Microsoft Wants to Help Retailers Build Media Businesses

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Five months after its acquisition of vendor marketing platform PromoteIQ, Microsoft announced on Thursday a new self-service marketing platform for retailers and brands with the catchy name Microsoft PromoteIQ.

According to a blog post, the platform will help retailers manage digital marketing campaigns from brands trying to promote products to shoppers.

It includes a suite of tools for retailers to control the look and feel of on-site ad placements, as well as to make sure campaigns meet brand goals and are beneficial to consumers. Retailers can also add their own data and personalization so paid placements blend into their sites, said Alex Sherman, the former CEO of PromoteIQ who now serves as a business lead at Microsoft.

“The way we’re positioning ourselves in the space is as a platform retailers can build on—our goal is to empower retailers to build a large and [prosperous] media business,” Sherman said.

Sherman said Microsoft PromoteIQ is focused on the top 100 retailers globally as more retailers realize they have valuable media and data assets and they can go to market with a compelling in-house media offering for brands.

“What we see across the retail universe … [is retailers] recognizing that ultimately they shouldn’t be just selling ads through a third-party network,” he said. “That ultimately this is a strategic business in-house and then they need to make sure it is true to … their retail footprint and the relationship they have with shoppers and the experience they want to create with brands.”

The proliferation of retailer media networks was one of Adweek’s predictions for 2020, following the likes of Walmart and Target and, of course, Amazon.

According to Sherman, retailers are once again following Amazon’s lead as the ecommerce giant was an early adopter of this concept of helping brands promote products and then using the proceeds to fund other endeavors.

“Amazon has started a trend where brands who have not traditionally had a DTC presence want more insights and control in selling their products through retailers,” said Todd Bowman, senior director of Amazon and product marketplaces at performance marketing agency Merkle, at the time. “Because of this, we expect to see more retailers enter the media network space to generate additional revenue and satisfy their key brands.”

And when these retailers decide to launch their own media businesses, they need tools to manage supply and demand—and to attract brands that have plenty of alternatives for their marketing dollars, Sherman said.

“Today, 30 of the 50 largest retailers are launching their own media programs,” he said. “That’s a key shift that’s happening. Retailers are taking control of this business. They are no longer content to outsource to a third party and be a means to someone else’s network.”

This includes home improvement chain The Home Depot, which created a vendor-funded digital marketing program with Microsoft in early 2019.

PromoteIQ is also now connected to the Microsoft Advertising platform, which powers ads on search engine results in the Microsoft Search Network, which includes, and

But while the blog post said Microsoft PromoteIQ includes both on- and offsite advertising, Sherman noted they are currently focused on onsite advertising—which are the paid placements on ecommerce websites—while offsite opportunities like in-store advertising will follow at an ambiguous point in the future.

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