Melissa Marano, RAPP: "Retail media is not only an acquisition play, but a retention play for brands and the services they offer."

Brands now have the opportunity to engage with customers at every touch point

by Carol Mason , AdForum (NYC)

RAPP Worldwide
Marketing/Creative Services
New York, United States
See Profile

Melissa Marano
VP of Experience Strategy RAPP

Customer data, in-store and online activations, multiple brand touch points and personalization have fueled growth of retail media and its potential. Checking in with Melissa Marano, VP of Experience Strategy at RAPP, she speaks on personalization of the brand experience for a better customer buying journey.


In your opinion, what has been the catalyst for this explosive growth of retail media?

Relevancy. When we think about our customer across different moments in their shopping lifecycle, they win in the retail media system because they receive more personalized advertising without sacrificing more personal data. As customers shop, or browse, retail media networks are taking each of those signals to serve them the most pertinent next best action. Every site can be the start of a search (not just traditional search engines). This is powerful stuff – not just to the brand, but to the overall CX.


Retailers are becoming media owners. How will this impact brand strategy and media planning?

Imagine if every brand had a chance to be on display in the coveted checkout lane (but online)? It might be the first time you are introduced to a product, or you might be old friends. But the point is, brands have the chance to score from anywhere on the field now.

What used to be lower funnel tactics of conversation are now introductory or awareness efforts and brands need to factor that into their overall strategy. The customer might pass through the stages of the purchase cycle in a matter of seconds (not weeks) and brands must be able to communicate their benefits to potential audiences in all touch points.  

Media planning is shifting from reaching the largest possible audience in display impression-based media to reaching the most relevant audiences in retail media. With more pressure to demonstrate ROI, the dollars are following.

If brands could demonstrate product benefits in real time to their customers that could be very powerful for their overall strategy. For example, if we think about credit cards: Most users understand the headline benefits: points equal cash back or travel perks.  But loyalty for a credit card is fleeting because any card could offer a better points system. Loyalty is based on the user having a deep understanding of the range of benefits the card offers. So, for example, when shopping for groceries on a site like Instacart, if X Credit Card promotes “free delivery for 12 months if you check out with the card,” that further deepens their relationship with the cardholder thus deepening their affinity to the card. Again, this goes back to relevancy for the audience. Retail media is not only an acquisition play but a retention play for brands and the services they offer.


What opportunities do AI and CX data offer brands in the customer journey?  

Many leaders in retail media are tapping into conversational AI with things like “chat instead of search” or how Amazon is now summarizing customer reviews for a product.

Retailers are looking to build brand experiences based on customer preferences to deliver more personalized and relevant products and services. If they succeed, the customer experience will only improve. Think about searching recipes for your child, but it remembers they have an egg allergy. Applying previous context using AI will be key to improving CX and loyalty. We will be able to get more by doing less. 


What kind of retail experiences do GenZ and GenA value? 

Some brand partnerships are starting to pop up based on generational alignment. For example, Walmart and TikTok. Matching cash-conscious Gen Z with products you may (or may not) expect to be available through Walmart. TikTok has proven to produce inspiration for nearly 75% of buying or trying new products. It is the ultimate search engine, and it is seamlessly connected to the preferred social network of the generation. User-generated content is also preferred over brand content by Gen Z for product recommendations; TikTok excels in this arena.


How can brick and mortar locations evolve so that they remain relevant in a digital world? 

Yesterday, it was promotions and limited inventory that drove foot traffic. Today, Brand Experience is the battleground in the physical world. Sure, there are risks and potentially a higher CPM in some cases, but one of the top drivers of consumer choice is to “stand out from the crowd.” If anyone has stood in the cereal or snack aisle recently, there is endless opportunity to stand out. What if a brand could reward customers for interacting with a digital ad in store or feature their health benefits or recipes with the product via QR code. We need to seamlessly transition between online and offline by providing benefits to the customer at each interaction they get.