At the recent Advertising Week New York event, a panel of experts, including Melanie Zimmermann, VP of Macy’s Media Network; Evan Hovorka, VP of Product & Innovation at Albertsons Media Collective; Elizabeth Buchanan, Chief Commercial Officer at Rokt; and moderator Libby Rodney, Chief Strategy Officer at The Harris Poll, gathered to discuss the impact of AI and relevancy in the retail sector. Together, the panelists explored how brands can adapt to meet their consumers’ ever-evolving needs using key findings from Rokt’s recent commissioned report with The Harris Poll. Here are the top five takeaways from the event, along with quotes from the panelists:
1. Individualizing shopping experiences
Melanie Zimmermann stressed the need for AI to create individualized shopping experiences. She explained that retail media should help customers discover unexpected but relevant products and inspire them with unique ad formats. Melanie said, “Getting the targeting right is going to be critical. As an industry, we have plenty of opportunities to get better at this.” Inspiring customers with engaging ad formats, such as video advertising, goes beyond traditional banners. These formats enable brands to tell their story and create inspirational moments of connection. This transformation redefines the way customers interact with products and services, aligning them more closely with products that align with their interests.
2. Relying on smart partners
Evan Hovorka emphasized the importance of collaboration and smart partnerships in the retail media landscape. He pointed out that retail media networks often rely on external expertise to fill gaps in their capabilities. As Evan put it, “Retail media networks don’t have armies of engineers, so we need smart partners to come along and fill really big gaps.”
3. Alleviating the paradox of choice with AI
AI holds the potential to address the issue of offering too many choices. The Harris Poll report revealed that consumers are feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of online options. Elizabeth Buchanan suggested that AI could simplify the shopping experience, stating, “Ecommerce businesses aim to maximize relevance, and AI can extend beyond contextual relevance, recognizing that humans are more than the current page they are shopping on. The key is to present fewer, more relevant options or avoid interrupting the experience.” AI can determine if an offer is relevant and display it, or if none are relevant, and it’s more effective to show nothing to retain the customer long-term.
4. Creating delightful shopping experiences with relevancy
Elizabeth Buchanan highlighted the difference between personalization and relevancy. She noted that AI should go beyond basic data recognition to deliver meaningful shopping interactions. Elizabeth pointed out that, “The difference between personalization and relevancy is a very simple recognition with some basic data, but relevance is how we bring in the information brands know about their shoppers and use AI to make something really delightful.” Especially as brands look to reach newer or younger audiences like Gen Z, AI will serve as a powerful tool to further enhance the shopping experience.
5. Optimizing the customer experience
Evan discussed the importance of AI in optimizing customer experiences. He emphasized that AI should be used to increase the number of relevant repeat purchases, ultimately leading to the delivery of fewer but more effective ads. Evan said, “I love the idea of fewer ads. So if they’re more targeted and effective, we should be using fewer of them.” It’s essential that in the aim to grow baskets that retailers also create a frictionless environment for customers to shop with ease.
The topic of AI not only came up during this session, but it was a recurring theme throughout the Advertising Week New York. As AI continues to develop and gain popularity, it remains top of mind in the world of advertising. Its growth is providing more opportunities for businesses to use it to their advantage, including the creation of a better customer experience. Overall, it’s an exciting time for our industry as we look beyond contextual targeting to provide a more tailored experience for each of our customers.