The retail world is changing at breakneck speed, thanks to digital capabilities, shifting consumer habits, and the rise of data collaboration and retail media networks. Here is what we can expect from retail in 2024.

Looking across adtech headlines, it’s easy to think that everything right now is artificial intelligence (AI). While AI will play a large role in 2024, and will no doubt continue to increase in significance for retailers, it’s important that retailers look a level deeper: at the root of all of the shiny new tools that retailers can use, is a foundation of data, and through data, everything is possible.

Data at the root of everything

While Retail Media Networks have been booming over the past year, and will continue to grow in 2024, they track back to a fundamental truth: that retailers often hold the most direct, and valuable, relationships with consumers, and are rich with data because of it. Across every point of the customer journey, from customer data and marketing platforms through to point-of-sale systems, retailers can tie  these data points back to real customer records, and are now helping the ecosystem activate on this data.

The rise of data collaboration has most directly led to Retail Media Networks, where retailers enable partners to leverage their relationships with consumers, and deep insights, via privacy-conscious collaboration. But beyond Retail Media Networks, retailers’ insights add value anywhere the ecosystem can think to apply it, from informing BVOD segments and targeting, to helping to close the loop by measuring conversions and in-store purchases.

Retail Media Networks

That said, if 2023 was a year where Retail Media Networks took their biggest step to-date, 2024 may be the year they explode. The strategic use of retailers’ first-party data is hugely valuable, and as advertisers continue to face signal loss across all fronts, retailers’ strengths relative to the rest of the ecosystem will be a bastion for them to power marketing campaigns.

But as Retail Media Networks continue to proliferate, as well as become centerpieces for marketers’ strategies, consolidation will happen amidst the growth. Networks will need to prove their worth to big brands, and will only be able to continue growing if they can prove conversion, as well as a strong base of engaged consumers. Smaller networks that can’t continue to provide value via a strong customer base will only exacerbate the data fragmentation that marketers are hoping to address, and may fall by the wayside unless they become part of larger initiatives or partnerships.

AI and beyond

As initially mentioned, AI capabilities will play steadily-increasing roles for retailers. Most of the headlines thus far have been seized by generative, creative AI. Retailers will be able to leverage AI’s emerging toolkit for practical applications like predicting consumer behaviour, optimising ad campaigns, and delivering more personalised product recommendations.

However, in order for AI to add value, it will need to draw on strong first-party data, as well as through retailers’ data through collaboration. Consumer behaviour predictions, mapping ads to the customer journey, and product recommendations all rely on previous consumer touchpoints to inform future ones. Feeding in bad data – or worse, no data at all – will create a bland, impersonal experience that only alienates customers and achieves the opposite effect of best practices here.

Looking ahead

Data is still the currency that matters most across the ecosystem – and retailers, like all companies, will continue to cash in on their holdings via privacy-conscious leveraging of this data, including data collaboration. Through collaboration and embracing the power of data, retailers can tap into the promise of Retail Media Networks, as well as so much more, in 2024 and beyond.

Damien Mitchell is commercial director at LiveRamp.