Retailers need to create personalized and relevant customer experiences to stand out and build loyalty, both online and offline. That means they need access to more data, and intelligent technology to put all that data to use.

Mollie Spilman, chief operating officer, Criteo

Mollie Spilman, chief operating officer, Criteo

If you were to take a look at the digital media and retail headlines of 2017, you may think that brick-and-mortar retail was knocking on death’s door. Despite the harbingers of doom and gloom, the “retail apocalypse” is far from here. While 2017 did reveal fractures in the world of marketing for brands and retailers, the resurgence of retail as the year-end theme couldn’t be more real.

As marketers rush to understand and connect with today’s omnichannel shopper, large-scale data takes center stage as a core asset. With the increasing emphasis on offline innovations, experiences and data collaboration, there will be the eight major trends in the commerce marketing landscape in 2018.

The increased focus on voice shopping will pave the way for contextual voice ads that will personalize recommendations and content.

The Battle for Video

The impact of the cord-cutting revolution will continue to be seen, with streamed multimedia content on the rise. Share of consumer online time spent on video is bound to increase steadily, forcing advertisers, publishers and media companies to reorganize and prepare for battle with an increased focus on video in its numerous forms (in-feed, post-rolls, bumper advertisements, and more).

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The Rise of Voice Shopping

As the market for smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo continues to grow, Global Market Insights predicted that more than 100 million units will be shipped by 2024, customers will increase their use of voice shopping through devices. Findings from the Trade Marketing in Transition Report show that brand managers believe that voice-activated devices and personal assistants will be the technology they work with the most in the next two years.

The increased focus on voice shopping will pave the way for contextual voice ads that will personalize recommendations and content. Similarly, widespread availability of rich data on consumer interests and preferences will allow smart speakers to offer existing services and relevant new add-on products and services.

The Social-Commerce Relationship

The line between commerce and social will continue to blur, and several social media platforms are expanding the notion of social commerce by creating their own e-commerce platforms. Services such as Facebook’s Marketplace and Amazon’s Spark are aiming to make potential purchase that much easier.

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The impact, however, means the continued prevalence of walled gardens and the need for brands and retailers to own the customer relationship and better control the data flowing back and forth between platforms and consumers.

Offline-to-Online Customer Journey

Access to larger-scale robust data assets, captured from both digital and physical environments, will be necessary to tie campaign and audience data together. Retailers will place an emphasis on partnerships that help them leverage in-store CRM data to meet and re-engage with shoppers online at the right moment, and with the strongest personalized content, to drive an action to purchase.

Across the board, major retailers will continue to offer better ways to collect products purchased online from their stores, including dedicated parking and in-store lockers.

Data Collaboration

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While forward-thinking brands and retailers will continue to be concerned about walled gardens of data, they have found a way to stay competitive and innovative. The Commerce Data Opportunity study reports that three-fifths of brands and retailers are already part of a data collaboration initiative and are pooling non-personally identifiable data to better connect with shoppers. In 2018, they will continue to pool data assets to personalize content, increase profits, and build better customer relationships.

Product Feed Optimization

Advertisers will look for ways to streamline the management of product feed assets, including product descriptions and visual imagery. Contextual product photos, high-resolution close-ups, 360-degree images, and other product details will become crucial to giving shoppers the best potential online experience. By using enriched display to improve online user experience across websites and apps, brands will be able to improve conversion.

GDPR & Data Management

The European Union’s game-changing General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come in to force on May 25, 2018, affecting marketers and companies on a global scale. Complying with GDPR means marketers will need to manage their audience data more carefully.

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Data management as a whole will become more important than ever as advertisers work to correlate product information from brands and retailers while integrating merchant data with user generated content.

The Growth of Acquisitions and Partnerships

Big retail acquisitions and partnerships have taken place in the last six months: Amazon and Whole Foods, Amazon and Kohl’s, Walmart and Google’s Express service. In 2018, many other retailers and brands will look for strategic acquisitions and partnerships to stay competitive, and to expand and strengthen their operations.

More pure players will look to bridge offline and online worlds and generate crucial value from it. In the race to compete with Amazon, for many retailers, the discussion is not about “build”, it’s about “buy”.

2018’s Level Playing Field

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In today’s omnichannel world, businesses need to create personalized and relevant customer experiences to stand out and build loyalty, both online and offline. That means they need access to more data, and intelligent technology to put all that data to use. With few exceptions, retailers and brands cannot get this on their own, so working in a trusted ecosystem creates a level playing field. 2018 will see a thriving commerce ecosystem for the companies that innovate their data use. There may be losers, but there will most certainly be more than one winner.

Criteo is a provider of digital advertising technology and services.

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