What's in Store for the Future?

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Everyone is aware of the fragmentation of the marketplace today.  While advertisers in the 1950s knew precisely where their target audience would be every evening at 7:00, in today's world of always-on total communication, everyone lives in an undefined cyberspace.  In a seeming paradox, this has driven advertisers back in time to the place they know their customers will sooner or later show up:  the retail store. 

When people come to a retail store, they make a very good target for marketers and advertisers.  For one thing, they have already declared that they are in the market for something.  For another, their entire attention is focused on the selling environment. 

The retail environment has undergone a big change in recent decades.  Retailing used to require two skills:  logistics and procurement.  Wal-Mart, however, revolutionized those skills to the point that no one else could compete on that basis.  So conventional retailers turned to marketing, branding, and attempting to differentiate themselves in other ways.  As a result, the amount that retailers spend on in-store promotions is greater than the amount they spend on conventional advertising. 

The A.C. Nielsen Company created its Pioneering Research for an In-Store Metric, known as PRISM, to measure the value of those promotions.  They began installing sensors in stores to measure traffic and to record every marketing message, every flier, and anything else that might influence sales and purchasing decisions.  They then tracked that data against sales.  To their surprise, they found that in-store marketing generates more impressions than any other type of media, including the highest-rated TV shows. 

As a recent article in Strategy+Business1points out, this has resulted in increasingly sophisticated point-of-purchase displays, such as video screens at the check-out stations that can automatically change what they're promoting based on what the cashier is ringing up.  Displays throughout the store can target customers based on where they're standing, what they're seeing, and even the time of day.  Shopping carts are being equipped with sensors and displays that can help people navigate the aisles and then respond to what they're putting in the cart.  For example, if a customer picks up a bag of charcoal, the display can offer barbecue recipes and help the shopper to find the ingredients quickly, highlighting which items are "on sale."

In his new book, Inside the Mind of the Shopper,

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