The Commerce Catch Up

When it comes to marketing and media, 2020 was THE year for commerce.

Consumers’ pandemic induced shopping habits (looking at you curbside pick-up and Instacart) truly changed the game for commerce this year. There was an explosion in ecomm activity as well as an impressive evolution in retail media offerings and capabilities.

Let’s take a look back at some of this year’s biggest happenings in commerce and retail media and what they mean for 2021. 


Amazon, the ecomm Kahuna, expanded their Sponsored Display capabilities across the pond to include the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates.

They also improved advertisers’ ability to access ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) data, making it viewable within their campaign manager interface vs. just in downloaded reports. Hooray for more immediate access to ROAS, which continues to be an important metric in our sales obsessed industry.


The real scene stealer in 2020 was Instacart. According to Grocery Dive this year, Instacart achieved a 57% share of the online grocery market. Instacart also experienced a whopping 500% increase in order volume.

And while these metrics are impressive, they are certainly not surprising. Instacart transformed from a convenience to a necessity as many shoppers have come to depend on the platform to safely do their shopping throughout the pandemic.

But, Instacart also has longevity beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, with 63% of Instacart users reporting that they plan to use the service even more in the future, according to a recent Catalyst and Kantar ecommerce study.

From an advertising perspective, the Instacart Advertising platform has a lot going for itself with solid SPA results, expanding capabilities, and a refreshing commitment to analytics.


2020 was a year of resetting after quite a bit of transition for Walmart Media Group in 2019. This year, they expanded their retail media partnerships team and are also working on a more user-friendly media platform. 

Walmart is also entering the subscription game with Walmart +, which at $98 per year gets its members both in-store and online benefits.

When it comes to delivery, Walmart is in an advantageous position given that 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart. Look for Walmart to continue to spark innovation in 2021 across delivery options, advertising offerings and partnerships.


Roundel made impressive strides in the DSP space this year, while Kroger and Albertson’s continue to build out their media platforms with first party data at the core.

In February, Kroger’s 84.51 announced their highly coveted self-service capability now allows brands to view in-store and online sales results attributed to advertising campaigns across Kroger properties. Offerings like “self-serve” and “attributed sales” are as desired as eating out at restaurants these days.

In December, eMarketer announced that, for the first time, Kroger had broken into the top 10 list of US ecommerce retailers based on sales. Kudos to Kroger.

This year Albertson’s hired some movers and shakers including Brian Messerschmitt, VP of Shopper and National Marketing, who joined the retailer from Procter & Gamble, and Chris Rupp, a veteran of Amazon and Microsoft, who took on a new role as EVP and Chief Customer and Digital Officer.

While their approach to partnerships is still evolving, we’re looking forward to seeing how ALBSCO’s advertising platform evolves in 2021.


2020 saw many new retailers launch retail media platforms or expand capabilities to serve the increasing demand for retailer data and advertising solutions that deliver high propensity audiences and attributed sales. New retail media entrants include WAG (Walgreens Advertising Group), cMx (CVS Media Exchange), and Home Depot’s Retail Media+.


And, we can’t forget our rowdy younger siblings, the disrupters. In a brilliant move, digital delivery service provider, goPuff, recently acquired the alcoholic beverage chain, BevMo, which is predicted will catapult their coverage and market presence.

With Ahold Delhaize’s planned acquisition of Fresh Direct and Boxed’s exploration of a potential merger or buyer, it’s safe to say that the delivery service wars are sure to rage on into 2021.


The 2021 commerce landscape is shaping up to be just as fascinating as this year and full of even more opportunity. Our hunch is that Sponsored Product Ads (SPAs) will continue to be a lead placement across retail media platforms due to their ability to drive and measure both in-store and ecomm sales, while also being straightforward to activate.  Expect advertisers to continue to apply pressure to retail media platforms to enhance self-serve, programmatic, and measurement offerings.

That’s all for now, but look for us to catch up in the New Year after the holiday results are in……

In the meantime, be sure to check out Catalyst’s State of Ecommerce 2021 report for more insight into the latest ecommerce trends and how to prepare your commerce program for 2021.


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