03 May 2010

"The changing media landscape" ... of Retail

The other day at an offsite conference center, my client was running two big meetings, one focused on Marketing and the other on Sales. (Marketing and Sales are really the same thing, but exist as separate departments in most companies.)

I was in the Marketing meeting where we strategized about how to invest next year’s budget. There are a lot of options in mass media, retail, digital, et cetera. Every year the options multiply.

During a break I ran into a client who was attending the Sales meeting. How’s the discussion? “Great,” he told me. “It’s just that the retail landscape is changing so fast. Keeping up takes real effort.”

What’s he keeping up with? The largest mass retailer is rethinking its store layout and the number of brands it carries. The next-largest mass retailer is riding out recessionary price pressures. One of the big players in the Food class of trade is struggling. Shopper marketing as a discipline grows more sophisticated. Customer loyalty database analytics are being leveraged more strategically. The Dollar stores are evolving. Last but not least, online retailing continues to grow.

Clicks-and-mortar gets a lot of buzz, but bricks-and-mortar retail is no less of a changing landscape. The options are multiplying – and so are the opportunities. Keeping up takes real effort.

(Please use the comments section to suggest your most reliable online resources for news and analysis about retail.)


  1. http://retailwire.com

    Retailwire helps to keep up on retail, albeit often from the perspective of the retailer.

    And of course my site helps - but more from the brand marketer perspective. With impeccable timing :) I just published an article about taking a closer look at selling in retailers like Dollar General / Big Lots.

  2. The In-Store Marketing Institute is an excellent resource as well.


  3. The above comments make absolute sense and there are many more sources such as WARC, Retail World and then specialists such as Kantar Retail which incorporates Red Dot Squaredm Management Ventures, Glendinning, The Store and much more.

    I have also found that spending time in assorted retail venues, observing, monitoring and asking questions is a fantastic source of rich information.

    Having worked with the likes of KC, Unilever and P&G over the years, I get the separate/silo functions of these massive FMCG's, but I can't help but wonder if there is a missed opportunity in joining the dots through understanding the journey from consumer to shopper via customer.


  4. Dick, I agree on the "journey". For most of my career, "IMC" has meant the matching luggage of consistency across channels and spider charts with as many legs, or media, as possible, all in the pursuit of "surrounding the consumer". The consumer doesn't want to be surrounded, they want to be heard. More recently we see paradigms such as McKinsey's Consumer Decision Journey that encourage this following of the path that you mention. It is in these exercises that we see the consumer's perspective and realize the strategic role of channels such as retail.

  5. The crux of what the Consumer Decision Journey shows us is that the purchase decision is itself shifting from media-driven "brand awareness" and in-store "activation" to consumer-focused Active Evaluation in social networks, the blogosphere and self-directed media experiences.

    Hardcore shopper marketing folks may disagree. But that's a great starting point for a vigorous discussion.

    However, 80 percent (or greater) of purchase decisions are still made at shelf -- the critical point of decision remains constant. Understanding and mastering "retail" is critical for agency practitioners in that light.

    Ultimately, integrated campaigns need to "pull" the consumer toward brand assets (social objects) throughout the self-directed, asymmetrical, non-linear course of Active Evaluation in order to close the sale on the aisle.

    In sharp contrast, attempting to push consumers down the purchase funnel now looks inefficient and costly.

    Agency practice leaders need to change their mindset from channel planning to experience planning that is informed by context planning, brand planning and content strategy.

    Channel planning was how we weighed the relative value of each spoke on a spider chart. It led to divisive and artificial estimates of each channel based on its own perceived ROI. Hence, digital received (and often still receives) less than 10 percent of the total budget.

    Meanwhile, consumers' purchase decisions are increasingly being formulated by exposure to blogs, comments, reviews and social network content.

    There's a big disconnect, and I've heard from more than one client-side executive recently that they find themselves "way ahead" of their agencies on this matter. Agencies don't realize that they're giving their clients the impression that they're either unwilling or, worse, unable to adjust to the new normal that consumers are defining for themselves.

    But the CDJ is itself very new. And it's not a panacea for correcting everything that's wrong with integrated marketing circa 2010.

    Agencies and clients still need to formulate a planning model that converges media, brand, context and content strategy to identify how brands should "inhabit the world" with consumers in order to provide true Depth On Demand™ as they enter into and explore the non-linear pathways of Active Evaluation.

    Otherwise, we just don't know what to build for a brand to engage with and activate consumers by pulling them toward brand experiences (assets like branded content and branding applications) along the journey toward the purchase decision.