Top takeaways from Cannes: the evolution of retail media 

Cameron Townsley, creative and events director at The Digital Voice, shares her insights

It’s no exaggeration to say this year’s Cannes was bigger and better than ever before it really was.

The buzz around retail media in particular was phenomenal, and a highlight for us was the Retail Media Accelerator panel at Contagious’ Cannes villa on 20 June. We had the pleasure – while basking in the sun – of speaking to some of the biggest names in retail media, including Nectar360, Accenture Song, Skai and CitrusAd. 

As we learnt, the rise of retail media has taken the ad tech industry by storm, reaching a staggering $121.9 billion as an industry. But why?

Here are our top takeaways from the session.

More than just a conversion channel

A large part of retail media’s success is due to the fact that, as a channel, it is so much more than simply a conversion tool. It’s also proving an effective platform for brand awareness – guiding customers through the funnel as they get to know and trust different brands – as well as a margin-boosting side business for retailers, according to panel moderator Colin Lewis.

As Nectar360’s Amir Rasekh explained, the opportunity is huge, if you have the right tools and the right audience in place, and retail media networks such as Nectar360 are the ‘thread that links businesses together’. 

Nectar360’s coalition loyalty programme – the largest in the UK – gives clients access to 18 million engaged customers, with an impressive 31 Nectar scans every second. 

Smarter tech provides a seamless experience 

As all the panellists agreed, the evolution of retail media hasn’t been without its challenges over the years, with fragmented systems offering a disjointed customer experience at times. In fact, a recent Epsilon survey found that 64% of brands believe the existence of multiple technology providers in retail media networks results in a poor advertising experience for consumers. 

But the good news is, retail media technology has become highly sophisticated across the funnel with full-service offerings, such as Nectar360’s Digital Trading Platform (DTP) and CitrusAd paving the way for a much smoother experience. ‘Our proprietary DTP streamlines the whole process, allowing agencies and buyers to buy into Nectar’s services and buy across those campaigns – to create full funnel campaigns including offsite, onsite and CTV, Rasekh explained. 

Closing the measurement loop

The benefit of a full-funnel retail media platform is that it connects the dots between online and offline interactions, which is crucial in today’s multichannel shopping environment.

Enabling the digitisation of stores through a network of smart and connected digital screens in stores, as Nectar360 is doing, is key to understanding the entire customer journey, but also of great importance is retaining engagement. Having such a wealth of first-party data is half the battle, but being able to measure it accurately and at scale will be key in the coming years. As Rasekh summed up, ‘retail media can deliver marketers the Holy Grail of closing the measurement loop by tracking actual sales’.

The role of AI in retail media

To wrap up the session, we talked about the future of retail media and the potential role of AI in its evolution. The consensus was that while it’s still early days, there will definitely be applications for enhanced personalisation, creatives and performance based on AI learning capabilities. 

Also, once teams have got the basics nailed and are ready to scale, they will look beyond rules-based automation toward implementing more sophisticated AI algorithms.

We can’t wait to see how retail media evolves over the next 12 months. Stay tuned for Cannes 2024! 

Nectar360 is the home of loyalty for Sainsbury’s, Argos, British Airways, Esso, eBay and the Daily Mail Group, alongside many more of the UK’s favourite brands. To find out more about how the company is pioneering retail media technology through its DTP, visit

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