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In the rush to embrace digital, marketeers can’t forget the power of physical stores

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Physical stores

I’m sure we can all recall a recent meeting where the hot topic has been e-commerce, perhaps even q-commerce. Or maybe where the latest app or digital format has been excitedly discussed to secure budget sign-off. Given the post-pandemic boom has been by and large sustained in UK online shopping, you cannot blame marketeers for looking to capitalise on this growing market.

Increasingly, however, marketeers are forgetting about where the majority of sales are coming from, and have come from for years: physical stores. We are instinctively a nation of shoppers who love to pop into a physical shop for our groceries, with 80% of us going into a store to fill our kitchen cupboards.

What’s more, we are doing this more often. Whilst some still hold dear the weekly shop, for many of us it has become a multi-trip, multi-location shop. No longer are we loyal to just one supermarket; we shop when and where it is convenient to us.

Our shopping is thus rooted in physical shopping environments (for now, at least).

To maximise this opportunity, brands and their media planners must think Omnichannel first. Too often, teams, brands and even retailers are set up to think in silos. Whether that be digital, trade, brand, app or retail, we must challenge our organisations to think omnichannel and commerce first.

Any FMCG retail strategy must be rooted in data. Thankfully the devices that the majority of us are carrying around have given us a wealth of data to utilise in our advertising approach. Using mobile data, we can direct, speak to and even activate to shoppers around and within a physical retail environment. Combining individual shoppers’ mobile data alongside retailers’ first-party data creates a wealth of opportunity for targeted advertising in physical shopping environments, speaking to shoppers at the precise moment on their path to purchasing a product.

In the US, media networks have been pushing extensively into this space. They focus on audience building, recruiting new or lapsed shoppers using first-party retail data, and then speaking to them across Meta platforms, programmatic out of home screens and, more recently, across retailer-owned inventory using technology like Citrus or Criteo.

So how can marketeers ensure we maximise the store opportunity?

Firstly, success can only be truly maximised if media is geotargeted to stores where the product is actually sold. Too often is media ‘plastered’ and not ring-fenced to physical shopping destinations. Failure to target often leads to increased levels of media spend wastage and poor conversion, driving category growth over brand or SKU growth.

Secondly, it’s important to not just activate across singular channels or retailers; brands must have a multichannel, multi-retailer approach to drive relevant ad frequency, ensuring both digital and physical media combine with in-store activations to get a shopper over the line. Digital is important to this – channels like social, display and search can be used to impact in-store conversion.

Thirdly, it is crucial to think about testing multiple combinations of media to secure the best uplift. This will vary by category, product and even region. It’s also crucial to set out a robust test versus control methodology from the outset, to ensure robust data sets and finesse future media planning.

By not forgetting where the majority of sales are taking place – in physical stores – we all have an opportunity to make our marketing more efficient and relevant to the end consumer.

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