Planning For The New Retail Reality

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, July 24, 2020

While it is yet to be determined which consumer shopping trends will have lasting impact coming out of COVID-19, what we know for certain is that the digital shelf is now more important than the physical shelf. 

While many brands are taking this time to innovate and find new strategies for greater personalization and digital connection, they’ll need to ultimately unpack what is a passing trend versus a real shift in consumer behavior. Here are some ways brands today can ensure their efforts have a longer shelf life. 

Plan for Short and Long-Term 

When marketers are planning against consumer behavior, it’s important to look at year-over-year trends and not just week-over-week. It’s easy to get caught up and react to changes happening in the moment, but brands need to have a real understanding of what is a true shift in behavior versus a passing trend. If year-over-year remains vast but week-over-week analysis starts to fade, you realize it’s a normalized trend that you can start planning against. Leveraging various data sources in this process is crucial – so look to not only third party, but also publisher and media retailer platform data. 



For example, we leverage sources like Epsilon’s transactional data is to get a more granular look at consumer trends. In combining different data sources from various talent, disciplines and skillsets, you’ll start to uncover true consumer shifts. Finally, take this time to re-evaluate your legacy process and structures. In the past, determining spend by retailer was determined by a percentage of sales but now there are many different levers that need to be considered: future proofing, innovation, competition, etc. 

Consider Every Angle of Innovation 

During this time, we’ve seen a lot of impressive innovation happening whether it’s LVMH and Beam Suntory shifting their focus to produce hand sanitizer or Midwestern farmers opening direct-to-consumer stores on Shopify to compensate for decreased demand coming from restaurants, due to COVID-19 closures. 

For anyone looking to innovate and have long-lasting reach in this moment, they need to consider the following questions:

  • What is the economic viability for the manufacturer?
  • Will consumer preferences remain post-pandemic?
  • Is this within the company’s wheelhouse or a completely new capability?
  • What are the government regulations? What is the competition and how aggressive is it in the space?

If you can answer these questions in a positive way and prove that you on track to deliver, you’re on your way to achieving true, long-term innovation. 

Get to Know Your (New) Consumer 

We’re at an inflection point of extreme disruption in the marketplace. Any percentage of share you held pre-pandemic is irrelevant and everything is up for grabs. People are shopping differently than ever before and leveraging digital every step of the way. 

It only takes one out of stock moment to switch to something else. Retailers have more data than ever before and ways to connect it, so it’s important for brands to build relationships and find the best, most compliant joint party data solutions. 

Grocery stores, for example, will now need to differentiate customer experiences based on leveraging data and delivering personalization – tying physical presence to things like digital carts in the store, delivering personalized messages based on prior behaviors, purchases, brand loyalty and other signals. As more and more companies start to do this well, it will open the floodgates for the industry to follow suit. 

Understand Risk/Reward for Retailer Media Networks or Marketplaces 

For retailers looking to move into the retail media space or create their own marketplaces, they also need to understand the challenges involved. While it could yield big benefits, they should consider it will require a different business model and skillsets, high operational costs, measurement and media hygiene challenges and more. However, if done properly, media networks can be an important source to aid consumers in their discoverability of new products and cost savings and marketplaces can be the source of a seamless experience in one platform. 

There is much that is uncertain during this time when it comes to the future of retail and shifting consumer habits, but by seeking out more data sources and planning holistically and for long-term innovation, brands will be better served in this new retail environment.


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