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By Gary Drenik

The retail landscape is evolving beyond bricks versus clicks, demanding a unified and complementary strategy that bridges physical stores with digital engagement.

Imagine a busy executive browsing online and discovering a product at home. Later, during their commute, they receive a personalized notification about the same item available at a nearby store. Intrigued, they visit the store and complete the purchase. This is a very basic example of a purchasing journey where the boundaries between physical and digital retail spaces are becoming increasingly blurred, resulting in an interconnected ecosystem that caters to consumers’ constantly evolving needs. This is omnichannel advertising.

Omnichannel advertising is all about creating a seamless and fully integrated experience for consumers across multiple channels — both online and offline. It transcends the traditional boundaries of physical and digital retail, ensuring that the consumer journey is consistent, cohesive, and convenient.

Mastering the omnichannel journey between ecommerce and in-store experiences is crucial — and retail media can help connect the dots along that journey. Retail media, where retailers sell ad inventory on their sites to brands who are eager for engagement, is one of the fastest-growing sectors in advertising and is expected to represent over $150 billion in global ad spend by 2026. This surpasses both search and social advertising, making it a pivotal strategy for retailers who understand the consumer journey best.

Retail media has emerged as a strong tool for brands – not only because of its engaging native formats on retail sites, as well as offsite across open web publishers, but also because of its use of first-party commerce data from retailers. This allows brands and retailers to create relevant and addressable advertising using logged-in commerce data, as opposed to third-party signals such as third-party cookies, which are facing deprecation from Google Chrome at the end of this year.

The Rise of Omnichannel: A Shift in Consumer Behaviour

According to Brian Gleason, chief revenue officer at Criteo, a global commerce media company, the current popularity of omnichannel advertising can be attributed to rapidly shifting consumer behaviour and expectations.

“Modern shoppers demand a consistent brand experience, regardless of the channel they choose to engage with — be it a brand’s website, social media, mobile apps or physical stores,” said Gleason. “Simultaneously, it enables executives to leverage data-driven insights, personalized recommendations and predictive analytics to create that experience.”

For Gleason and other top decision-makers, it is not just about brands being present on multiple platforms; it is about orchestrating these channels to complement each other.

“Customers no longer view shopping channels in isolation – they expect a fluid and interconnected experience,” said Gleason. “It’s a journey where every channel contributes to a narrative of convenience and personalization.”

This expanded approach is crucial in today’s economic climate, as it highlights the shifting landscape of consumer behaviour. By 2027, 23% of retail purchases are expected to take place online, showing that online sales are here to stay. Yet a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey found that a majority of Gen-Z shoppers still prefer physical stores, with 53% favouring in-person purchases for essentials like apparel and accessories. This indicates a complex interplay between online and offline retail experiences that also varies by vertical, emphasizing the need for retailers to embrace omnichannel strategies to cater to their consumers’ specific and diverse preferences.

“Businesses across verticals can glean valuable information about preferences, behaviours and trends by noting customer interactions across various channels,” said Gleason. “This wealth of data empowers informed decisions, optimizes marketing strategies and allows for tailored and relevant offerings to specific audience segments.”

Connecting Retail Experiences Across Channels with AI-Powered Personalization

The retail landscape is evolving, but recent trends reveal a surprising truth: physical stores are not going anywhere. Beyond Gen-Z, data from Criteo shows a consistent surge in brick-and-mortar shopping during post-pandemic holiday seasons. In 2023, four in ten shoppers started their shopping in physical stores, highlighting storefronts’ enduring appeal.

“Unlike digital platforms, physical stores offer unique experiences like the ability to try on clothes, feel product quality and receive personalized service, which strengthens brand loyalty by providing a tangible connection,” said Gleason. “However, the true power lies in the synergy between the physical and digital realms. Omnichannel retail, which seamlessly integrates these experiences, offers a strategic advantage.”

Gleason cited a few specific examples.

“Omnichannel drives customer action, with retail media campaigns bridging the online-offline gap,” Gleason said. These campaigns leverage digital channels to raise brand awareness and ultimately drive consumers into stores. Metrics like foot traffic data and increased conversion rates during campaign periods demonstrate the success of this approach.

Major retail players have successfully embraced omnichannel strategies. Amazon’s integration of online shopping with its acquisition of Whole Foods; Apple’s seamless transition from online to in-store experiences that compel consumers to touch, feel and experience the product before making the final purchase; and Nike’s combination of ecommerce and immersive physical stores exemplify the power omnichannel advertising has to capture the attention and loyalty of executive-level consumers.

“A seamless omnichannel experience fosters brand consistency and reliability,” said Gleason. “Consumers easily transition between online research and in-store purchases, creating a sense of trust.” This, in turn, fosters brand loyalty. Loyal customers, who are repeat buyers and brand advocates, are the backbone of any successful retail business.

A unified brand story that transcends the digital and physical realms fosters consistent consumer engagement and influence. “Integrating retail media strengthens this narrative, maximizing the impact of marketing efforts,” said Gleason. “Ultimately, a well-executed omnichannel strategy with strong retail media integration not only drives sales but also leads to higher customer satisfaction and long-term brand loyalty.”

This year, Gleason foresees artificial intelligence as a key next step, playing a pivotal role in crafting hyper-personalized shopping experiences. By analysing vast consumer data, retailers can understand intent, anticipate individual preferences, tailor content, and deliver targeted promotions across channels.

“Imagine an ecommerce platform suggesting complementary items alongside a product you’re browsing or a store sending you targeted promotions based on your recent in-store purchases,” said Gleason. “With a deep understanding of individual consumer preferences, AI can generate highly personalized product recommendations across various channels. Moreover, AI can personalize website content, email marketing messages and even in-store displays. AI will personalize the shopping journey at every touchpoint, leading to a more engaging and ultimately a more profitable consumer experience.”

An omnichannel strategy is not a buzzword; it represents a dynamic approach that will redefine the retail landscape in 2024 and beyond. Embracing these predictions and leveraging innovative technologies will position executives to lead the seamless shopping revolution, forging lasting connections with their discerning customer base.

Feature Image Credit: ADOBESTOCK

By Gary Drenik

Check out my website.

I cover consumer-centric insights and analytics that provide executives with solutions needed to drive strategy. I am the CEO of Prosper Business Development where, for more than 20 years, we have provided market leadership and developed contemporary solutions to help Fortune 500 companies navigate change that impacts their business. I got my start in the radio industry.

Sourced from Forbes