IADS Exclusive: Is retail media an opportunity, or a lifeline for department stores?

IADS Exclusive January 2023 Selvane Mohandas du Ménil

Since its inception in 1928, the IADS’ purpose has been to coordinate information between department stores worldwide and research their activities to help them address the many challenges they must face. This translates into many responsibilities carried out by the IADS, all solely intended to provide insights to its members and help them have a broader understanding of the shifting business environment.

Every year since 2020, the IADS has produced a White Paper on a specific topic perceived as important for its members. In 2020 the purpose was to collect the learnings from the management of the pandemic and how to make sure department stores would be prepared for the next crisis. The 2021 White Paper was dedicated to digital transformation and its impact on the organization. In 2022 it was all about the development of sustainability, CSR and ESG in retail businesses. And the 2023 edition is dedicated to the hot topic of retail media.

Why is it so hot? Just for a start, this subject has generated a considerable amount of buzz, conferences and articles over the past three years (as suggested by the lengthy number of sources that the IADS quoted in its White Paper). Also, it was interesting to see that the 2022 edition of the NRF Big Show was all about retail media on stage, but with very few suppliers at the fair, which was the contrary in 2023, with a significant number of suppliers proposing new solutions to deploy retail media.

The other reason why the White Paper this year was dedicated to this technical topic is because we believe at the IADS that retail media could be a profitable route for department stores willing to maximize the value of their real estate. While retail media has expanded thanks to the digitalization of the world, we believe that the amount of in-store interfaces with the customer, coupled with tracking and measurement capabilities in close-loops that are now allowed with the state of technology, could transform department stores into very efficient media companies, maximizing the value of the number of eyeballs visiting not only their e-commerce websites but also their flagship stores. This vision was also confirmed in 2023 during an IADS CEO meeting, during which the Publicis COO suggested that this was starting to happen in a select number of retailers.

The 2023 edition of the White Paper aims to identify where the retail media market stands, spell out the opportunities (and potential traps) for department stores, as well as suggest a few routes of reflection for department store leaders to prepare their organizations for such a shift. Finally, since retail media is seen as a way to generate incremental, high-margin, revenue, we also explore this school of thought and try to understand the cost of such new revenue, not only in financial terms but also in terms of people, organizations and needed adaptations.

IADS provides its members with a weekly in-depth analysis on retail-oriented topics. 

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