It goes without saying that the retail industry has been greatly impacted by the pandemic. But despite a chaotic year, the sector’s strength hasn’t diminished. Although successive lockdowns sparked a move away from physical retail to e-commerce, traditional shopping will remain important in the longer term. According to the latest Activate Consulting study, physical retail is set to generate more than 3x in sales than e-commerce by 2025 (£16 trillion vs £5 trillion). However, technology advances will continue to disrupt established shopping patterns and the marketing technology used to optimize against those changes.
Retailers and marketers would be well-served to innovate their approach to a shifting marketplace. With transparency, data ownership and user privacy taking center stage in recent years, marketers had no choice but to rethink. I’ll go as far as to say that our industry’s collective headspace will be increasingly occupied by a new paradigm: brands that focus on the burgeoning notion of “store intelligence planning”.
In the programmatic era, making campaign targeting efficiency the priority has sparked major progress in the industry’s never-ending pursuit of reducing ad spend waste. Audience targeting effectiveness could even be enhanced further if brands put greater emphasis on the power of store intelligence when planning their campaigns. This is an emerging school of thought in the retail community, where marketers balance their data collection and algorithmic expertise by giving the same importance to understanding their physical store locations and their customers.
Ultimately, getting the most comprehensive profile of audience segments doesn’t matter on its own. If your QSR store is a half-hour drive from where a target audience member lives, they probably won’t bother driving all the way there for a quick bite. But what if you flipped the script and leveraged data science to figure out which local geographies within a specific catchment area have the highest concentration of your audience targets?
Discovering the real reach
By doing so, you'll be asking an important, though often ignored, question: what is the “real” reach of your store? By combining two critical data sets — where do your customers live or work, how do they commute, and how far are they willing to walk or drive to purchase from your brand — you'll be able to fully optimize the potential of your physical stores. For example, a retailer could model a test, with a 30- to 90-days lookback window, to gather insights on where to map all of its stores for maximum benefit.
This way, you would stop wasting your budgets and resources on a specific audience segment that will never go to your physical location. Instead, you will be able to set your sights on the consumers with the highest affinity and the right mobility to access your product in-store. Keep in mind that depending on the DMA and the target demographic, that ideal travel time may differ.
By making store intelligence planning a cornerstone of your data-driven marketing strategy, your brand will profit from the omnichannel evolution that's in motion for the next decade. The much-hyped Internet of Things from a few years back is gaining critical mass today, which will only be accelerated with the 5G’s arrival. Major players are already making big leaps in the virtual / augmented reality field, and it’s not far-fetched to start planning for a world where screens will become marginalized because of VR/AR adoption at scale. Many other advanced interfaces will live in smart homes/appliances, wearables and cars. This proliferation - on top of traditional consumer journey signals like video, audio and traditional display - will fundamentally change the way we live and the way brands market.
Store intelligence planning isn’t something that should be exclusively reserved to retailers, but should apply to all verticals considering that physical sales is an important part of all marketer strategies. Privacy-compliant location data will go on to become a more vital signal for informing and shaping brand personalities, and at the end of the day, your efforts might give you a whole different understanding of who your customers really are.
As the new year gets well under way, it's important to meet uncertainty with innovation. Tough times make it easy for marketers to fall into a defensive crouch, but innovation never goes out of style — whether the times are good or bad. While audience-based marketing is evolving, adding new tools to our kit is paramount. Store intelligence planning is chief among them.