Omnicom Media Group's Keiko Osada Finds Shopping Insights and Innovation in Vegas

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Keiko Osada, Global Commerce Director at Omnicom Media Group, is energized -- even after three days walking through a casino and the really long halls from the Mandalay Bay hotel to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center for Shoptalk 2022.

Shoptalk 2022 is one of the largest retail conferences in the world. Osada was ecstatic to be back among peers and to be able to reconnect with industry friends at one of the largest, most well-attended conferences to date. But at the same time, she was a little surprised by the conversations she had with attendees at the show, which welcomed 10,000 people from 48 countries -- breaking attendance records from prior to the pandemic. It featured over 250 speakers from all walks of retail including grocery, fashion, furniture and other verticals and an Expo of over 300 exhibitors. For the retail trade industry, a moment of normal had returned.

Going into the conference, Osada expected the focus to be on next generation innovation, omnichannel marketing, the breakdown of organizational silos, sustainability and consumer data privacy. However, one topic seemed to dominate even more than she expected: the Metaverse. "In almost every talk that we had it was, 'How are you thinking about the Metaverse, NFTs and the Future of Digital?'" she explained. "That it was a subject wasn’t surprising, but how much it was talked about was, and essentially, how little people know about it."

Over the past quarter, there have been numerous brands that have been diving head-first into the Metaverse. Proctor & Gamble created an elaborate showcase during CES for all its brands. P&G’s live sales rep avatars gave a glimpse of what the future of both prospecting and CRM could look like. Pacsun, the Gen Z fashion retailer, has embraced cryptocurrency payments and partnered with Roblox to clothe avatars in Pacsun branded clothing, and is even coming out with real-world Metaverse-branded clothing.

In February, Molson Coors designed a virtual bar in Decentraland, a crypto-based virtual world, to conquest Anheuser-Busch InBev during the Super Bowl. However, the results may be a reflection of how much hype is built into the current Metaverse marketing wave. Although it used a TV spot to drive traffic during the highly viewed game, which reached 208 million viewers, Coors has reportedly received only around 40,000 visitors. While reach was most likely not their objective, it still puts into perspective the hype that is currently in play.

One of the focal points of the Shoptalk conference is the "Shark Reef" startup pitch, modeled after Shark Tank,which highlights companies that the organizers feel are innovative and relevant. Tellingly, there were no directly related Metaverse companies included among the 15 contestants. The audience choice-winning company was ReUpp, a sustainability platform that offers customers a buy-back program in the form of store credits and free return shipping labels for consumers at the time of original purchase. Osada predicts that next year, "We'll see a slew of Metaverse companies."

Another hot topic at Shoptalk, according to Osada, was the fast-growing revenue stream of retail media, which, according to eMarketer, is set to surge by 28% this year, a $24 billion marketplace that is expected to grow to $41 billion by 2024.

BCG Global is even more bullish, projecting retail media becomes a $110 billion market by 2026, exceeding profit margins from merchandising sales. At the conference, Kroger Precision Marketing and its 84.51° unit announced that marketers/trading desks can now purchase product-listing ads using select third-party management platforms. These include Pacvue, Skai and Flywheel.

Meanwhile, Instacart announced that it is instituting a "powered by Instacart" platform that brand advertisers can utilize to spread their messages across multiple retailers. Instacart will be able to offer targeted brand messages and personalized offers directly into a customer's digital shopping cart.

"Instead of innovation from the retail media partners themselves, the emphasis is more on how brands are thinking about the holistic strategies," Osada noted. "Specifically, end-to-end planning is something I am very involved [with] from an Omnicom perspective, but we also are focused on how we harmonize those strategies. As SKUs are similar, how we can look at them across the board and drive greater efficiency and effectiveness, but also be able to react more real-time to where the consumer is?

"Even if it's the same product, it may be a better optimization on a Walmart vs. a Dollar General," she continued. "How do we look at this as a retail media strategy and not a Walmart or Dollar General strategy?" Osada sees data harmonization companies as key components as the ascent of retail media continues.

With this predicted ascent of retail media, the natural question arises: Who will own the relationship? Is this in the realm of the media/programmatic team, or is this coming out of shopper-marketing budgets? Osada admits that this is still a gray area. "I think internally at client organizations there is a little bit of that friction as, historically, shopper marketing has spent their dollars on very different tactics, not typically involving media," she said.

But, she added: "We see our clients making progress. They are saying, 'We have to have those conversations together. We're not just shopper marketers. We're not just brands. We are here for the consumer to have the best consumer journey.'

"[It's a matter of] let’s plan together and talk through what's really going to make sense," Osada continued. "When we build our strategy, it’s not just to the brand marketing teams, but to the shopper marketing and eCommerce organizations, as well."

The retail industry has been severely challenged and has dramatically evolved over the past two years. With the focus shifting to omni-channel, Metaverse, immersive retail environments and 3D digital SKUs, the next 12 to 24 months looks to be even more exciting and dynamic.

For many brands, even those outside of endemics, the first-party data that retailers own will provide critical signals to replace insights lost to cookie deprecation and expanded privacy laws. This retailer data will fuel the growth of retail media. Osada will be listening to those signals and guiding marketers on their journey to reach the customer.

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