Commentary

What Does The 'Storeless' Economy Mean For Publishers?

The "retail apocalypse" of the past few years grew much worse in 2020. The pandemic led many people to avoid stores and shop from the safety of their homes. The upheaval in the retail industry will continue to shape the role of publishers next year as content and commerce become even more seamless.

The pandemic is hastening the shift toward a "storeless" economy as retailers go out of business or close down unprofitable stores, according to an Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) report published this week. The organization cited research indicating that a record 25,000 store locations may close this year amid the shift to online commerce.

For publishers, that transition means their websites and mobile apps will support deeper integrations with online retailers and brands seeking to sell products directly to consumers. Publishers will have to continue to provide ways for advertisers to stand out amid the clutter by helping them to develop branded content with longer-lasting effect.

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The IAB's report suggests  affiliate sales will continue to be a source of revenue growth for publishers as consumers seek out products that editorial teams recommend, rather than trying to find those items at stores. Retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Target will continue to compete for ad dollars as brands seek to reach consumers when they're most ready to shop.

How long the shakeout persists into next year will partly depend on the effectiveness of a coronavirus vaccine. As noted yesterday, Pfizer's encouraging news about a safe vaccine triggered a rally in the stocks of companies that will benefit from an end to the health crisis, including retailers, restaurants, movie theaters, hotels, cruise operators and airlines.

The rally faded somewhat as the timing of the vaccine was questioned. While it is likely that traditional retail sales channels will see a stronger recovery, their changing role in the supply chain will continue to affect how they work with publishers on marketing programs.

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