Advertising comes in all shapes and sizes, all of which have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And, with daily lifestyle habits changed and millions of people out of work, fewer markets have been more affected than retail. Consequently, retail advertisers have also been forced to make significant pivots to retail advertising.

Retail advertisers, or any advertiser who places advertisements in a retail space, both online and offline, to drive awareness and interest, rely on both stores to remain open and buyers to have money to spend – and neither of these things were true during the early days of COVID-19. Now that the world is starting to normalize, so is retail advertising, but not without some shifts.

Ecommerce has been on the rise worldwide for many years, but the pandemic has accelerated this already rapid pace of growth. The effects of lockdown orders resulted in an additional $183 billion in ecommerce spending, a growth of over 35% from the prior year. As shoppers have solidified new habits, like doing more grocery shopping online, the old shopping habits aren’t bouncing back; 2021 estimates continued ecommerce growth of as much as 15% versus 2020.

Savvy retail advertisers who made a pivot to ecommerce-forward ad strategies during the pandemic often made investments in infrastructure to do so. As such, staying the course and moving forward with digital avenues offers big benefits, financial and otherwise. These are the most innovative things happening with retail advertising right now – and why advertisers are encouraged to get onboard.

Shopping on Social Media

Social media has become a key player in the ecommerce market – a move no one saw coming a decade ago. Today, brands of all kinds post on social media, interacting with fans, promoting products, and sharing reviews.

In response to the prevalence of brands using these platforms, social media companies like Facebook and Instagram have made it easier for users to shop directly from social media apps, encouraging impulse buys. TikTok users are even urged to use add #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt to posts about purchases, like the infamous TikTok leggings.

Millennials in particular are enamored with social media shopping. One study found that 62% of millennials are more likely to become loyal customers when brands engage with them on social networks.

Shopping on social media has evolved significantly over the past years, but not in one uniform way. Instead, there are now multiple different avenues companies looking to cash in on social customers can employ.

Influencer Marketing

Influencers are everywhere on social media, cultivating large followings for seemingly no reason. These individuals use their voice, their families, their jobs, their pets, and their lives as a marketing tool, touting new products, wearing cutting-edge fashion, and offering brand discounts to loyal fans and followers. As such, using influencers is a great way to get a product in front of hundreds of thousands of eyeballs across social platforms. It works, too; around 40% of people have made a purchase after seeing a promotion by a favorite influencer.

Integration of Visual Search

Today’s social media platforms are a far cry from the early days of adding friends to a Top Eight, and that extends to branding opportunities. New visual search options, like Google Images or Pinterest Lens, allow users to search for visually similar items in pictures. This can be key for companies that offer a wide range of products and want customers to be able to easily find items. An estimated 70% of Gen Z shoppers use shoppable feed experiences; integration with a visual search tool could mean faster searching and easier purchasing experiences.

Customer Expectation for Hyper-Personalization

Customers are no longer satisfied with seeing their name on a salutations line in an email. They want more. And with so many brands now offering personalizations that go beyond a greeting, loyalty more frequently aligns with those who target customers as individuals.

Many companies are using a combination of proprietary and third-party data to collect consumer information. While this may sound invasive on the surface, the end result is highly desirable: email and social media communications that hone in on products a customer will love. This offers benefits in two different ways. Shoppers are more likely to see a product they want or need and make a quick purchase, and they’ll also appreciate the level of hyper-personalization available.

The retail market has faced unprecedented roadblocks in the wake of COVID-19. Even though stores are starting to reopen and shoppers are able to return as normal, the habits developed during the peak of the pandemic have changed consumer behavior indefinitely. Retail advertisers need to be able to embrace the changes a boost in ecommerce has delivered, using improved infrastructure to collect, analyze, and utilize data like never before. With the right approach, retail advertisers can ensure they’re maintaining a competitive advantage in an increasingly digital marketplace.