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The $22 trillion global retail market is a major power source of the world’s economy and a leader in marketing trends. The industry is an important one for all marketers to watch. While many retailers have taken to online marketing channels they also remain a heavy investor in print.

The retail industry is highly competitive and visually-focused. Imagery can influence the purchasing decision regardless of the communication type, whether it is an online ad, a catalog or direct mail piece, or an in-store sign. In addition, today’s customer communications are increasingly being versioned and/or customized with messaging that is targeted toward specific audiences based on their buying habits or demographics. Here are three key retail trends that marketers in any industry can learn from:

  1. Signage Captures Attention

    Strategically-placed signage with the right messaging for a target audience creates a “win-win-win” situation for retailers, shoppers, and brands. For retailers, signage draws the attention of shoppers and can generate sales. For shoppers, wide format graphics can capture attention and increase awareness. For brands, signage is an affordable means of increasing equity and recognition while also encouraging consumers to act.

    Marketing decision-makers use signage and graphics to promote their products, attract customers, and drive purchasing. Point-of-purchase programs have always been designed to trigger impulse buying. According to InfoTrends’ survey data, 69% of retailers invested in wide format prints to promote products and services at the point of purchase. When asked about the effectiveness of wide format graphics, 87% of retailers described them as extremely or very effective in accomplishing their goals. The top wide format products that retailers purchase on a regular basis include banners (88%), signs (65%), posters (47%), decals (34%), and point-of-purchase displays (34%).

  2. Online, Offline, and Back: Seamless Experiences are a Must (Omni-Channel)

    Successful retailers are engaging customers through “omni-channel” shopping—a mash-up of digital and physical experiences to offer customers anytime, anywhere shopping. The rise of the Internet and the ability to make purchases online has rewritten the retail market. The traditional bricks-and-mortar retail store is no longer the dominant medium for purchasing goods. Instead, it serves as just one of many potential connection points between retailers and consumers.

    Retailers are increasing online marketing spending, but printed catalogs are not fading away. Today’s marketers don’t just use catalogs as sales tools; they are also designed to aid brand recognition and education. Data from InfoTrends’ Direct Marketing survey suggests that these efforts are paying off. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. consumers who receive printed catalogs consider them to be useful tools for learning about products. Furthermore, almost 90% of consumers use catalogs to learn and get ideas about things that interest them.

    Printed catalogs are also a trigger for online and retail purchases. Among those consumers who received catalogs in the mail, 62% reported that a purchase they made in the past three months was influenced by a catalog. In addition, 79% of consumers reported visiting a retail store due to products or promotions in a catalog. This was especially the case for consumers under age 35, proving that even the younger generations value catalogs. Printed catalogs are maintaining their relevance, but many retailers have cut the production of mega-sized printed catalogs in favor of sending a larger volume of smaller, more customized catalogs to consumers to stimulate purchases at physical and online venues. In addition to reducing postal costs, this process provides consumers with catalogs that are more relevant to their known or suspected interests.

  3. Data, Data, and More Data – Personalization is Essential for Connecting with Consumers

    Marketing collateral (e.g., brochures, flyers, direct mail, large format documents, shelf talkers, point-of-sale materials) accounts for a significant share of print spend in the retail industry. Today’s consumers love personalization. InfoTrends’ 2015 study Direct Marketing Production Printing & Value-Added Services: A Strategy for Growth found that personalization had a significant impact on the likelihood of opening a direct mail piece. Over 84% of consumers reported that personalization made them a little or much more likely to open direct mail, while only 12% stated that personalization did not make a difference.

    Retailers are taking a more targeted and personal approach in their customer communications. Marketing materials are increasingly versioned and/or customized with targeted messaging for specific audiences based on known buying habits and demographics. Retailers are leveraging advanced data analytics to personalize marketing collateral. Parlaying customer knowledge into printed data-driven communications prompts purchases as consumers receive relevant offers in a media form that they must physically touch. A printed offer that demonstrates knowledge of the customer is more likely to capture attention and elicit the desired action.

    The ability to personalize communications is a key aspect of making content relevant. According to InfoTrends’ research on the retail market, firms were more likely to personalize communications than to not personalize at all. Although retail providers are beginning to understand the benefits of personalization, some challenges still exist. The top reasons for not including more personalization in customer communications include cost, unknown/low return on investment, not enough staff or time, and the belief that it is irrelevant to the business.

Technology is enabling retail marketing teams to collect, analyze, and use customer data to improve customer communications. Marketers can identify what media is most effective, along with what messages. The ability to combine the right media channel with right message improves the customers experience, and more importantly builds loyalty.