What is retail, anyway?

Working on advertising for retailers used to be a relatively easy business. It was all about doing ads to tempt people into shops – proper bricks and mortar ones. With special offers, low prices, an irresistible range of goods, the promise of excellent service or some combination of those. Back in the early days of my career, retailers were just beginning to discover the power of good branded advertising that they’d run alongside ‘this week’s price offers’ to build a picture in people’s minds that would – perhaps – mean longer term loyalty than the latest price slashes could offer.

There were some super print ads from Sainsbury’s.

(Image courtesy of The Advertising Archives)

And who can ever forget Dudley Moore’s search for Tesco chickens?

Then the new kids on the block arrived. Except they weren’t on the block. They were floating around in the ether. There were long debates about who would ‘win’ – bricks and mortar, or online. And of course, the answer is – as almost always – that no-one ‘won’, rather the two formed an uneasy truce, merged a little, copied a little and are currently co-existing.

Although around 90% of the world’s retail spend still takes place in bricks and mortar stores, there’s a massive shake-up going on in what we used to call ‘retail.’ High Streets and malls are closing down, many of the old stalwarts have fallen by the wayside, ‘phygital’ and ‘in-store experience’ are the new buzzwords. New technology is making leaps and bounds, with voice-activated technology playing a bigger and bigger role.

amazon is No. 5 on Interbrand’s Top 100 brands – bigger than Samsung, Toyota or Facebook, and growing at a whopping +29%.

And all of this means that people’s expectations for how and when to shop – and where – are changing at a pace. What does ‘convenience’ or ‘instant gratification’ or ‘service’ mean today, compared to even 5 years ago?

One question we should ask is: is the category ‘retail’ even relevant any more? Anyone selling over Etsy or ebay is a retailer.  The brands we used to know as retailers could just as well be called distribution, logistics or entertainment brands. Platforms or (social) media channels. Technology or lifestyle brands.

Who knows? One thing is clear to me as a communications and branding strategist: this new world requires strong brands more than ever to pull it all together, like a magnet.

And every piece of communication should act as an invitation to your brand.

Originally Posted on http://secretagencyblog.blogspot.com/


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