What is retail advertising? | Clear Channel | Clear Channel
JD advertising campaign promoting on a Malls Live digital screen outside of a Levi's store

Retail advertising: Mastering shopping centres, supermarkets and high streets

What is retail advertising?

Retail advertising is the general term for adverts found in retail environments, such as supermarkets and shopping malls. It also includes adverts and promotions on retailers’ websites, whether for the retailer itself or a different brand.

Some people might think that retail advertising simply means the promotion of a retailer, and it can do. But, in this context, we’re talking about advertising in retail spaces. In offline terms, this can mean both in-store advertising and close-to-store advertising.

Retail advertising is sometimes referred to as retail media or retail media advertising. It offers specific benefits to advertisers due to its proximity to the point of sale. Because of this, retail media is often used to highlight special promotions or to create a sense of urgency that encourages audiences to take action.

In environments where multiple brands are competing against each other, such as in a supermarket, retail advertising can be used to highlight a specific brand and allow it to ‘stand out on the shelf’. This same concept applies to Out of Home advertising on high streets, which allows nearby stores to draw attention to themselves.

It isn’t only shops that use retail advertising. The medium can also be a beneficial way to market related products and services – for example, a personal shopper could advertise their services on retail media within a shopping mall setting.

Why is retail advertising important?

Retail advertising is important for a few different reasons. First, it provides a key opportunity for brands to engage potential customers at the optimal moment. Consumers are most receptive to advertising when they’re already looking to purchase, and connecting with them at this point can help to strengthen awareness and drive sales.

Another reason why retail advertising should be considered an increasingly important part of the marketing mix is because of its current growth trajectory. BCG estimates that the retail media market will reach $100 billion by 2026, up from $36 billion in 2021.

Such rapid growth implies vast adoption, and getting their foot in the door early will ensure advertisers have the skills and experience to compete with other players.

Types of retail advertising environments

Retail simply means the selling of goods. Anywhere that people go to buy goods is therefore considered a retail environment. While standalone shops are technically part of this definition, it’s far more common for retailers to be gathered in the form of high streets and shopping centres. 

Despite the shared characteristics of retail environments like shopping centres, high streets and supermarkets (i.e. that people go there to buy things), there are also some fundamental differences to bear in mind when planning a retail advertising strategy. 

The times that people go shopping, the reasons why they go and the buying habits that they display while there are can all vary greatly. To make sure that your strategy aligns with your audience, understanding shopping behaviours in different retail environments is vital.

Below is a brief overview of the most common retail advertising environments. E-commerce websites and other online marketplaces can also be considered retail environments, but here we’re focusing on real-world contexts.

Shopping centre advertising

Shopping centre trends and statistics show that these retail hubs are evolving into multi-attraction experience centres. The new wave of shopping malls offers visitors leisure, dining and entertainment options alongside the traditional variety of shops.

Because of this, shopping mall advertising is an increasingly enticing proposition for many types of businesses. It provides advertisers with access to large and diverse audiences, made up of everyone from families on days out to solo shoppers looking for bargains.

Shopping centre advertising

High street advertising

While similar to shopping centres, high streets offer a different type of audience for advertisers to target. They play a bigger role in everyday life, with many people travelling through their local high street on their way to work, school or when running errands.

High streets are also more likely than shopping centres to have good public transport connections. This means that street advertising can be a vital route to audiences that might otherwise be difficult to reach, such as young people who have not yet learnt to drive.

High street advertising

Supermarket advertising

With 85% of people visiting a supermarket at least once a week, supermarket advertising stands out as a way for brands to connect with consumers on a routine basis.

Supermarkets are where we go to buy essential goods, which means that almost everyone who enters one is already committed to making a purchase. Because of this, there can be fierce shelf competition between brands. Targeting shoppers as they walk through the doors ensures that your brand is front of mind as they scout the aisles.

Supermarket advertising

What are the benefits of retail advertising?

There are many reasons why brands should be advertising in stores and wider retail environments. Here are some of the key advantages to be gained:

  • Increased visibility – advertising in high-traffic areas like supermarkets, high streets and shopping centres is one of the easiest ways to increase brand visibility. Not only are these environments frequented by vast numbers of people, but they also provide the opportunity to reinforce brand awareness at the pivotal moment.

  • Proximity to purchase – advertising in areas where people are already actively looking to purchase gives brands the ability to make an immediate impact. They can influence buyers’ decisions in real-time, driving both planned and impulse purchases.

  • Flexible targeting – retail environments attract large audiences made up of all sections of society. The diversity between different environments allows brands to tailor their strategies and targeting to suit their campaign goals.

  • Contextual relevance – contextually relevant content has been shown to improve ad effectiveness by 17%. Advertising a product or brand ‘at the right time, in the right place’ by displaying it in a retail environment increases the contextual relevance of the advert.

  • Trust building – retail advertising happens in public spaces and involves direct engagement with consumers. This very visible type of advertising can help a brand to appear ‘above board’ and develop familiarity amongst potential customers, which builds long-term trust.

  • Multichannel integration – retail advertising seamlessly integrates with wider marketing activity. It can be used to build awareness in a multichannel strategy, or as the final touchpoint in an omnichannel campaign.

  • Easy attribution – the immediate impact of retail advertising makes it easy to trace any sales achieved through the channel. The direct correlation between advertising efforts and consumer actions at the point of purchase simplifies attribution, enabling brands to track and measure campaigns with greater accuracy.

How to use retail advertising

Retail advertising can help you to maximise your brand’s reach, impact and, ultimately, ROI. But in order to do this successfully, you have to first understand how to use it.

As always, identifying your target audience is the best first step. Once you know who your audience is and understand their behaviours, you can use these insights to formulate an effective retail advertising strategy that integrates naturally into broader marketing campaigns.

Omnichannel retail advertising allows brands to target customers across both online and offline retail mediums, providing cohesive, cross-channel experiences. Awareness can be built online, before in-store or close-to-store adverts are used to nudge customers into buying.

The same concept can be applied in reverse, and even to brands that are online-only. For example, an e-commerce brand could advertise in shopping centres in the run-up to Christmas. By doing this, they provide inspiration for frustrated shoppers who are struggling to find suitable presents, or can promote a cheaper alternative to those who already have a present in mind.

Moma Foods displaying their green Oat milk campaign on a Sainsbury's digital screen

Retail advertising examples

MOMA’s latest Out of Home (OOH) campaign showcased dynamic and static visuals highlighting the trust baristas placed in MOMA’s premium oat drink, both in professional settings and at home. The campaign was featured on Sainsbury's Live screens at high-traffic store entrances, focusing on top-performing Sainsbury's locations. Additionally, Digital OOH formats and Adshel 6-sheets were strategically placed near selected stockists. The campaign was designed to keep MOMA top of mind and influence shoppers in the plant-based milk category. It resulted in significant sales growth at the targeted supermarket stores, attributable to the OOH campaign activities.

MOMA oat milk is such an amazing product, we knew that if we could make people who already buy inferior oat milk see the campaign and convince them to try it, they wouldn’t go back. It is The Barista’s Choice afterall.” Rob Ward– And Rising Co-founder.

The future of retail advertising

The way that consumers shop is currently undergoing a transformation. With the rise of experiential retail, brands are increasingly focusing on creating immersive, interactive experiences both online and offline.

Personalised ads, dynamic displays and AI-powered programmatic platforms are all shifting retail advertising away from genericism and towards highly targeted, engaging creatives. Online and offline are becoming more and more integrated, with retailers using QR codes to drive traffic to their websites or social media profiles.

One big change that we expect to see over the coming years is the adoption of in-store analytics. This will enable retailers to track and analyse customer behaviour in physical stores and environments, similar to how website traffic is analysed. The data gathered can then inform strategic decisions, such as which products to promote most visibly.

We can’t talk about the future of retail advertising without mentioning sustainability. As consumers continue to become more conscious of environmental and social issues, incorporating sustainability and ethical messaging into advertising strategies and practices will become a prerequisite for success.

Connect with your audience

Retail advertising presents the unique opportunity to connect with consumers at the point of purchase, capitalising on their readiness to buy. But, more than that, it’s a way for brands to connect with large and diverse audiences, gaining visibility and building influence over time.

By leveraging retail advertising, whether as a standalone channel or as part of a wider campaign, brands can unlock new opportunities for growth, innovation and connection. Get in touch to find out more about the possibilities it opens up.

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