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The Effects of Media on Retail

Sarah Thompson




The Effects of Media on Retail

Two words say it all: “over-pivot” and “underestimate”. Retail brands have recently been chasing clicks and attribution in the performance marketing world. As a result, they over-pivoted their media spend into digital channels and underestimated the importance of brand. This initially made sense, as over the past two years the retail industry preparing for an explosion of e-commerce set to occur in 2020. But these decisions were overzealous, and too many retailers have abandoned and ultimately weakened their brands.

The good news? Our Mindshare Retail in Canada Study shows that Canadians love to shop at Canadian brands. They are not jumping into the Amazon Prime world and continue to be loyal to their favourite retailers. Trust, reputation, and a “name I know” continue to be major factors in why Canadians shop where they do.

Our research also shows that while digital has a massive influence on the shopping journey, Canadians still like their bricks-and-mortar experience and expect the two to work together. The e-commerce presence and physical store design need to make sense together and work to exemplify the very best of a brand.

It is true that digital is powerful, but it needs to serve the brand experience, not dominate it. Its creative needs to be relevant, and marketers should take great care as to how a brand shows up in these channels. We need to move from “we must be there” to “how we can be there in an effective, relevant way”.  As much as marketers are trying to capitalize on impulse, our research shows that Canadians are budget-minded and considered in making their purchases.

We are at a moment when personalization should not be uncanny, and convenience needs to be considered throughout the entire customer journey. We are on the precipice of a world in which data overwhelms decisions instead of empowering them. For instance, a great data lake driven by a team seeking insights should help all retailers take pause and ask who they think their customers are or could be. It is important to challenge assumptions, seek new opinions, and build a solid foundation for what is to come in the competitive landscape and changing behaviors of Canadian shoppers.

Before we embark on the biggest year of growth in e-commerce in our history and a steady decline in big box stores across Canada, we should take a moment to reflect on branding and the personality of the brand in the complete experience, including media.

Brand experience needs to be consistent throughout the entire media experience. In recent years, we chased abandoned carts with more of the same product. Instead, when creating media plans, we should look at where things like video can live and how the creative intersects with the audience to either grab attention or create fatigue.

What is clear is that the approach to planning, buying, and optimizing media for retailers can no longer sustain brands in siloed media channels. Instead, retail marketers must consider the experience they create and ensure that it exemplifies the best of their brands. They also must consider how sales data flows to media partners in order to help drive the best investment decisions.

Now isn’t the time for retailers to over-pivot or underestimate. It’s time for them to reevaluate their media strategies to embrace the rising expectations of Canadians in their shopping experiences.