For retail brands, advertising is a life force. Unless, say, you’re the sole retailer in a remote island community, there’s no doing business without a bit of marketing. Add online shopping to the mix, and advertising becomes the best way to shine a spotlight on your brand, making it the center of attention amid the digital noise of the internet.
There are many methods you can use to bring customers to your virtual and physical stores: The key is knowing how to deploy them and when. This article explores the most common types of retail advertisements and how to craft an ad strategy to best fit your business.
What is retail advertising?
Retail advertising is a marketing strategy by which retailers increase brand awareness and engage shoppers through a combination of online and offline advertising campaigns. This may include a targeted ad spend to improve online search rankings, social media, and email campaigns. It can also include physical retail advertisements like print ads and in-store displays.
Retail advertising is part of the 4 Ps of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion. Product considerations include product details: features, variations, and packaging. Pricing may result from market conditions, profit margins, or overhead. Place has to do with the selling environment, online and in store. Promotion, of course, is where retail advertising techniques come in.
Types of retail advertising
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Print advertising
- Broadcast advertising
- Online advertising
- In-store advertising
- Retail media networks
Here’s a guide to the various types of retail advertising brand’s can use to reach out to their customers:
A recent study by consumer research platform GWI reveals social media has overtaken search engines in Gen Z consumers’ product research, with millennials following suit. Social media is now integral to a well-rounded advertising strategy. Companies leverage platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and even LinkedIn by paying for ads and promoted posts and partnering with influencers to reach their target audience.
When creating social media ads, remember every platform has its unique context: What resonates with TikTok users may not be as effective on Facebook, so be sure to adapt your strategies accordingly.
Though inboxes can be a tricky place to catch someone’s attention, email marketing’s direct communication style can be invaluable for promoting your products. If you’re just getting started and don’t have a massive subscriber list, you can partner with websites and organizations within your community with established followings. Many newsletters have space for sponsored content.
Print advertising is one of the more familiar types of retail marketing and typically refers to ad placements in newspapers and magazines, direct mail, or outdoor advertising like billboards. Depending on the outlet, print advertisements can be simple, information-driven, heartfelt and emotional, esoteric or funny—and an excellent way to introduce your brand to new customers.
Television, streaming, podcast, and radio advertisements can be especially effective for reaching both broad audiences (everyone tuning into a radio station, for example) and niche audiences (like listeners of a specific podcast). These ads tend to run multiple times over a set period and can help drive awareness for your business over time.
The number of online shoppers in the US continues to rise year-over-year, reaching an estimated 274 million in 2023. Online retail advertising, therefore, has become a crucial part of the digital marketing strategy of ecommerce brands, particularly those in competitive markets.
In addition to social media and email marketing, digital advertising includes native ads, which are pieces of sponsored content that appear on online publications or websites in the style of editorial content. There’s also search engine marketing (SEM), where companies pay for their ads to be featured on search engine results pages for relevant keywords.
In-store marketing can be critical for brands aiming to distinguish themselves amidst a crowded retail landscape. In-store ads in large stores carrying a variety of products might include endcap displays (displays at the end of aisles), sample stations, or shelf display ads meant to bring customers where your products are.
You can also use flyers, posters, and window displays in your own brick-and-mortar store or pop-up shop to catch the attention of passers-by. Takeaway postcards and stickers or witty sidewalk signage outside your physical store are also effective forms of in-store advertising.
Retail media networks
Retail media refers to retailer-run advertising platforms selling ad placements on their digital properties to third-party publishers (brands who want to advertise on their platform). Many large retailers host their own retail media network, like Amazon Advertising, Target Roundel, or Walmart Connect, allowing outside brands access to their audience for a fee. Depending on your advertising goals and the retail media network, you might purchase on-site ads, email features, or custom branded content made by the advertising platform’s in-house team.
Retail media networks also let advertisers place their products at the top of their search results or appear in pop-up notifications with coupons or discounts for customers close to checking out.
Benefits of retail advertising
Here’s how retail advertising can help your business:
Boost brand awareness
Increasing brand awareness is important for any brand looking to stand out from the competition. Brand awareness is also the first step toward building brand loyalty and an invaluable customer base ready to evangelize on your behalf.
Increased brand awareness naturally leads to higher traffic. Effective retail advertising, whether through social media, sidebar ads on magazine sites, or highway billboards, directs customers to your online and physical locations—the first step in converting customers and earning their loyalty.
Digital retail advertising has become particularly useful as a way to direct users to your website. Many shoppers preempt their in-store visits with online research, making online retail advertising a crucial component of both in-store and ecommerce strategies.
The advertising business is built on an ability to sell products. Investing in retail advertising efforts naturally increases sales: The more people hear about you, the more likely they are to seek you out and to convert.
How to build a retail advertising plan
- Know your target audience
- Know your positioning
- Map the customer journey
- Outline your budget
- Use promotional tactics
An effective retail advertising plan is multifaceted, context-appropriate, and backed by customer insights. Here’s a roadmap to help you plan and create ad campaigns:
1. Know your target audience
The key to any advertising plan is first knowing who you’re trying to reach. Identify the target markets you want to hit, like whether it’s all inhabitants of a particular city, or more specific demographics, like people of a certain age, gender, or with a specific average yearly income. These communities (and their shopping habits) will inform all of the decisions that follow.
2. Know your positioning
Determine your differentiating factors: How are you different from your competitors? What makes you stand out? Are you trying to solve a problem or create delight? Understanding your positioning in the market will help you determine how you should be encouraging customers to make a purchase. For example, a company making bow ties and costumes for dogs might choose to highlight the lightheartedness of their product and the joy it brings to dog owners. Whereas a company selling dog raincoats may focus on the durability and practicality of the garments instead.
3. Map the customer journey
Use first-party data to shape your understanding of the customer journey: How did your existing customers find you? What convinced them to buy your product, and how has it impacted their lives? Charting common customer paths can help you build a customized omnichannel strategy. This can help you ensure customers, whether they go to your website, store, or social media page, have a cohesive and consistent experience.
4. Outline your budget
Determine how much you’re willing or able to spend on advertising, and focus on the channels you think are most likely to drive sales. If your audience is active on social media, start with Facebook and Instagram ads, or consider hiring influencers. If your audience is more likely to find you in a store, geo-targeted ads on search engines may be more effective.
5. Use promotional tactics
Many shoppers are motivated by deals, so you may find traction with ad campaigns centered on discounts. Loyalty programs, discounts for frequent customers, and incentives for signing up for email and text alerts are commonly used to motivate shoppers.
Retail advertising FAQ
What are the principles of retail advertising?
While the principles of retail marketing at large are known as the 4 Ps—product, price, place, and promotion—the principles of retail advertising are centered around campaign strategies informed by consumer behavior and the sales cycle. By understanding who your target customers are and what they’re looking for, you can create ad campaigns that resonate and make the most of your ad dollars by meeting your consumers where they are.
What is an example of retail advertising?
Retail advertising examples are everywhere: the Google Shopping ads appearing when you search for an online store, an eye-catching print ad in your favorite magazine, or an Instagram ad stopping you mid-scroll.
Can I use multiple types of retail advertising at once?
You can use multiple types of retail advertising in your marketing mix, and it’s considered best practice to do so. Calling on multiple channels to broadcast your products (omnichannel marketing) increases the chances new customers can find you.