How Albertsons Media Collective Is Built for Rapid Industry Change

by | Oct 24, 2023

The media business is changing fast – and it might not seem obvious that a grocery store brand originally founded in 1939 would be seen as one of the industry’s biggest innovators. But that’s exactly what the Boise, ID-headquartered Albertsons is doing with its two-year-old Albertsons Media Collective. Albertsons, the parent company of regional grocery chains like Safeway, Shaw’s, and Vons in addition to its eponymous stores, has become one of the most-talked-about names in retail media – and with over 2,000 stores and 30 million weekly customers, it certainly brings scale to the table.

But how does a legacy retail company become a pioneer in a new sector of advertising? Through a commitment to values, high standards, and putting the customer first. At Advertising Week New York, Infillion CMO Laurel Rossi sat down for a fireside chat with Michelle Weiskittel, senior director of retail media network media, creative, and operations at Albertsons Media Collective to discuss just that.

“We’re a late mover in the retail media space,” Weiskittel explained, citing that Albertsons was not a digitally native retailer – and that she sees that as an advantage because it could build new digital systems and datasets rather than needing to adapt existing ones. “We really want to take advantage of that late move and build solutions that work for everyone. We can use our voice in that process and build something that takes advantage of where we are now in the digital ecosystem versus where we were.”

That ability to build agile, future-forward systems is key when one of the biggest challenges in the world of retail media networks (RMNs) is standardization. “We know RMNs are an important media vehicle in the space, but there are a lot of them, and in order to make that efficient for the buyers you have to think about standardization,” Weiskittel said. “If everyone’s measuring differently then…let’s have the conversation together and focus on standardization and transparency.”

On that note of transparency, Weiskittel emphasized that it’s a key value for Albertsons Media Collective in dealing both with their customers as well as the consumers who shop at their stores. After all, grocery stores are some of the most hyperlocal businesses out there, and shoppers want to know that their data is being respected. “Grocery is a localized experience in itself, so we have to pull all of that together and really think about the customer and what the customer is going to react to,” she said.

That deeply personal relationship that consumers have with their local grocery store also underpins Albertsons’ commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. “Food is the center of most people’s lives,” Weiskittel said. “Our shoppers are diverse. If we don’t carry that through in our strategies, then that’s a miss and we’re not relating back to our shoppers and our customers.” That extends to the internal culture at Albertsons Media Collective, where leadership hosts “listening sessions” with employees about events and issues both inside and outside the company, and where mentoring is a central part of the employee experience.

Michelle Weiskittel and Laurel Rossi were sharing the stage as part of Advertising Week’s “Future is Female” track, which celebrates trailblazing women within the advertising industry. That’s especially key for the retail sector. As Rossi underscored in their fireside chat, women are responsible for 80% of household purchases – and that rises to 93% for food purchases. Recognizing and centering this is what helps a nearly century-old brand like Albertsons continue to be a mover and shaker as the industry evolves both in terms of tech innovation and on a cultural inclusion front.

“When you’ve been in this industry so long, like us, you’re motivated by the change and the desire to push yourself forward,” Weiskittel said. “What keeps me going is that constant rate of change.”

 

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