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3 retail marketing misconceptions debunked

3 retail marketing misconceptions debunked Edward Chater

The retail marketing landscape has changed. The relentless proliferation of connected devices attests to an urgent need for retailers to adapt their marketing activity to meet new patterns of customer demand.

As the customer buying journey changes due to ownership of several devices and the ability to shop and access related content on the go, it is clear retail marketing strategies must also adapt. Even if retailers feel ready for the customer journey shift, chances are there are areas which can be improved. Certain misconceptions about the retail marketing landscape can creep into many marketers' minds during this transition. To make every last ounce of effort count, make sure you steer clear from these common misconceptions.

Misconception No.1: In the future, everything will be digital

One of the big stories in retail in recent years has been how nearly all sales growth has come through the online channel. It's tempting to draw the conclusion from that statistic that you should go all-in on digital. But, like many statistics, it doesn't tell the whole story.

The truth is that it's getting more difficult to distinguish an online sale from an offline one. Consumers are getting ever more savvy about using digital technologies to choose and research the option which is most convenient for them.

For an example of how online and offline are blending, consider the specific customer-buying behaviors which influence how and where purchases are made. For instance, a customer may complete a purchase for clothing in an offline retail store because it's a typical behavior to try clothing on before buying. On the other hand, a customer may find the desired product on an app and complete the purchase online.

So, while it was fashionable a couple of years ago to say that "everything will be digital in the future," this idea simply hasn't stood the test of time. Instead, retailers understand that they need to provide an omnichannel experience that responds to a customer's path to purchase. For example, for Nordstrom's recent anniversary sale, the company used special "hang tags" which call out products that customers had already browsed on Instagram. The company's downtown Seattle store also tested an elevated visual display, streaming posts from Nordstrom's Instagram. Customers treat Nordstrom's social channels and its retail stores as one and the same thing -- it's only natural for the brand to do the same.

Retailers like Nordstrom are leading the way in integrating offline and offline marketing efforts (Nordstrom has even brought its online and offline teams together), but other retailers are still catching up, and online/offline integration will be the norm in years to come.

Misconception No. 2: Online retail is a race to the bottom on price

While connected devices encourage customers to "shop around" for the best deal, offering customers a seamless experience across devices drives brand loyalty, leading to potentially higher spending.

Retailers can achieve this effect by offering a seamless experience across devices, underpinned by a single view of the customer. With cross-device technology, retailers are able to drive more sales with relevant cross-device retargeting, lower abandonment rates, targeted offers, and powerful cross- and upselling offers.

Far from being a race to the bottom, research actually shows that customers who shop across devices spend 3-4 times more. This is because by offering a seamless cross-device experience, savvy retail marketers are stopping the race to the bottom, driving omnichannel sales, and increasing customer lifetime value.

Misconception No. 3: No one uses PCs to shop anymore

A few years ago, all the talk was around how tablets and smartphones were upending the shopping experience and that we were in a post-PC era. While it's true consumer behavior has shifted -- and continues to shift -- to an increasing amount of mobile commerce, don't discount desktop just yet.

Monetate data suggests that Average Revenue Per User on a desktop is up 12 percent in the last year even as time spent on desktop devices is in decline. Customers continue to make large purchases on the desktop even though they may make many smaller purchases in-app on their device. Desktop devices are still the predominant device for most conversions.

So, is it time to focus advertising spend simply on a desktop because desktop devices convert better? Not so fast. Data from Criteo's "state of mobile commerce" report suggested that more than half of transactions involved more than one device. Instead, retailers should focus on meeting customer demand across the devices they use.


The retail marketing picture has changed drastically in recent years, and customers moving across devices throughout the buying journey has become the norm.

The retail marketers that win will be those able to convert cross-device visitors to shoppers, understand how long after a first visit it takes to drive a decision to purchase, and how to use geo-location data to improve their understanding of customer behavior.

Ed Chater is an advertising technology specialist and a firm advocate for data-led programmatic media buying. Ed is CMO and CSO at Adbrain, the breakthrough cross-device solution for marketers and technologists. He is a key member the executive...

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