Greetings, and welcome back to Retail Media Thursdays (RMT) with Skai! This series is designed to create a space for people working in retail media to share ideas, enhance their expertise, and deliberate on successful tactics. Industry experts join us in every episode to address pertinent issues in retail media.
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RMT, Episode 6: Gemma Spence
Tune in as we sit down over a pint to discuss:
- 🎉 Exciting new retail media trends
- 💰 Big commerce bets of 2023
- 🛍️ The creative commerce revolution
These are just a few of the topic areas covered in this compelling chat with Gemma at the pub. You can view/access the full transcript of this episode below.
The Lady Ottoline (11A Northington St, London WC1N 2JF)
Like what you saw? There’s more.
After watching this episode with Gemma, we welcome you to check out our other episodes:
- 🗣️ Episode 1: Alice Anson from Nectar360
- 🎯 Episode 2: Antoine Jamet from Criteo
- 🌟 Episode 3: Jason Wescott from Xaxis
- 🛍️ Episode 4: Jonathan Lewis-Jones from Publicis Commerce
- 🌍 Episode 5: Larisa Dumitru from GroupM Nexus
Featured – State of Retail Media 2023 Industry Report
In this survey, Skai and BWG asked 167 retail media brand/seller marketers more than 35 questions covering key retail media trends and challenges.
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Don’t forget to join us every Thursday for Retail Media Thursdays. Together, let’s embark on a thrilling voyage through the realm of retail media!
[Music] Welcome to another episode of Retail Media Thursdays with me, David Sequeira from Skai. Today, we have the brilliant Gemma Spence who’s going to be talking all things retail media. So sit back and enjoy. [Music]
Hello Gemma, hello David. It’s nice to meet you in the flesh after COVID. I know, it’s one together for sure. So look, welcome to Retail Media Thursdays. Thank you for having me. That’s okay. You’ve actually been mentioned a couple of times already, as you might be aware. Jason Westcott, who is the legend, by the way, is a legend at The Hook. He definitely mentioned you a couple of times in reference to his own Retail Media Thursday, but I don’t think his introduction was enough. So I’m going to pass it over to you. Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role.
My name is Gemma Spence. I’ve been working now in digital commerce and e-commerce for 13 to 15 years. I spent the first half of my career within consumer electronics, working on the brand side of leading D2C, but also on Amazon. And the latter part, building capabilities within agencies I’ve been very Client First and growth-focused in all things digital commerce. Just over a year ago, I joined the mighty VMLY&R Commerce to lead capabilities globally. So all things digital commerce, connected commerce, creative commerce, and kind of pulling together our brilliant depth and breadth of capabilities to start to codify a lot of those services and augment with our data offering and our partners like yourself. So, it’s been a really fun ride. And I’ve also had the great privilege of working with one of our largest CPG companies within WPP, leading them on their commerce acceleration journey.
Very cool. And so I guess the question would be, why is VMLY&R Commerce different, and what’s different about it compared to some of your competitors, obviously in the commerce space?
That’s a really good question. And I think that given my past experience, you know, you knew me in my previous life, and I had the, I suppose, great privilege of being able to build out capability and have a good vantage point of what other agencies, other independents, other consultancies were doing, building. And I think that the first word that springs to mind is foresight. So within VMLY&R and VMLY&R Commerce, about two and a half years ago, Mark Read made the decision together with Beth Ann Kaminkow, who was the CEO of Geometry, and John Cook, who’s the CEO of VMLY&R, to merge and merge the two companies together. So, what that meant is that there was a new agency kind of born, and it was the creative commerce powerhouse within WPP.
Now, the reason I mentioned foresight is actually the landscape’s changing. As you know, retail media has been mentioned in so many places as the third wave of advertising. And I think that given that the digital shelf and the physical shelf have merged, it’s blended. You can buy and transact anywhere, and everything is connected. And retail media is the connective tissue. I think that the foresight was that creativity is the single most important factor. And it’s been proven through the work effectiveness ladder to help brands stand out and drive profitable growth and returns. And this merging of these two behemoths allowed for WPP’s end-to-end creative commerce company to be born. So there are 13,000 amazing subject matter experts, four and a half thousand that are within digital commerce and shopping. And what it allows us to do is blend the functional needs within connected commerce. So, whether that is around digital shelves, digital operations, or retail media, together with the need and the importance of creativity, given that things are increasingly more addressable and as we move into the new frontier of the attention economy. So, it’s an amazing time to be within VMLY&R Commerce.
I actually am going to come back a lot today to the subject of creativity. We have touched on it in other Retail Media Thursdays within this series, but I feel like you’re going to be able to go far more in-depth on this topic. Well, let’s hope so, yeah. Yeah, well, I’m looking forward to that one. Before we do though, where are we? What are we doing in this pub? We’re in Lady Auto Lane, a beautiful pub just a couple of blocks away from my new gaff at the WPP campus. And yeah, it’s a super nice place. It’s very chic. And guess what, they have really nice wines. I’ll give you that. It is a really nice wine.
Okay, Gemma. So we’re gonna kick off my first question. We’re obviously in a London pub today. But word on the street is you were in Miami last week. And you were presenting at the WPP Commerce event. I hear your presentation was predicting the unpredictable, big commerce bets of 2023. I’d love to hear what your big bets are.
You know, I had the great fortune of presenting and presenting together with one of my clients at Colgate, Nick Davis. We were talking about the big e-commerce bets that are really playing on a lot of brands’ minds today, now, and also into the future. So, we touched on four key areas. The first one, which sounds very foundational but actually is more important than ever, was the idea that the window is getting smaller and smaller. The fact is that, while we’re talking about e-commerce as digital commerce right now, the reality is it’s m-commerce or kind of channel-less corners. Over 50% of sales now are transacted via mobiles. So, what that means is that content becomes the most important factor within the digital shelf in a digital auction. Having the ability to cut, edit, and build their own content production in a way that is agile and ties into the moments that matter for consumers and shoppers. While it is foundational and it’s like the brilliant basics, it’s still exceptionally important as we start to think about the shelf is more and more dynamic.
The second one that we talked about was social commerce and social media. I still think, as Nick and I both discussed that social commerce is really under-indexed. Actually, it’s not given the focus that a lot of brands should. It’s not only there for driving conversion or transaction, but ultimately, it’s there for driving brand love and equity building. One of the facts or fun facts I discovered as part of building out the details for Ad Age was that, this year alone, and this is staggering, social commerce is going to be $31 billion. That is 20% of total digital commerce and retail sales. It is massive. I think all brands, all businesses…
… through the channel. So that was the second one. The third one, which you know, is not gonna seem like a strange subject, given we’re here for retail media Thursdays, but it’s ultimately retail media. And you know, there’s a reason why it’s called the third wave of advertising, given it’s going to be in the next five years $170 billion dollars, 170 billion. That’s not a small amount of money, right? And it’s growing 82 percent year on year. And more and more, it’s no longer channel agnostic. It’s about that connectivity or connective tissue, driving near and within retailers, and giving brands the ability to switch, disrupt, and convert at the shelf in a way they’ve never had before. So we talked about that at length. And then the final one was around sustainability. Again, from some of the research we’ve done, what we found is that actually, 52 percent of shoppers will, as the number one or two key consideration factors, consider sustainability and how sustainable not only the product but actually the entire value chain is. So the whole circular economy area is more important, not only for luxury goods but actually for highly commoditized goods as well. That was another area that we kind of dug into in a bit of detail too.
I said we’re going to come back to it, but Gemma, we’ve mentioned creativity and creativity a number of times already, and I saw that VML Y&R Commerce talked about this being the Year of the Creative Commerce Revolution. And I saw actually you wrote something similar in Ad Age a couple of weeks ago as well. So, you know, what is the creative commerce revolution, and most importantly, really, what’s the reward for brands that, you know, I guess cotton onto it and do something with this? Now, so creativity is the single most important factor for brands to stand out…
… all of the functional expertise and excellence that is required to win within the digital and also now the physical shelf. Creativity is, you know, together with retail media, that glue. And there has been a true renaissance within creativity. Like shoppers, consumers are looking for that emotional connection with brands. Whether that is a commoditized brand or product or a high-end luxury garment or good, consumers are looking for that emotional connection, and that’s where creativity plays a disproportionate part in the equation. So I think that a lot of brands and businesses have got the functional aspects right. That’s digital operations, digital shelf, all of the kinds of utility, and the syncing together between different data points to drive the insights that can be actioned accordingly. But I think the area of creativity has been underrepresented and underutilized as a way of helping brands’ distinctive assets really stand out from any shelf. So we’re building it the Year of the Creative Commerce Revolution because it’s no longer this evolution. It’s we have to be radical, we have to be rapid, and we have to change the way that we’re approaching things so that we can capitalize on the opportunity that retail media presents around that whole addressability or dynamic creative near and within retailers so that brands can switch and disrupt shoppers and drive that emotional connection long term. That’s our mission for 2023 and beyond.
Great, how do you think brands should structure for success in retail media? So that’s a really good question, and honestly, probably the question that I am getting, and we as VML Y&R Commerce are getting, like the most at the moment. I think there’s not one right answer, there’s not…
…to ensure that everything from kind of digital shelf integrity all the way through to demand generation is organized in a way that doesn’t cannibalize, whether it’s at a division or a market level. And then there’s obviously training, right? So that needs to be done for my government, like a governance level. The other area that we’re also seeing from a kind of above-market is within retail media. You know, they, it has a direct implication on terms and negotiations from a retailing standpoint. So again, what we’ve seen more and more, certainly within the CPG space, is brands are starting to leverage their retail media buying scale together with kind of WPP’s buying scale in order to get more value, whether that’s hard or soft value from the biggest players, whether that be Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, and all the other retailers as part of the value chain. So I think that from a structure standpoint, I think the kind of building out of a governance layer is important, but it’s going to change depending on whether a business is functionally led or divisionally led. So I think it’s all about having the right processes in place, and I think that that again is something that can be governed from the top, and it’s again, looking at the whole value chain from digital shelf and digital operations all the way through to retail media and demand generation. So consistent data tools and tech, consistent metrics that matter, and the right training for talent and markets.
I think the other area up in markets is around investment guidance and looking at budgeting and allocations because ultimately, retail media sets both on the sales and also in the marketing front. So it’s making sure that the teams are set up for success when they are negotiating and getting the dynamic and static space within the shelf. And I touched on talent, and I think that this is really important. I think the real reality is that retail media, and you know this better than most…
It’s evolving at such a rapid pace and I think that everyone in every organization knows it’s important. I don’t think that they fully understand what they need to be upskilled on and how they should be leveraging it. So I think that from my experience working with many of the largest brands in the world, there is an absolute need for functional and discipline-led training that is around there, that you know that the need for retail media understanding, and whether that is around supply chain or Finance or sales or brands or within the kind of the media and discipline.
And then the other one is our own process. So I kind of touched on it a little bit, but you know process and data exchange like they go hand in hand in glove. So you know, again from a functional standpoint looking at the ability to be far more data-driven and use the insights in order to the insights so that you can drive creativity near and within the shelf. So I think that making sure that you’ve got the right workflow and the connective tissue between you know partners such as yourself so that there’s that in that exchange between insights whether that’s around digital operations or stock or pricing elasticity or promotions into behavioral insights and so that you can make sure that your media and your creativity is driving based on the needs and the motivations of shoppers near and within this shelf. Very cool, I feel like I cheated because I got you to answer another question there, but I think it’s important.
I guess to summarize it’s a mixture of people, process, and tech. I guess as well as partners. There you go, we’ve got our three P’s and a T. Amen, there you go. Alright, now I have to go to like the really quick for our questions. Um, but thank you for that answer. So, uh, I’m gonna have to think off the top of my head here we go. What’s the best thing about your job? Oh, there are so many things I love about my job. I think working with amazing smart talented people like I get to work with. The best in the business every single day are within my team and the broader team. WPP VMLY&R Commerce has the best bench of talent in the industry, hands down.
Alright, here we go. This is your next one, which is, what is your favorite app on your phone that you could not live without? Definitely, WhatsApp, hands down WhatsApp because you know it’s kind of like, you know, it’s the way of connecting with folk, right? Everyone’s on WhatsApp, and you know the ability to build groups, whether that’s your family, your work fam, your besties, like if you’re going on holiday with your friends or whatever, like you can engage and you can keep up to date really quickly. And so I kind of live on WhatsApp. Yeah, me too.
Alright, final question, who’s your media mentor? That’s a great question. I would say there are two, you’re always going for two. I mean, you know, like, I’m gonna push, I’m gonna push the envelope as much as I possibly can. So the first one is, you know, a great mentor of mine and also a really dear friend. He actually got me out of a hole when I lost my case in Miami last week. So it’s a guy called Colin Gottlieb, and he founded MG. He then kind of set up and skilled Omnicom Media Group went on to Lab Bible, and is now working for the Muhammad Ali Foundation. So, you know, he really got me my first Big Break, setting up and scaling transactions within Omnicom. So, you know, he’s a very dear friend. I respect him thoroughly. I trust him implicitly and he continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible within media, creative, and comms.
So, that’s the first. And the second one is Philippa Brown. So, Ph.D. and Media’s worldwide CEO, an incredible leader. She again pushes what is possible, has been an incredible advocate for women and diversity as a whole, and has kind of led the way in terms of innovation within the media world, especially within retail media. So, two good pals, people that I truly respect, and who are kind of leading the way within all things media and comms. Brilliant. Well, look, I found today truly fascinating. It’s great to have you on, you know, you’re well known in the industry as being like the pinnacle of inspiring leaders. You know your subject matter so well, so it’s obviously a privilege to have you on Retail Media Thursdays. And yeah, we’ll finish our wine now. So, thank you very much. Cheers. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a real pleasure. Thank you. Cheers.
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