Retail media: updates advertising capabilities

We are at the start of an e-retail media boom. Traditional retailers are starting to truly understand the opportunities available to both themselves, brands and their customers by turning their channels into bespoke advertising space. Retail giant Target’s latest update has made the industry take notice, with others set to follow…

The problem

E-commerce has enjoyed consistent growth with big players such as Meta, Google, Amazon and smaller disruptors capitalising on the not-so-new way of buying. However, for too long, established e-retailers across the U.S and Europe such as ASDA, Morrisons, Target, Walmart and Sainsburys have been too slow to adapt. As a result, brand competitiveness has been stifled as shelf positioning and visibility remains out of their control. 

These e-retailers have also missed out on advertising revenue their competitors have benefited from, such as Amazon, who recorded $31.2 billion in global advertising revenue alone in 2021 –  58% higher than the year before. 

Most importantly, the e-retailer user experience has been slow and restricted, with less choice of options displayed. Although progress is being made, the slowness of the big retailers in modernising their online retail infrastructure with advertising is still untouched snow, ripe for disruption. Target’s update represents the rising standards across the industry. 

Target’s advertising update

From 31st May 2022, will be extending paid ads across both their website and app, representing a seismic change in retailer best practice. 

The quantity of Target Product Acts (TPA) placements have increased to five, and positions are much more prominent, with first, second, seventh, eighth and ninth now subject to cost-per-click (CPC) auction. 

The first ranked search result remains the highest converting and most prominent across all platforms, with Google generating a consistently high 28.5% click-through-rate from billions of searches. Target’s inclusion of the top spot for advertising is therefore a significant and welcomed step as they begin to catch up and replicate the top advertising channels.

Over a three month testing period, Target evaluated customer online behaviour, sentiment and experience. This data-backed study informed their decision to increase placement quantity and improved placement positioning. It also, however, reshaped the wider biddable placement grid as seen below. 

Old and limited placements
Updated placements with greater quantity and much more prominent positioning, with search result one and two available from 31st March

Now, the first two results are available along with the seventh, eighth and ninth positions. These latter positions were chosen due to higher click-through-rate (CTR) and return on ad spend (ROAS) over the extended three months of testing. As a result, advertisers and brands are reassured that these are meaningful and fruitful options – as opposed to the previous 12th rank placement pre-update. 


A recap of benefits are as follows:

1. The browser-purchaser experience will improve, becoming both more targeted as well as displaying broader product options based on search terms.

2. Brands will become more powerful with the ability to earn greater share of shelf visibility – something that has previously been fiercely protected by supermarkets and allocated to only a few powerful brands.

3. Brands will benefit from increased ‘brand coverage’ of the first page real estate – this means more ad placements available, along with prominent placements, such as first and second results.

4. Research-backed reshaping of the Target Grid means advertisers will have peace of mind that placements seven, eight and nine are chosen due to increased CTR and ROAS over three months of study, improving likelihood of increased performance.


Despite this update representing good news for brands, advertisers must ensure they take into account the potentially disruptive factors that coincide with increased capabilities. Advertisers will need to monitor performance and budget pacing closely, as we would expect to see an initial surge of CPCs as competitors move in to take advantage of these new placements. This will be further exacerbated by a bottleneck of demand as brands and advertisers have been waiting some time for such an update.

Summary of Target’s advertising update

We believe Target’s update is an exciting step in increased advertising capability for our current and future brands. For browsers, it will provide both greater brand choice and simultaneously cater to browser demand through targeted, keyword generated ads. 

This update demonstrates how traditional retailers across the industry are adapting to remain competitive but also consider a world without cookies, leveraging valuable first-party data from logged in users. As such, we expect other retailers to continue to innovate with their own developments, and brands themselves shifting their investment to retail media to retain a competitive edge, thus marking the start of the e-retail advertising boom.

As industry leaders, we remain at the front of e-retail and Marketplace channels and successfully promote brands across the spectrum including Amazon, Walmart, Target, Sainsburys, Morrisons, Argos, Tesco and ASDA. Contact us today to discuss your business and how we can promote your brand. 

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