kroger albertsons merger

The Implications of the Kroger-Albertsons Merger on the Retail Media Landscape

Fred Bahnson 

In a significant development that promises to reshape the retail media network landscape, grocery chains Kroger and Albertsons have announced their intention to merge. This proposed merger, valued at $24.6 billion, is set to leverage their combined strength in first-party data and expanded retail presence to disrupt the status quo.

The Unveiling of a Transformative Deal

The recent announcement by Kroger to acquire Albertsons has sent shockwaves throughout the U.S. supermarket sector. The deal is poised to create a new powerhouse, capable of reaching approximately 85 million households nationwide. With an expanded reach, the merged entity aims to fuel growth in alternative profit businesses such as Retail Media, Kroger Personal Finance, and Customer Insights, as stated in their joint press statement.

The Rise of Retail Media

The concept of retailers transforming their websites into media platforms is not novel. However, the success of e-commerce giant Amazon in building a colossal advertising business has garnered significant attention over the past five years. Amazon currently leads the retail media ad landscape, amassing $31 billion in advertising revenue in the previous year.

Experts believe that the Kroger-Albertsons merger will place a renewed focus on retail media. This combined entity might even pose a challenge to Walmart, the second-largest player in the retail media space. By offering brands a more compelling advertising offering and an extensive array of data for enhanced ad targeting, the merged entity aims to establish itself as a formidable competitor. Walmart, with a revenue of $2.1 billion from its media and advertising business, currently holds the second spot.

Harnessing the Power of Data

“The scale of data that retailers can bring to bear will determine the winner in the retail media game,” explains Sean Turner, Chief Technology Officer at Swiftly, a technology platform catering to retailers. The Kroger-Albertsons merger enables the consolidation of reach, sales, and data assets, creating a more robust advertising entity. This combined force allows for a strategic advantage in the retail media landscape.

According to Numerator, Kroger accounts for 9.9% of grocery spending in the U.S., while Albertsons holds a 5.7% share. The proposed entity, with a combined market share of 15.6%, would trail only behind Walmart, which commands a 20.9% share.

The Journey of Kroger and Albertsons in Retail Media

Kroger’s foray into retail media commenced in 2015 with the acquisition of Tesco’s data analytics business, Dunnhumby USA. In 2017, the grocery chain further expanded its footprint with the launch of its precision marketing division, facilitating targeted ads across its websites and app. Over the years, Kroger has strengthened its precision marketing arm, forging partnerships with platforms like Roku and Pinterest to extend its reach. Currently, Kroger’s precision marketing arm collaborates with around 2,000 brands.

Albertsons, on the other hand, is a relatively new entrant in the retail media space. The grocer launched its retail media network in November of the previous year, offering diverse ad placements through its website and app in collaboration with CitrusAd and Merkle.

The Growing Appeal of Grocery in Advertising

Grocery retail has emerged as an enticing sector for advertisers due to the frequency of purchase and the resulting wealth of customer data. Grocers possess extensive insights into their customers’ shopping behaviors, particularly as online grocery shopping gains popularity. According to the Food Media Institute’s grocery shopping trends report, 29% of surveyed shoppers placed aweekly online grocery order last year. This foundation in grocery e-commerce forms the basis of retail media.

Leveraging Loyalty and Physical Store Presence

Kroger enjoys a significant advantage through its loyalty card membership program, with approximately 97% of transactions utilizing these cards. This high fidelity loyalty card data provides Kroger with a competitive edge in the retail media landscape. Additionally, Kroger’s Precision Marketing program offers precise and personalized customer data, enabling brands to create impactful campaigns tailored to specific audiences.

The new Kroger-Albertsons entity will encompass an extensive physical store network, comprising 4,996 stores, 66 distribution centers, 52 manufacturing plants, 3,972 pharmacies, and 2,015 fuel centers. This physical footprint surpasses that of Walmart, positioning the merged entity with significant leverage within retail media. As Andrew Lipsman, Principal Analyst for Retail and E-commerce at Insider Intelligence, highlights, the future of retail media increasingly relies on the integration of offline sales data for targeting and attribution.

Implications for Regional Grocery Chains

The Kroger-Albertsons merger serves as a wake-up call for smaller regional grocery chains in the United States. These chains now face the challenge of competing with a formidable digital entity. The merger eliminates the previous scenario where e-commerce grocery shoppers in overlapping regions chose between Instacart, Kroger, and Albertsons. Turner emphasizes the impact this merger may have on digital customer engagement for smaller players, as they now contend with a single entity, alongside Instacart.

Embracing the Potential of Retail Media

In an economically challenging landscape, retail media represents a rapidly growing revenue stream. The Kroger-Albertsons merger positions both companies to leverage this opportunity effectively. Lipsman underscores the transformative power of digital advertising in driving bottom-line profitability.

Conclusion: Shaping the Future of Retail Media

The Kroger-Albertsons merger holds immense potential for reshaping the retail media landscape. With a combined strength in first-party data, an expanded retail footprint, and the ability to provide enhanced ad offerings, the merged entity is poised to disrupt the retail media network status quo. As retail media increasingly pivots toward physical stores, the Kroger-Albertsons entity gains a strategic advantage. This transformative deal emphasizes the critical role of data in driving success in the retail media game.

As the retail industry continues to evolve, embracing the opportunities presented by retail media is crucial. By harnessing the power of data, delivering targeted advertising, and building stronger customer relationships, retailers can thrive in this dynamic landscape. The Kroger-Albertsons merger represents a significant milestone in the evolution of retail media, and its implications will be closely watched by industry players and observers alike.