Last updated: Retail marketing trends: The new rules of engagement

Retail marketing trends: The new rules of engagement


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Over the past two years, the retail industry has undergone a profound transformation driven by societal change, macroeconomic headwinds, and the accelerating pace of technological change.

Customers today expect highly personalized, convenient, and frictionless experiences with brands, and care deeply about sustainability:

  • Do the products they buy adhere to sustainability best practice?
  • Are they being manufactured under ethical guidelines?
  • Do those companies embrace diversity and inclusion?

At our Power to the Marketer Festival, I shared the stage with digital leaders from retail brands such as Glossier, Anthropologie, Pangaia, and Reformation. They shared valuable insights into five major retail marketing trends:

  1. Embracing omnichannel
  2. Personalized experiences
  3. Focus on first-party data
  4. Integrated physical and digital experiences
  5. Driving sustainability

Retailer marketers who embrace these trends drive exceptional customer engagement that gets results.

Retail today: Ready to engage anywhere

Omnichannel continues to be a top retail marketing trend that’s transforming the industry.

According to a survey by Emarsys, the average U.S. consumer has four “shoppable” devices, enabling them to shop from their bed, workplace, or from a physical store. Social media also has become a major channel for retail sales.

At the event, almost every brand talked about the power of omnichannel marketing and how it’s helped their business. However, omnichannel marketing isn’t only about creating content for every channel; it’s about embracing customer obsession and being prepared to engage with customers on the channel of their preference.

Having a solid omnichannel strategy is vital to retail marketing success. According to McKinsey & Company, shoppers who use multiple channels are 1.7 times more valuable than single-channel ones.

The personalization trend in retail marketing

While omnichannel marketing is essential, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Retailers must provide personalized experiences to their customers. Personalization requires data and an understanding of the customer’s needs.

Personalization is about building trust and providing the best experience for the customer. It’s not surprising that 80% of consumers who took part in a Redpoint Global and Dynata survey said they would buy from retailers that provide a tailored experience versus a retailer that sends undifferentiated, blanket communications.

In today’s retail world, shoppers are bombarded with choices. This can lead to “choice paralysis” and consumers expect brands to help them navigate the noise.

Retailers need a bespoke approach for each customer, sharing recommendations and communications that align with their preferences and vision for the perfect shopping experience. Marketers must personalize every interaction and link their understanding of the customer across all channels.

Here’s where retail marketing automation platforms play a key role. They consolidate customer, sales and product data, and use AI-driven segmentation, and personalization tokens to quickly scale personalization efforts.

The best retail marketing relies on first-party data

Personalization requires customer data, and the ultimate insights come directly from the customers. The biggest brands have shifted to a first-party data approach, where data is shared directly by the customers.

With the rise of the privacy-first web and Google’s plan to eliminate third-party cookies by 2024, retailers today don’t have a choice. First-party data — gathered from customers with their consent — is the most effective means of retail marketing.

First-party data offers a deeper and richer view of a customer than other types of data, providing retailers with the insight required to create personalized experiences.

Combining old-school retail with the new

Brands sometimes take for granted that everyone’s on-board with the rapid pace of technological change that typifies the Digital Age. However, our study showed that nostalgia plays a powerful role when it comes to retail preferences, and is a growing retail marketing trend.

As many as 22% of the Americans we surveyed said that they want to shop at the stores and malls that were so prevalent in the 1990s. And it’s not just Boomer and Gen X shoppers wanting to revisit their past; interest ibn vintage shopping spans generations.

It’s a natural reaction to the march of technology, which is seeing stores going digital and people being replaced by touch-screens and self check-out terminals. The old-school, tactile, face-to-face experience of walking into a store and browsing products still has a place in customers’ hearts.

Of course, this doesn’t mean retailers should abandon digital. Savvy marketers are finding ways to combine the convenience of online shopping with the sensory engagement of the in-store experience. By doing this, retailers can develop “phygital” marketing that combines the best of both worlds.

Sustainability trends to the top

Customers are becoming more ethically-minded by the day, and rightly so. Retailers and marketers must acknowledge environmental issues because demand for sustainable shopping is at an all-time high, especially for younger Gen Z consumers.

Retail marketers need to care as deeply about sustainability and ethical practices as their customers do, because no matter how great your marketing is, should your brand reputation be affected by negative press tied to sustainability or ethics, the fallout could have drastic consequences.

However, consumers won’t tolerate greenwashing. They take the time to research a brand’s background to make an informed purchase, refusing to buy if they don’t feel the brand aligns with their ethical values.

Future-proofing retail marketing

In today’s competitive landscape, successful marketers know that following emerging retail trends and meeting customers’ needs with personalized communications is key. This isn’t an easy task, which is why technology has become a critical component for retail brands.

The latest advancements in marketing technology are making it easier and more effective for retailers to engage with their customers, resulting in higher engagement rates and a better bottom line.

By combining personalized communications with emotionally resonant activities, retailers can earn their customers’ trust and foster a long-lasting relationship that extends far beyond a single purchase.

Customer engagement for the modern customer.
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