Necessity is the mother of invention.

Great ideas are born from a need to fix something that isn’t working or to create something new where there is currently a void.

This is the origin story for commerce media.

As a result of consumer calls for privacy, the digital advertising industry is undergoing a transformation. It’s a positive change that puts consumers in their rightful place at the center of the advertising ecosystem, but also a difficult one that has raised more questions than answers. Amidst all the talk about how responsible addressable advertising can work moving forward, commerce media has risen as a solution.

Commerce media gives marketers and media owners what they need (a safe and simple way to still drive growth through advertising).

It gives consumers what they want (relevant ads, on their terms).

And it keeps the open internet thriving (because that’s where discovery, innovation, and choice rule).

In short, commerce media is the next big thing—which means the time to get familiar with it is now. In this guide, learn exactly what commerce media is, why it’s trending, and how it solves the industry’s most pressing needs.

Definition: Commerce media enables both retail and non-retail advertisers (such as Food Delivery and Travel industries) to connect with audiences throughout the buying journey on retailers and publishers across the open internet, leveraging large-scale commerce data to improve experiences and tie ad spend directly to outcomes.

At its simplest, commerce media connects marketers and media owners to first-party data and to each other so that everyone can bring richer experiences to consumers while enabling closed-loop measurement.

To look at it another way, commerce media brings programmatic advertising and retail media together and widens the field to include non-retail businesses—all on the open internet where the control is in the hands of the marketers and the media owners.

Key point #1
A first-party data-based solution

Provides access to a large set of privacy-safe first-party data that can be leveraged in a variety of ways.

Key point #2
Open

Connects marketers and media owners on the open internet, where control and transparency reign, and where discovery, innovation, and choice thrive.

Key point #3
Intelligent

Uses large-scale commerce data (purchase and intent data) that is applied via artificial intelligence (AI) built for commerce to:

  • Gain audience insights
  • Improve online targeting
  • Deliver relevant experiences
  • Connect online activity to online and in-person outcomes
Key point #4
Full-funnel

Engage audiences at all stages from discovery to consideration and conversion and throughout acquisition and retention, while driving measurable commerce outcomes at each stage.

Key point #5
For media owners, too

Commerce media is also the means by which media owners (publishers and retailers) can enrich their first-party data and inventory and package it for advertisers

Key point #6
Audience-first

Enables marketers to put aside a channel-by-channel approach and create advertising strategies based on high-value audiences across all channels, devices, and formats.

Key point #7
More relevant

Large-scale data and AI improve ad relevancy which leads to better user experiences and performance.

Key point #8
Measurable

Understand the full impact of digital efforts and connect every campaign, even those for awareness and consideration, to downstream online and in-store KPIs (such as sales, leads, and visits).

Key point #9
Addressable

Marketers and media owners can connect their first-party data to find matches and build, scale, and activate addressable audiences.

What’s commerce data?

A set of purchase and intent data that gives insight into consumer behaviors and journeys and can be used to deliver superior outcomes. It includes:

  • Page and product views
  • Products added to cart
  • Products purchased (online and offline)
  • Ad clicks
  • Contextual data from publishers such as URLs, contextual categories, and keywords
  • Product info like categories, SKUs, prices, descriptions
  • Identifiers such as hashed emails, hashed phone numbers, and visitor IDs (such as random IDs stored in first-party cookies)

Bigger is better

The bigger the commerce data set, the more insights you can get.

First-party is best

Commerce data that is based on first-party data will be vital for continued addressability and personalizing experiences.

What does commerce data do for marketers?

Every marketer and media owner already has commerce data from the interactions within their properties (what people looked at, what they bought). But a larger set of commerce data can provide a much richer picture and show what else consumers are looking for and buying across the open internet and offline.

Commerce data combined with AI increases the effectiveness and efficiency of advertising. It helps marketers:

Gain a bigger picture of their audiences that their own data can’t provide. By identifying interest and intent patterns, it helps marketers understand what consumers want—and predict what they’re likely to buy next
Example

Commerce data allows you to find more people who may be in market for your premium surround sound system by identifying people who recently bought a 4K UHD TV and a living room furniture set.

Build audiences of people actively in-market for certain products
Example

Instead of reaching people who like Ford trucks or a demographic that *might* be interested in trucks, reach people whose intent signals show that they are in market to buy a Ford truck, right now.

Know which products to recommend, which ad creative will get the highest engagement, and what bid to set based on the value-to-cost ratio of every impression
Grow your business and attract new customers to your brand and products.
Example

Build lookalike audiences from the larger commerce data set and identify contextual categories and domains that will bring more consumers to your site

Measure performance and optimize campaigns in real-time
4 in 10
brands rely on media to access rich customer insights (e.g., partners’ first-party data) they previously did not have access to and use those insights to deliver more relevant offers and messaging and to improve online and offline sales performance1

 

 

What does commerce data do for media owners?

Commerce data and AI bring more revenue to media owners by helping them:

Enrich their first-party data with additional insights to offer more audience targeting options to their advertisers
Example

Create an audience of CE consumers that spend in the top 30% price point in countries across the world

Personalize their own valuable content for users and create richer on-site experiences, driving repeat visitors and increasing revenue
Example

Showcasing high-end electronics to that same CE audience on the home page

73%
of media owners seek to optimize media performance as a way to both generate awareness and drive revenue.

 

 

Where’d the “e” go?

Why isn’t it “ecommerce media”?

“Ecommerce” has become synonymous with online retail. But “commerce” is bigger than online retail and even retail generally. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “commerce” as “activities that relate to the buying and selling of goods and services”. Commerce media is bigger than retail, too, and works for non-retail businesses like classifieds, travel, and finance.

Here’s an example of how commerce media can work for a travel aggregator that wants to increase European trip bookings:

Acquisition

Capture in-market travelers with a European vacation

Engage with offers aligned to contextual signals

Reach people who showed interest with nearby travel agent offers

Retention

Inspire travelers who recently returned from holidays with their next destination

Engage last year’s onsite bookers with interactive ad experiences and test and learn approaches to bring them back onsite

Convert with loyalty offers and lifetime engagement tactics

Retail media

Target shoppers who looked at luggage on retail sites with ads for your European trip packages.

Measurement

Connect ad spend directly to bookings.

Commerce doesn’t only happen online.

Our Shopper Story survey shows that physical stores are still as powerful a draw today as they were in 2019: Nearly six in ten consumers look forward to shopping in stores when they have time.2 In addition, what starts online might end in a physical location, and vice versa. And increasingly, they both happen at the same time. Our research showed that more than half of consumers make purchases on their phone while inside a store – either from that retailer, or a competitor’s website.3 Commerce media puts the audience first, facilitating the omnichannel journey that works for them—and connecting ad spend to results wherever they happen (online or in-person).

What’s changed is how often people buy online while inside a store:

Click & Ship
51%
make purchase on their phone while insde a retailer’s store from that retailer’s website — up from 38% in 2019.
Scan & Scram
58%
make purchase on their phone while inside a retailer’s website — more than 1.4 times the 42% who did so in 2019.

The Takeaway?

Most consumers still include stores as part of their consideration process, but the competition for where they end up buying is getting fiercer

Commerce media’s inventory is on publishers across the open internet, in addition to retailers and marketplaces.

This opens all kinds of acquisition and retention opportunities for all kinds of businesses. Like, say, reaching new customers while they stream content with video ads, influencing them while they read a related article with contextual ads, retargeting them after they’ve visited your site or a retailer partner’s site, and reengaging them after they’ve become a customer.

Commerce media, retail media, performance and brand marketing: what’s the difference?

Commerce media is a new category, and that often comes with some confusion. Some use the term interchangeably with retail media. Others see it as the next evolution of retail media. Still others think it sounds like performance marketing with a different name. Let’s clear things up.

Commerce media takes the retail media model and expands it. It includes a broad network of publishers across the open internet, in addition to retailers. And it enables non-retail and non-endemic advertisers, in addition to retail advertisers, to use commerce data and AI to more effectively engage audiences on those publishers and retailers. It also includes a wide range of formats and channels to meet full-funnel objectives, from video and CTV to contextual and sponsored product ads. Commerce media brings all of this together in one place.

 

 Commerce MediaRetail MediaPerformance MarketingBrand Marketing
Full-funnelYes.
Can be used for discovery, conversion, and retention
Sometimes.
Some retail media providers offer a variety of display formats that allow brands to build awareness, drive point-of-purchase sales, and retarget retailer audiences.
No.
Primarily a bottom-funnel tactic focused on driving and optimizing for conversions.
No.
Primarily a top-funnel tactic focused on awareness and optimizing for reach and impressions.
First-party commerce dataYes.
Large-scale, first-party commerce data is the backbone of commerce media.
Yes.
The scale of the data is smaller than commerce media, as it does not include inputs from other publishers/brand sites.
No.
Typically uses third-party cookies and behavioral data and lacks the scale of commerce data that commerce media has. Any first-party data used is highly dependent on 3P cookie matching.
No.
Typically uses third-party cookies and demographic and behavioral data.
Variety of formats and channels (video, CTV, display, contextual, sponsored product)Yes.
All of these options are possible with commerce media.
Sometimes.
Retail media platforms that offer offsite ads may include some of these formats, but typically not all of them.
No.
Sponsored products is not an option here.
No.
Sponsored products is not an option here.
Ad space on publishers across the open internetYes.
Commerce media includes ads on publishers as well as retailers.
Sometimes.
Some retail media providers offer offsite ads.
Yes.Yes.
Works for non-retailer advertisersYes.
Commerce media works for retail and other businesses, such as classifieds, travel, and finance.
No.
Retail media is focused on helping brands that sell products on retailers.
Yes.Yes.
Connected supply and demand for closed-loop measurementYes.
Commerce media directly connects marketers and media owners.
Yes.
Retailers and their brand advertisers are directly connected through retail media.
No.No.

 

Commerce media is trending, and these are just some of the reasons why:

Ecommerce is (still) booming—and consumers also still love physical stores: The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world online to shop, and their new online habits will continue post-pandemic. Worldwide ecommerce is predicted to approach $7T (more than double 2019 sales) and will account for nearly a quarter of all retail sales by 2025 (a huge increase from the 13.8% share it held in 2019).4

At the same time, our research shows that more consumers than ever are using options like BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) and click and collect and that they still highly value the in-person experience of physical stores: Four in 10 don’t like to purchase unless they can see and touch items in a store.5

How we can connect with consumers is (still) changing: Growing privacy regulations and the possible phase-out of third-party cookies have marketers and media owners looking for new ways to responsibly reach and monetize audiences.

Prioritizing first-party data strategies is now a must for retailers and publishers: Because of the point above, marketers are focused on gathering and growing first-party data. Publishers preparing for declining CPMs from the loss of third-party cookies are expanding their first-party data strategies. Retailers are also exploring more ways to monetize their valuable first-party assets. Connecting marketers with these media owners is a win-win for all parties.

“The opportunity for us in the post-third-party cookie ecosystem is that we are the owners of our data. We are the only ones who know and understand our users, who have a repeat relationship based on the first-party cookie.”

—Stephanie Layser, Vice President of Advertising Technology and Operations at News Corp.6

Trade marketing is shifting to digital: Brand dollars are following their consumers online. 92% of EU7 and 76% of US brand advertisers8 say their growth depends on retail media advertising.

Consumers are turning to the open internet more than ever: Consumers don’t just shop on Amazon or search on Google. Our research shows that more shoppers are now starting their product search on retail and brand websites, which are surpassing online marketplaces and search engines as the leading first touchpoint.

66%
of time is spent on the open internet9
7 in 10
consumers told us that before buying products they’ve never bought before or important products, they frequently read informative articles on the open internet.10

New Head of Commerce roles emerging in agencies: People in these roles are spearheading a 360° approach to commerce, overseeing everything from search and display, to shopper marketing and retail media. Their goals are to break down silos and take an audience-based approach rather than a channel by channel or retailer by retailer approach.

69%
of marketers and media owners said that removing channel silos was a top priority for future-proofing their digital marketing efforts1

The commerce media ecosystem is comprised of three main players: Marketers, Media Owners, and Consumers. Each has their own goals, challenges, and needs that we’ll dive into.

Marketers

Brands, retailers (more specifically, the brand/digital/growth marketers and media planners and buyers within them), and the agencies that support them are the demand side of the commerce media ecosystem. They want to activate addressable advertising campaigns that can reach in-market consumers from discovery through to purchase, with a focus on driving and measuring outcomes at each stage.

Marketers need:
Commerce data and AI to better understand consumers.

Tapping into a global commerce dataset enables marketers to identify interest and intent patterns to enrich audience targeting and personalization. The more commerce data marketers can get their hands on, the smarter their campaigns.

Marketers need:
First-party data-based advertising solutions.

If and when Google ends support for third-party cookies, first-party data will be the way forward. Having enough first-party data is an issue, especially in the current system where many steps of matching and syncing can lead to data loss. Marketers will need commerce media solutions that help them both secure and activate privacy-safe first-party data to meet full-funnel objectives.

Marketers need:
Options in addition to walled gardens for more reach and more control.

In a Forrester Consulting survey we commissioned, 80% of North American8 and 77% of EU respondents7 want to reduce their dependency on walled gardens. Couple this with the fact that a majority of global ecommerce is done outside of Amazon, and there is a compelling need for commerce media on the open internet.

Marketers need:
The ability to tie advertising spend to outcomes.

Whether it’s awareness, traffic, leads, or sales, marketers need to be able to measure the impact of digital advertising as consumers move through the funnel.

Marketers need:
As few platforms as possible to streamline management.

Commerce media on the open internet is inefficient and requires using multiple platforms, including demand side platforms (DSPs), supply side platforms (SSPs), and retail media platforms.

Media Owners

Publishers, retailers, and marketplaces are the supply side of the commerce media ecosystem. These players want to sell their advertising and promotions inventory to marketers.

Media owners need:
Solutions to help them monetize their first-party audiences and data and increase yield.

For retailers, the tech stack needed to successfully take on the role of publisher is too much for most to do in-house. Likewise, publishers looking to get more from their inventory need external commerce data and AI assets to help them do so.

Media owners need:
To be able to capture more advertiser spend.

A self-contained commerce media ecosystem can simplify the process and reduce fees that eat up media owner profits today.

Media owners need:
Solutions to manage first-party data collection, rights, and activation.

To build up their privacy-safe, opted-in data, publishers need commerce media solutions that can help them educate consumers, capture their consent, and give them the ability to manage their preferences.

Media owners need:
Control.

Media owners need control, over data access and pricing and over content to ensure relevancy.

Consumers

Consumers are the beating heart of the ecosystem. It is their call for more privacy and control that is reshaping the ad industry and informing the nascent commerce media category. Only by working together can marketers and media owners deliver the experiences that will garner the trust and loyalty of consumers moving forward.

Consumers need:
The ability to control marketers’ and media owners’ usage of the data that they agree to share.

Consumers need to clearly understand the value exchange of consenting to the use of their data and be able to manage that consent to opt in or out at any time.

Consumers need:
Relevant experiences.

The appeal for more control doesn’t mean that consumers are no longer interested in relevant experiences. Marketers and media owners that can meet consumers in a moment of want or need with the right content will be rewarded with higher engagement.

Consumers need:
To be able to still access high-quality digital content, discover new things, and have freedom of choice.

Advertising is what makes all of this possible today by providing the funds media owners need to continue to provide original and diverse products and content on the open internet.

Today, much of commerce media on the open internet is fragmented, with demand side platforms (DSPs), supply side platforms (SSPs), and retail media platforms all operating separately.

In fact, the study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Criteo found that more than 40% of marketers use six to 10 different platforms for media buying.1

Data management and addressability solutions are in flux, with different fixes arising for how to make privacy-safe data interoperable. There’s a lot to navigate, and marketers and media owners are eager for safe solutions for addressable advertising that will still drive results. They also want more streamlined ways to do it, using fewer platforms.

“All of this is really hard for marketers to get their head around – how to use first-party data, how to find new audiences, how to get around the deprecation of third-party cookies. And so they’re looking to technology providers like ad tech companies to help them out.”

— Megan Clarken, CEO, Criteo
81%
of marketers and retailers (as media owners) say a top priority in the next 12 months is implementing a single platform to manage all commerce media spend and performance.1

Survey respondents are also seeking commerce media partners to help them optimize performance and improve agility. When Forrester Consulting asked which capabilities were most valuable in selecting a commerce partner, 63% said the ability to compare and optimize performance across channels and retailers and 59% said the ability to measure performance and adjust campaign spend in real-time. Nearly half (47%) of respondents also seek partners who can provide access to a large amount of first-party data.

The commerce media space is quickly advancing to deliver on these needs by making it easier for marketers and media owners to work together efficiently.

The goal is to connect them in an open marketplace via a single interface. In this marketplace, data can be shared to link identity, create and scale addressable audiences, and activate them through a variety of channels and formats. Measurement and optimization will be possible across channels and retailers all from one place, for a truly holistic view.

“Companies who enable publishers and advertisers to safeguard consumer rights while connecting first-party data on both the buy and sell side are going to define the next chapter of personalized advertising.”

— Todd Parsons, Chief Product Officer, Criteo

Each player gets what they need to succeed, from data to technology to connections, creating a self-sustaining system and a virtuous circle where all mutually benefit:

Marketers
get enough addressable audience reach and measurable results to continue running campaigns
Media owners
get ad revenue to continue to develop/improve content to attract audiences
Consumers
get richer experiences from trusted marketers and media owners

Future-proof your advertising.

Things like privacy, cookies, addressability, and accountability are keeping the digital ad industry up at night. More consumers are online than ever, but the ability to give them personalized experiences is getting harder. Commerce media for these big changes upending the industry, because it’s rooted in first-party data. First-party data is the future of digital advertising because it is the key to responsibly linking identity across environments and creating addressable audience reach.

Marketers who want to have a big enough audience to reach if and when third-party cookies are phased out need to start increasing their access to first-party data now. Commerce media helps them achieve this in three ways:

1
It expands the reach of their own first-party data by enriching it with a larger set of first-party commerce data, which can be used to build new audiences
2
It increases the effectiveness of targeting and personalization to engage high-quality audiences who will be more likely to opt-in to share their data, thereby growing the addressable audience pool
3
It reduces the data loss that occurs from the many steps of matching and syncing that happens in the current system

For publishers who face decreasing yield when support is ended for third-party cookies, commerce media can help make up the difference, providing the technology and the data they need to turn their own data into a more attractive offering for advertisers.

For retailers, commerce media enables them to monetize their data and audiences without needing to invest in building their own retail media platform. It also gives them the tools they need to acquire and convert consumers. This means they can both grow their ad business and increase product sales in one place.

For both publishers and retailers, commerce media offers increased demand from those looking to reach audiences on the open internet. By matching first party data across demand and supply, it also increases the addressability of their inventory, resulting in more spend from buyers.

Streamline and close the loop

Commerce media solves the fragmentation challenge, enabling marketers and media owners to simplify growth and use less tech, rather than more.

By directly connecting marketers and media owners, commerce media makes it easy to track the impact of digital campaigns on KPIs (such as sales, leads, visits), both online and offline. This ability to connect media spend to actual purchase data provides the accountable advertising that marketers are keen to shift their budgets to.

6 out of 10
marketers and retailers (as media owners) say the top benefits of taking a commerce media approach are improved CX (63%), increased growth (65%), and increased profitability (61%)1
65%
Increased growth
63%
Improved customer experience
61%
Increased profitability

Put consumers first

Consumers want their data rights respected. But this doesn’t mean that consumers are no longer interested in relevant experiences. Commerce media powers both responsible and relevant advertising. Because of its audience-first approach, commerce media is built to serve consumers’ needs and evolve as they evolve.

Consumers also want to be able to access a variety of content, products, and services. Through commerce media, marketers and media owners power the advertising that supports diversity and choice on the open internet.

Get control, transparency, and balance

As the walls of the walled gardens grow ever higher, options that preserve marketers’ access to and control over first-party data are critical. Commerce media is on the open internet, where all players have the freedom to access and keep their data, use any partners they wish, dictate pricing, and maintain control over the consumer experience. It’s a way to reduce dependence on walled gardens and build a more balanced strategy that meets consumers in all the places they spend their time—and where there are no walls blocking the view of the customer journey.

“Building, establishing and maintaining a relationship with customers—not just for a single conversion but throughout their lifetime with a brand—is increasing in importance for every contemporary marketer I’ve worked with. When a brand understands the customer and every part of their journey and owns the data attached to that, walled gardens will not exist as they do now.”11

— Sean Peters, Chief Strategy Officer, Publicis Media

Commerce Media Benefits

MarketersMedia OwnersConsumers
Achieve scalable addressability, with audiences and personalization powered by first-party data.Earn more ad revenue by monetizing owned first-party data and audiences.See ads only for things they've actively shown an interest in, and only from advertisers that they have consented to.
Reduce waste and increase engagement and conversion by focusing on in-market audiences and leveraging deep commerce insights.Drive repeat visitors and increase sales by using commerce data to personalize content for users.Enjoy more relevant site experiences and ads.
Reduce the number of platforms being used.Increase the addressability of inventory by connecting first-party data across the ecosystem.Continue to enjoy the diversity of content and choice that the open internet provides.
Reach consumers on the open internet, where they spend 66% of their time, and where marketers have full control and transparency.Get a direct connection to marketers seeking addressable audiences, and maintain control of data access, pricing, and the site experience.

Criteo is using its access to first-party data to build an open marketplace for marketers and media owners that will enable responsible addressable media for the future. We are one of the few platforms with significant assets on both sides of the ecosystem to provide these connections and operate them at scale.

The Criteo Commerce Media Platform is where marketers and media owners can turn the world’s largest open commerce dataset into high performing addressable advertising. With our First-Party Media Network and commerce-focused AI, we can offer unique and highly effective audiences—along with the tools to activate them—to bring richer experiences to consumers on the open internet.

United supply and demand

Benefit from more data and transparency and lower costs with a unified platform for both marketers and media owners.

  • Reduce data loss, fees, and tech taxes
  • Increase addressability
  • Get exclusive access to onsite retail media inventory
  • Drive more ROI and revenue

First-Party Media Network

Amplify addressability by connecting your first-party data with our network of high-quality first-party data.

  • Link identity across participants to scale audiences
  • Access commerce data to improve personalization
  • Keep your customers’ data safe and privacy compliant

Unique intent-based audiences

Target or curate highly effective audiences from a massive global commerce dataset and your own first-party data.

  • Focus on consumers who are actively in-market
  • Drive first-time and repeat purchases
  • Attract advertisers with new audiences

All-in-one solution

Plan, buy, personalize, measure, and monetize—all in one platform.

  • Choose from a variety of audiences, ad formats, and media buying options
  • Measure and optimize campaigns across the funnel
  • Maintain full data and inventory control

“In the future, I’d like to be able to say that the open internet is alive and kicking and vibrant. And that consumers love it because of Criteo’s contribution to it. Where new businesses can come and thrive and where innovation can be at the center, and where advertising can pay for more and more experiences to come to the open internet. A truly vibrant environment for all – that's our promise.”

— Megan Clarken, CEO, Criteo