You’ve heard it before and you’ll certainly hear it again — retail is going omnichannel, and mobile is going to be the lynchpin that holds it all together. But tackling messaging on every medium is a big ask for many retailers, and casting the widest net possible rarely pays off if marketers are shouting at channels their targets simply don’t use.

This speaks to a common misunderstanding of what we mean when we talk about personalization, which many individuals interpret to mean “more choices for more personalities.”

In reality, personalization needs to be viewed in the context of relevance. Rather than throwing a litany of options at consumers and leaving it to them to find what products will stick, it’s on the brand to winnow down the choices a customer has so they don’t get lost looking down endless digital aisles.

To that end, consumers don’t need all of their brands to target them on every channel possible — especially ones that aren’t proven to drive certain kinds of results. Applying the same outreach tactics across digital and physical touchpoints is missing the point — and evading the opportunity — of omnichannel, which retailers can’t afford to do in a market where things change so fast.

Using Mobile to ease into new engagement channels

That being said, mobile marketing stands to be the logical starting point for any retailer exploring more avenues for outreach, as it’s proven time and again to be an effective path to (and bridge between) larger audiences for all manner of retailer. So even if brands haven’t mastered the “omnichannel” approach from the start (after all, it took even Amazon more than a decade to turn a profit), mobile marketing can be implemented with relative ease — and often relatively quick returns.

How different players on the retail stage use mobile to broaden their outreach can vary wildly, with some of the least conventional tactics having the biggest payoff.


Grocers, for instance, are taking to the m-commerce space by reformatting their brick-and-mortars to be primarily pickup locations for their “on-the-go” shoppers. Some stores are even leveraging drive-through layouts ala fast food chains, hoping that keeping shoppers moving equates to a satisfying buyer journey.

Grocers aren’t the only retailers bucking not just historical trends, but in some cases standard logic.

For instance, 80 percent of shoppers still prefer to buy furniture and housewares in-store opposed to digitally. At the same time, online houseware giant Wayfair has experienced unprecedented growth without dipping its toes into the brick-and-mortar market like the competition.

In fact, the company only recently announced it’s first physical pop-up shop, primarily as a means to unload excess merchandise ahead of the holiday shopping season — not to act as the company’s entrance into the world of physical storefronts. Much of Wayfair’s success can then be attributed to products that target customers that value affordability, aesthetics and convenience over giving furniture a “test drive” in a showroom — characteristics that lend themselves perfectly to an e-commerce application.

This begs the question of how Target became so popular among Millennials and Generation Z by focusing on an expansion strategy that has them growing their brick-and-mortar footprint — in stark opposition to Wayfair’s growth trajectory. This is a case of a more mature brand that was actually poised to take on omnichannel with just the right amount of resources at just the right time. While young shoppers covet “making a Target run” as a part of their weekend routine that’s as integral as Sunday brunch, they’re often doing so with their phones open to comparison shop, even placing orders for delivery in lieu of carting goods on public transit.


This all goes to show that retail best practices can’t be applied en masse, and what may look like a promising trend for one corner of the market could have an inverse impact on another. But it also confirms that going the mobile route first rather than strictly embracing Omnichannel is how retailers should actually be shoring up their strategies.

What it all comes down to is getting a complete understanding of users — harnessing that relevance discussed earlier — and targeting the few channels that suit them best. Whether that means geotargeting grocery shoppers who would rather browse on their phones while sitting in traffic, or creating value where it wasn’t previously available, ala Wayfair.

Harnessing these strategies and applying relevance to your personalization requires data, and the tools and analysis for marketers to glean actionable insights.