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Commerce Media Networks: Everything You Need to Know

  • 1 min read

Advertising is being transformed by commerce media, a new form of advertising that closes the loop between media impressions and commerce transactions to improve targeting, provide new audience insights, and deliver more relevant and valuable experiences for consumers. Through media networks, commerce media is:  

  • Bringing together companies that are rich with data with brands who need stronger consumer insights 
  • Connecting marketing efforts across channels—this goes beyond digital and transaction data
  • Creating massive opportunities to drive a better consumer experience while providing more value for marketers 

Commerce media networks have grown significantly in the past decade, with a projection to surpass TV revenue in the next five years and the potential to become a trillion dollar business. As media networks provide companies new opportunities to expand the value of rich consumer and transaction data, companies across industries are realising the immense benefits that building a media network, or partnering with media networks, can drive for business and consumers. 

When companies collaborate in a commerce media network, new, fuller pictures of consumers come to life. This collaboration leads to better campaigns with higher returns, deeper relationships with consumers and strategic partners, new insights to fuel product innovation, and new avenues for higher-margin growth.

What is a commerce media network?

A commerce media network allows brands with rich first-party data to open up new revenue streams by offering highly personalised ads and closed-loop measurement to advertising partners. For CPGs and other companies with limited first-party data, buying ad space in a commerce media network opens up new ways to reach consumers, measure and improve performance, and unlock powerful new insights through data collaboration.

Media networks are not just for retailers

Retailers are known for pioneering large-scale media networks, but companies across industries can take advantage of the opportunities and benefits that media networks offer. Companies in travel and hospitality, financial services, app-based services, automotive, real estate, and sports and entertainment are exploring the potential of commerce media networks for driving innovation. What matters most when starting a media network is the amount of first-party data your company has and a plan to grow that data through collaborative partnerships.

Today, more than 80% of CPGs invest in at least one media network, and 85% of CPGs plan to increase their media network investments, reported McKinsey. But this opportunity isn’t limited to CPGs and retailers. McKinsey also found that more than 75% of non-CPG brands plan to increase spend with media networks in the next year—creating massive opportunities for media networks outside of retail to lead in innovation and revenue generation.

How do data clean rooms work?

A commerce media network benefits everyone—the company that builds it, the brands and advertisers that partner with the media network, and consumers that engage with the network’s ads. Companies that monetise their first-party data and enter into innovative new collaborations create opportunities for advertisers to engage with consumers, drive sales, and access hidden insights from closed-loop measurement. 

Commerce media networks have risen in popularity as companies realise the many ways media networks fuel the flywheel for brands and businesses, including:

  • Driving new revenue
  • Strengthening strategic business partnerships
  • Delivering more personalised customer experiences 

Here are a few ways that media networks are unlocking growth for media network owners and partners.

Discover new consumer insights to drive sales

A commerce media network allows a company with first-party data at scale (at least 5 to 10 million records) to create new audience segments to monetise and share with partnering brands. The partner brand can combine the media network’s audience segments with its own first-party data to discover new insights. By combining unique data sets, media network partners can create personalised, targeted ads for consumers across websites, apps, and in-store experiences, suggesting products and services based on fresh customer insights. 

Each partner should be able to easily control which data other partners have access to, how they can use that data, and for how long. By discovering customer preferences in a privacy-minded way, brands can create marketing content tailored to consumers, improve targeting, and ultimately drive more sales.

Access closed-loop measurement for accurate media spend results and campaign agility

Once an ad within the media network is launched, both companies can access exposure data for closed-loop measurement. Closed-loop measurement ties a sale directly back to the ad and audience segment, so marketers can track and report on the impact of media spend for revenue generation. 

Accurate closed-loop measurement also helps marketers make quicker decisions to optimise marketing programs.

Below you’ll find specific benefits for companies that want to own or partner with a media network, as well as benefits for the consumers interacting with ads in the commerce media network.

How do commerce media networks work?

Commerce media networks are powered by first-party data and data collaboration, allowing companies to combine data sets to illuminate previously hidden insights and create a richer, more complete customer view to fuel innovation and drive business value. To own a successful media network, a company should have a rich, large amount of first-party data. 

Commerce media networks can also act as a full-service media provider—from creative to activation of media to measurement—for partnering brands. No matter the service options, it’s essential that a commerce media network is flexible to accommodate how, where, and when advertisers want to buy ads to reduce friction in the buying cycle and fuel business.

Commerce media networks create an environment for companies to share valuable and unique consumer insights, so both enterprises can: 

  • Obtain a clearer understanding of customer buying patterns
  • Create more personalised and engaging campaign content
  • Deepen customer connections
  • Make critical business decisions in real-time 

To reap these benefits, companies that want to own a media network must build their network to support future innovation and growth. This is essential for adapting to swift industry changes, addressing privacy concerns, and meeting evolving consumer preferences. A critical step in building a flexible media network is choosing the right partners that understand the network’s mission and goals.

The role of partnerships in a commerce media network

Innovative partnerships drive significantly more value for commerce media networks. Working together in an environment that respects each partner’s privacy requirements without fail is essential. 

With a commerce media network that can enable secure data collaborations while protecting consumer privacy, companies can forge partnerships that establish loyalty and trust with consumers while staying ahead of evolving tech and consumer trends.

Closed-loop measurement between partners is also a must. Companies must be able to consistently test, measure, and improve media performance across every touchpoint across marketing channels. 

“The member experience is something we think about everyday—whether they’re in the app, on the website, in the club, they’re using their phone—we have that transaction,” said Austin Leonard, Head Of Sales, Sam’s Club Member Access Platform (MAP). 

“Because it’s a membership model, we have the ability to have a 100% closed loop. We can track back to every transaction, and it’s a big part of why the next frontier is partnering so we can talk to our members before they start that shopping experience and then retain them afterwards. It’s a big part of how we’re building that business together.”

How do commerce media networks drive personalisation and protect consumer privacy?

A core component of a commerce media network is an enterprise identity, which ties customer data together across an organisation’s various business units, functions, and data sets while respecting consumers’ privacy choices. 

A consistent, unified identity framework allows companies to reconcile disparate customer information and combine internal data sets for a more complete customer view. 

This is how NBCUniversal uses a unified identity to connect customer information across its enterprise. 

“We’re in a market with 1,200 first-party data attributes, and then we work to be interoperable so we could make this data meaningful to our brands as well as our advertisers,” said Kaitie Coghlan, SVP, Data Product & Partnerships at NBCUniversal. “We’re interoperable with identities, clean rooms, with UIs so we could get this data into the hands of our brand marketers, our advertisers, our sponsors, our partners, so they could have meaningful engagements with our consumers.” 


How can I start a commerce media network?

If a company has rich first-party data that could be valuable to partners, advertisers and publishers, it’s in a great position to start a media network. This foundation of rich first-party data is crucial as advertisers want scale and performance when deciding where to place media budgets. 

To start a commerce media network, a company might begin by monetising its first-party data to partners looking for targeted ad options. First-party data is key for advertisers looking to access new information about existing and future customers. By combining first-party data and audience segments, media network partners can build a fresh view of customer preferences, behaviours, and needs.

The strongest media networks go a step further by collaborating with brands and publishers in data clean rooms. This happens when two or more companies combine first-party data sets to create a unique second-party data set with new customer insights that can be shared and analysed in closed-loop measurement. Through this collaboration, the customer can be reached with more relevant, right-time offers across channels and platforms and new, innovative business insights can emerge.

Questions to ask when starting a commerce media network

Before starting a commerce media network, a company should consider the following questions: 

  • Can your audiences provide unique value to partners? Does your data fill a need for advertisers? Wakefield Research found that advertisers prefer to only work with media networks that have a minimum number of unique consumer profiles. 
  • Do you have permission to share consumer data through opt-in or opt-out policies? Are your policies up-to-date with current regulations?
  • Do you have enough first-party data to share with partners in your media network?
  • Do you have a strategy to continue to expand on the value of your data? 
  • Can your data be extracted for advertising purposes? 

It doesn’t matter the industry or company size, if an enterprise has consumer insights that could provide an essential value to other brands and advertisers, it’s in a great position to unlock the brand-building power of a media network. 

Commerce media network trends and outlook

By delivering immense value to companies and consumers, media networks are becoming one of the largest media channels in the world, according to Forbes. Not to mention, investments in retail media networks alone have tripled in the past three years and are expected to double again. Companies that want to build or expand a media network should prepare for the following trends:

Trends in privacy: As more privacy laws are adopted across the world, media networks may face change winds in standardisation. This could mean changes to measurement and transparency in data collaboration partnerships. In the face of these changes, it’s critical that media networks are built on a strong data foundation with partners prepared to facilitate data collaboration in a flexible and privacy-focused way. 

Cookie deprecation: With cookie deprecation and increasing privacy regulations, companies need more privacy-sensitive data to fully understand consumers’ habits, behaviours, and needs. As third-party data becomes limited, first- and second-party data is even more critical to execute targeted marketing campaigns.

Commerce media networks serve as the entry point for companies to share first- and second-party data to better serve consumers and fuel business growth.

The future of Commerce media networks

Commerce media networks are growing incredibly fast. For example, McKinsey predicts that retail media networks could amount to $100 billion in ad spending in the U.S. by 2026—and this is only one industry. 

As brands realise the potential of media networks and see a fuller view of customers, the possibilities for innovation across brands, products, and consumer engagement is endless. 

So, the question is: How could your company benefit and grow from a commerce media network?

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