untapped, easily monetizable channel with tremendous room for growth. With the potential to drive over $280 billion for advertisers in the form of higher ROAS by 2026, it boasts many of the benefits that advertisers have been asking for: accountability, consumer privacy, first-party data, robust demographics, behavioral targeting, brand safety, and high-LTV customers.   

There is a lot to unpack there. Let’s start with first-party data. What are some examples of how advertisers are using this kind of data in ways they haven’t been able to before? 

We should be clear that retailers should maintain tight control of their customer data. But with that said, technology like data clean rooms can help advertisers secure customer privacy, build excellent lookalike models, and use predictive analytics to accurately put the right ad in front of the right person at the right time.   For example, purchase history and demographic data offer powerful ways to analyze consumer buying habits. Advertisers can feed this data into automation and artificial intelligence tools for smarter targeting. And with closed-loop attribution and greater transparency into campaign performance, it becomes easy to attribute ads directly to outcomes. 

You mentioned accountability. How is commerce media more accountable than other media? 

Technically, all media is accountable, but traditional media and other digital media outside of performance marketing use squishy metrics where ads can’t be directly attributable to results. There is always some level of extrapolation in traditional media. But commerce media connects ad impressions directly to the sale, helping to close the attribution loop for marketers seeking greater accountability from their ad investments. Attribution at this scale – from the top of the funnel to the bottom — has eluded the advertising industry for a long time, so it’s encouraging to see the growth of a new channel that is working to bridge this gap.  

And what are the brand safety advantages of an ecommerce environment? 

With commerce media, retail and non-retail advertisers access actionable commerce data and premium audiences. Advertisers can capitalize on the trust and loyalty retailers or publishers have built with their audiences to foster positive associations with their own brands. And because consumers are already in the buying mindset, they are often receptive to relevant offers served in the right context. 

We’ve covered the benefits for advertisers, now, let’s shift to the advantages publishers and retailers can expect to gain from launching a commerce media strategy/offering. 

Commerce media enables retailers and publishers to transform underutilized site “real estate” into new revenue streams. This means creating ad experiences that feel native to your website and serve to enhance the customer journey. For publishers that don’t have the time or resources to devote to a full-fledged commerce media strategy, we recommend turnkey activations from tech partners in this space, such as post-transaction advertising, to drive immediate returns with low investment and effort. With the right media partner in place, ongoing testing and optimization will ensure you’re consistently improving campaign performance. 

What are the first steps publishers and retailers should take when launching a commerce media strategy/offering? 

Making the leap from retailer to media partner can seem daunting, but there are a few easy steps publishers can take to ensure a seamless transition.  

  • Establish clear goals. Are you looking to improve customer engagement? Increase average revenue per customer? Having a clear objective in mind will help to inform the strategy needed to achieve it. 
  • Your website is likely full of untapped monetization opportunities. Identify placements on your site that are ripe for engagement and easy to test (the post-transaction experience is a great place to start). 
  • Find a partner who will customize and test with you to ensure your integration is set up for success. Turnkey solutions that open new revenue streams without extensive in-house capabilities can help to expedite the process.  

You can also check out our guide to launching a commerce media strategy here

Outside of its implications for advertisers and retailers/publishers, how does commerce media affect the consumer experience? 

If done right, commerce media placements will not distract from the customer journey but instead enhance it. For example, ad units should match the look and feel of your site to create consistency and establish trust. A solid commerce media strategy will put the needs of consumers first, tapping into first-party insights to deliver tailored offers based on their behavior and preferences. Showing consumers that you can anticipate their needs – e.g., serving a travel offer to a customer who has purchased tickets to a concert or event away from their home – goes a long way toward building loyalty and driving customer retention. 

As commerce media continues to evolve, how do you anticipate it will impact the rest of the digital advertising landscape? 

Offering access to rich consumer insights and closed-loop attribution, commerce media will raise measurement standards across the entire advertising industry. At a time when the pressure to prove a positive return on ad spend continues to rise, advertisers are likely to shift budgets to channels – like commerce media – that can deliver quality results and provide robust measurement capabilities. 

What are your predictions for future trends and developments in commerce media? 

While there’s still plenty of room for retailers to get into the commerce media game, the beauty of this channel is that it opens revenue opportunities to companies outside of the traditional retail space. Travel brands, ticketing sites, and publishers can get their piece of the pie by capitalizing on the first-party data and customer touchpoints they already own. However, to be successful as true “media partners,” retailers and publishers must work toward delivering the transparent campaign reporting and unique consumer insights that advertisers have come to expect.