Looking past the bias: How digital trumps the in-store retail world

By Taejin In

Nothing gets the news media more excited than a Black Friday
stampede, with crowds of angry shoppers duking it out to get the
best doorbuster deals. But in today’s consumer landscape, the
dominant shopper behavior isn’t queuing up and elbowing past
others — it’s scrolling and clicking from the comfort of home.
Early analysis shows that online Black Friday sales grew 23.6% year
over year, hitting $6.2 billion, while physical store visits were
down 1.7%.

These numbers are part of a much larger shift where the in-store
retail world gets a lot of attention, despite equivalent digital
behavior. Even when digital consumption and behavior is greater
than physical activity, the online world is often perceived as the
lesser of the two.

Nowhere is this in-store-bias more glaring than in advertising
attribution studies. Location signals and footfall tracking data
have been undeniably helpful in understanding how ads drive
consumers to physical spaces. However, an in-store visit is still
considered the crowning achievement of any ad campaign at a time
when consumers are living more of their lives online.

The idea that a successful ad must ultimately result in some
sort of in-store, real-world response from a consumer is outdated
and incomplete. Consumers are spending more of their lives online,
and attribution needs to transition from an offline solution into a
digital-first discipline.

The holiday shopping stats are simply the latest signal that the
digital world is becoming the dominant environment in consumers’
lives. Because the shift is happening online it isn’t necessarily
easy to see, but other numbers point to generational behavioral
differences that will impact business for years to come.

Consider football, the most popular professional sport in the
U.S. The NFL reported $8.1 billion in revenue in 2017. Now take a
look at the video game phenomenon Fortnite, forecasted to earn $2
billion in revenue this year. That’s a single video game coming
out of nowhere to earn a quarter of what the national pastime
makes, completely online.

Sports will never go away, but esports, a form of competition
built around video games, is
quickly picking up steam.
The same goes for digital commerce.
It’s now more of the rule than the exception. These are clear
warning signs that advertisers need to flip their attribution
models so that they are digital-first, physical-second —
especially when measuring digital ad campaigns.

This is easier than ever for advertisers, thanks to advances in
AI and data science that have opened the doors to deeper digital
audience analysis and understanding. If someone visits a home
improvement store, the brand knows they have made a sale — and
have now gained a new customer. If a customer buys from that same
store online — and the brand has detailed audience insights to
know that this person was a DIY advocate — they now have a much
clearer picture of what that consumer is looking for, which helps
define future campaigns and creative.

Consider too that with so much shopping going online, the
digital world may in fact be the only place to draw signals about a
consumers interests. There are plenty of on- and offline signals to
indicate that someone has moved. But what are they looking to buy
once they’ve moved? “Furniture” is often an accurate answer,
but it’s a really broad category. What kind of furniture does the
consumer need? Do they need chairs? What kind of chairs, and in
what style? Trying to hit a furniture-shopper audience might result
in sales. Trying to hit a consumer who is very interested in
mid-century modern inspired chairs will likely do even better, and
the only way to measure that kind of nuanced audience is through
online behavior and browsing habits.

Advertisers who are still looking to attribution to prove store
visits are ultimately limiting themselves and who they can reach.
When attribution is approached from a digital-first perspective, it
unlocks a world of newly measurable audiences and options that are
simply impossible to track in the in-store retail world. And with
dramatic shifts in how consumers live their lives, it’s more
crucial than ever to tap into digital signals.

The post
Looking past the bias: How digital trumps the in-store retail
world
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Source: FS – _Marketing
Looking past the bias: How digital trumps the in-store retail world