Interactive Advertising Bureau
12 June 2024

Exploring Self-Serve Programmatic Retail Media: A Q&A with Our Retail Media Committee Experts

Self-Serve Programmatic is a growing part of the Retail Media advertising ecosystem and it allows brands to use a retailer’s first-party data to optimise their campaigns. 

In the following blog, experts from IAB Europe’s Retail Media Committee dive into what a self-serve programmatic platform is, how it can be leveraged and evaluated, and key best practices to consider. 

A big thank you to the following contributors for sharing their thoughts:

Nik Dutt, Product Marketing Manager, The Trade Desk

Tanguy LE FALHER, Head of Retail Partnerships, Unlimitail

Jorn Zwetsloot, Lead Advertising & Business Operations, Ad Retail Media 

Gonzalo de la Mata , Global Commerce Lead , Zenith Global

Ekkehardt Schlottbohm, Regional VP, Northern Europe at PubMatic

Q. What is a self-serve programmatic retail media platform?

Gonzalo - “In the evolving world of retail media, we’re going to see a real push in 2024 from Retail Media Networks focusing on their off-site propositions and partnerships and one thing stands clear, the future is self-service. Some of the benefits of a self-serve programmatic platform for buyers are::

  • More scalable compared to Managed Services.
  • Ownership and control from retailers.
  • 24/7 access to reporting and campaign management.
  • The democratisation of the space opens to a more diverse range of brands.

Nik - Put simply, it’s a tool that gives buyers access to shopper data from major retailers, which can be used in campaigns.

A programmatic self-serve platform allows buyers to run off-site ads on TV (Connected TV), websites, audio platforms, and digital billboards (DOOH). Buyers can reach their audience more effectively by combining advertising technology with real shopping data. The platform can demonstrate how well the ads are performing, enabling brands to track how many people are buying their products, both online and in physical stores, all in near real-time.”

Jorn -  “In the world of advertising, self-service platforms, and programmatic buying are two powerful tools that can help advertisers take control over their retail media campaigns. While these tools share similarities, some key differences set them apart:

  • Programmatic buying is a method of purchasing digital advertising that uses bid streams to automate the buying process. This allows advertisers to target specific audiences, contexts, or regions with precision and efficiency. Programmatic buying is particularly useful in retail media for Digital-out-of-Home (DOOH) screens in and around stores. The reason is that it allows advertisers to use their own technology (DSP) to buy retail media as part of campaigns that may also include media from other media vendors. Programmatic buying for other retail media formats such as on-site display,  is currently only useful in retail media for DOOH, as other formats such as display, or sponsored products are a work in progress as standards (e.g. size of display format and native protocol) currently don’t exist, making it difficult to purchase it across multiple vendors.
  • Self-service platforms enable advertisers to create their own campaigns. They allow them to log in, set up, and run (primarily) display and sponsored product campaigns. With this level of control, advertisers can optimise their campaigns in real-time, making adjustments as needed to ensure maximum ROI.

While both programmatic buying and self-service platforms provide advertisers with more control over their campaigns, there are some differences as well. Programmatic buying is, for example, more scalable as the advertiser can use their own technology and run a campaign over multiple retailers or DOOH vendors, while self-service platforms give advertisers more options to use the native formats within a particular retailer environment.

Tanguy - This type of platform allows brands and agencies to create and optimise campaigns on a retail media network (sometimes on-site and off-site) and analyse campaign results in real-time. It can help to solve key challenges of retail media such as transparency, flexibility, in-flight optimisation, and real-time measurement. 

Ekke - A self-serve programmatic retail media platform can combine core monetisation and audience acquisition strategies in one platform. This way, it can give commerce media networks and their advertisers buying flexibility, transparency, and scalable automation that is important for programmatic trading.  It enables buyers to execute ad campaigns across sponsored product listings, omnichannel inventory on commerce properties, and across the open internet. 

Q. How can buyers leverage self-serve programmatic platforms to enhance their campaigns?

Tanguy - These platforms enable buyers to access real-time campaign insights. Enhancing campaigns could go through specific setups in terms of product selection, targeting, or bids. As an example, a buyer may analyse its campaign performance and decide to increase bids on a selection of keywords to get higher positions and product performance on the retailer website.

Ekke - With a self-serve programmatic platform, advertisers can tap into the commerce media opportunity by prioritising the integration of first-party,  privacy-compliant sales data to reach and engage audiences with personalised messaging, in harmony with other channels. The growth of the sell-side in the form of retail media offerings and retail media networks has created fragmentation and complexity challenges. Commerce media marketplaces, which provide a single point of access, can help to solve some of these challenges. 

By establishing secure data partnerships with retailers, advertisers can achieve the precision of cookie-based targeting and benefit from consistent processes and standardised reporting metrics, both of which are crucial to keeping up with a changing landscape.

Nik - Programmatic platforms help ensure a buyer's ads reach their most relevant audience – all through the power of data. For example, imagine a campaign for a new toothpaste for sensitive teeth. The self-serve platform can be used to target people who have bought similar products in the past. Or, if promoting a new car to parents, buyers can aim to reach people who have recently purchased school supplies. Demand-side platforms not only give buyer’s access to retailer data – they offer a simpler ad-buying process and are easy to set up and use, straight away.

Jorn -  Purchasing programmatic media in formats such as DOOH from retailers is similar to buying a DOOH campaign from any other (traditional) programmatic supplier. Advertisers can request access to the retailer's self-service platform and usually choose between an advanced or simple mode to set up their campaign. The simple mode is perfect for those with limited budget and time, as it makes it possible to easily set up and run campaigns. With self-serve programmatic platforms, buyers have full control over their campaigns, including the ability to choose the right audience, search terms, regions, CPCs, and CPMs. This allows them to optimise their campaigns for maximum effectiveness. The advanced mode provides many more options to specify the campaign to specific target audiences, contexts, or search terms.

Gonzalo - Buyers can enhance their campaigns with a self-serve programmatic platform via the following methods:

  • Precise Audience Targeting - By using first-party data from retailers combined with third-party data, buyers can create detailed customer profiles and target ads more precisely.
  • Real-Time Bidding and Optimisation: Self-service (SS) platforms provide real-time bidding capabilities, enabling bid adjustments based on performance metrics. Additionally, real-time allows for immediate campaign adjustments, optimising performance on the fly.
  • Buyers can access performance insights, such as CTR, conversion rates, and ROAS.
  • Cost efficiency: Programmatic self-service often leads to cost efficiencies by automating the ad-buying process and eliminating middlemen.
  • Integrated with Omnichannel strategies: brands and agencies can integrate their programmatic retail media campaigns with broader omnichannel marketing strategies. Some SS platforms offer integrations with other marketing tools.

Q. Are there any best practices that should be considered? 

Tanguy - The first best practice consists of accessing the self-serve platform to analyse campaign performance regularly to identify the evolution of delivery, ad rank, competition, ROAS, and other business or media KPIs. This allows buyers to take action quickly based on these analyses and improve their results.

Nik - Retailer Data is not just for performance campaigns but drives brand awareness too. When planning marketing campaigns, buyers don't have to ignore traditional demographic targeting. Instead, they can enhance their campaigns by adding different audience segments. It is useful to then assess how each strategy performs and see which one works best.

Buyers can even combine this approach with AI and proprietary platform features to help find more relevant audiences. For instance, data about a brand's best customers from retailers can be used as a starting point – or, seed – to expand and grow an audience. This helps reach not only a brand's main customers but also new people who are likely to be interested in their product or service.

Jorn - Best practices for retail media include starting small and learning as you go. It is important to learn what fits the campaign best, including which platforms, audiences, search terms, regions, and bid prices work best. It is also helpful to keep an eye on the campaigns and make adjustments as needed, as this will enhance the learning experience.

Gonzalo - It is also useful to think about the following: 

  • Creative optimisation. 
  • Frequency capping: Implement frequency capping to avoid an over-exposing audience.
  • Collaborate with retailers to leverage their retail insights. Retailers can provide valuable data and support to enhance campaigns.
  • View optimisation as an ongoing process. Track performance metrics, adjust targeting, cycle creatives, and update bids and budgets. Leverage retail media experts for data interpretation and insights.

Ekke - Some best practices I would recommend are:

  • When planning a campaign, start with the audience. Have a clear objective. Define a core objective and KPI, such as driving sales, reactivating lapsed buyers, growing market share, or launching a new product. The objective informs targeting, messaging, creative strategy, and measurement.
  • Pick the right retail media formats and test. Select ad formats based on the objective, budget, and audience: product listing ads for discovery and conversions, site display for awareness and consideration, on-site recommendations for increasing basket size, and in-store digital for connecting online and offline data.

Q. How can brands evaluate their spend with self-serve programmatic platforms?

Tanguy - Self-serve retail media platforms give visibility to brands over the evolution of spend in real-time. It means that a brand can have a quick look to identify the pacing of its budget and correct it if necessary. Moreover, some advanced platforms allow brands and buyers to set limits at multiple levels (e.g.: total campaign duration, daily, monthly). It helps brands control their spend and diversify their budget strategies.

Nik - By setting clear campaign goals (especially when using shopper data from major retailers), a buyer’s strategy can be adjusted in near real-time to focus on the most successful tactics. These goals could include increasing brand awareness or driving sales. But don’t rely on just one type of device or platform. Instead, use an omnichannel strategy to access all media channels in the most cohesive and connected way possible.

Top tip: An identity graph could help to create an effective campaign across multiple devices by providing detailed reports that show which ads, devices, or audience segments resonate best with the target market. 

Jorn - Brands can evaluate their spend with self-serve programmatic platforms by inputting their budget during the setup process and choosing the appropriate bid strategy and pacing. For example, setting a maximum budget per week or day will allow the platform to automatically notify them when the budget runs out. It is also important to track campaigns and analyse the data to see what is working and what does not work. This will help brands make informed decisions about where to allocate their budget to maximise the ROI. Finally, stay flexible and adjust campaigns as needed to ensure that brands are getting the most out of their ad spend.

Ekke - To evaluate their spend with self-serve programmatic platforms, brands should adopt a holistic approach that integrates commerce media within their overall media strategy. Collaborate with data analysts and programmatic advertising experts to interpret data and uncover actionable insights. Their expertise can help in making informed decisions and refining strategies.

Find out more

IAB Europe’s Retail Media Committee is at the forefront of the retail media industry. Members are driving retail media growth and shaping the landscape by:

  • Creating definitions
  • Defining pan-European standards
  • Providing market education

All of the work of the Committee can be found in our Retail Media Hub here

Find out more about getting involved by contacting Marie-Clare Puffett - puffett [@]

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