Breaking Barriers: Why It’s Been Difficult for Everyone to Cash in on the Retail Media Boom

By Francisco Larrain, CTO and Co-Founder of Topsort

Retail media is rapidly evolving, offering unprecedented opportunities for retailers to monetize their platforms through advertising. According to eMarketer, it’s the fastest-growing advertising channel, jumping by more than 20% a year and projected to reach $109.40 billion in spend in 2027.

However, the path to integrating retail media infrastructure is often fraught with challenges that can deter many retailers from taking the plunge. From long integration times, skim technical teams, and disruption to business, there are several barriers to entry keeping up-and-coming retail platforms from cashing in on the same technology that’s been making technology giants like Amazon and Google astronomical profits for years.

While many retailers look at retail media as a “not if, but when” addition to their offering, these challenges can be so cumbersome that getting around to integrating the infrastructure can fall to the bottom of the priority list.

A 3-6 Month Integration Timeline Simply Isn’t Feasible

One of the most significant barriers to entry for adopting a retail media infrastructure is the integration timeline. This is because setting up a retail media platform has historically been a very labor-intensive process, demanding a minimum of three to six months to get up and running. This prolonged time frame is due to the need for thorough planning, development, and testing to ensure that the system operates seamlessly within the retailer’s existing tech stack.

For many retailers – especially up-and-coming ones – it can be especially difficult to figure out how to accommodate this. While the profits in the long-run are worthwhile, it’s hard to justify such an investment when it can cause businesses to miss out on immediate revenue opportunities and market positioning advantages elsewhere.

Technical Teams Come in All Shapes and Size

Another critical challenge stalling retail media integration is the strain on technical teams. Retailers often operate with strapped technical resources, juggling multiple projects and priorities simultaneously. The integration of a sophisticated retail media infrastructure adds a substantial load to their already busy schedules.

This can result in project delays and a stretched workforce, potentially leading to burnout and a decline in overall productivity. Smaller retailers, in particular, may find it daunting to allocate the necessary technical expertise and manpower to such a demanding project.

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No One Can Afford Business Disruption

Finding the right time to implement such a comprehensive system without disrupting ongoing business operations is a formidable task. Going back to the 3-6 month integration, retailers have had to look at the calendar and make hard decisions about when is the “best time” for such an undertaking.

The fear of operational disruptions, such as website downtime or performance issues during integration, can make retailers weary about prioritizing innovation over smooth day-to-day operations. For this reason, it can feel near impossible to figure out how to avoid peak business periods and ensure that the integration does not negatively impact the customer experience or sales.

The Need for a Paradigm Shift in Retail Media Integration

Unfortunately, the aforementioned barriers to entry have caused retail media to become somewhat of a gatekeeping game, with only the largest, most well-known retailers able to invest the technical prowess into the integration process. However, the retail media boom has seen the emergence of new solutions that are redefining adoption, dramatically simplifying the process, and opening the door for retailers of all shapes and sizes to monetize.

The most notable among these steps forward include low-code retail media integrations. These solutions sidestep the long integration times, skim technical teams, and threats of business disruption. They come purpose-built to be managed by only one or two engineers and require just a few lines of code to get the system running. Leading solutions on the market will offer the full-suite of the most profitable technology, from auto-bidding technology to support return on ad spend (ROAS) to sophisticated reporting dashboards that show campaign ROI in real-time.

Another step forward for retail media is the creation of modular, a la carte APIs. No one retailer is the same, so some might only be looking to integrate certain aspects of a traditional retail media infrastructure. This includes APIs for banner ads, sponsored listings, or even billing to vendors. This newfound ability to only adopt the services needed has helped retailers save money, build platforms that work for them, and provide their vendors with the services they need to be successful.

Retail Media for All

The barriers to entry for integrating retail media infrastructure have long kept many retailers from capitalizing on this lucrative advertising channel. However, the advent of low-code solutions and modular APIs is changing the game, making retail media accessible to all. Retailers can now implement sophisticated retail media platforms with minimal effort, unlocking new revenue streams and competing on a level playing field with industry giants. The retail media landscape is rapidly democratizing, ensuring that every retailer, regardless of size or technical capacity, can harness the power of advertising and drive significant growth

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