Look out Retail, e-Commerce is Here

By: Peter Wright, Client Marketing Director, Valassis
Published Friday, May 19, 2017

Look out Retail, e-Commerce is Here

When I think about examples of technological evolution we’ve seen in business, the automotive industry comes to mind. First it was the horse; then the horse and buggy; next came the Model T, then the Tesla… and now we’re talking about driverless cars. Each shift made the one before obsolete.

Now we’re seeing a similar evolution across the retail industry – again due to technology. First it was the trading/bartering of goods; then corner stores with shopkeepers; next, brick and mortar big-box stores and malls… and now we shop with the click of a mouse. No one can deny the tremendous impact that e-commerce is having on the retail landscape.

Here are some figures that will likely amaze you:

According to eMarketer, e-commerce is expected to rise as a share of total retail sales, from 9.2 percent this year to 14.0 percent by 2021.


March 2017


According to eMarketer, today, e-commerce represents $462.2 billion in sales and by 2021, it’s expected to deliver an incredible $789.4 billion in sales. With the convenience of shopping wherever and whenever and the ability to compare product, price and product availability at the flick of a finger, e-commerce is replacing dog as “man’s (and woman’s) best friend.”

Of course, the emergence of e-commerce has had an impact on brick and mortar stores. Several recent announcements have outlined the negative impact on some brands and the scaling back of store counts – Macy’s, JC Penney, Sears, Kmart, Gander Mountain, Wet Seal…the list goes on. The implications seem pretty clear with the growth of e-commerce. However, this is not the end of retailing as we know it. People are not going to stop going to stores. It does require a different approach

Faced with this dynamic change, retailers and retail marketers must evolve or face the fate of the Model T. Marketers need to find the best way to precisely target their customers with the right marketing tools to capture their share of sales. 

With the evolution of e-commerce and m-commerce, consumers are using the internet as a vehicle to explore and purchase. In fact, eMarketer estimates that in 2017, 214.2 million people in the United States., ages 14 and older, browsed or researched products on the internet (though they did not necessarily make a digital purchase). With such a large population of people browsing the internet, marketers should be supplementing their traditional marketing vehicles like TV and print with digital, designed to enhance consumer engagement.

Some retail companies are taking a different path to be part of the explosive e-commerce arena. For example, Walmart recently made several key acquisitions to bolster its existing e-commerce business. Two key e-commerce entities that are now part of the Walmart portfolio are Jet.com and Hayneedle.com.  Walmart sees the addition of these growing businesses as a way of accelerating their e-commerce business – and they’re not alone in this strategy. The chart that follows highlights some of the e-commerce businesses that have come under the fold of an established retailer looking to accelerate its position in the e-commerce space:


These types of actions are blurring the lines between brick and mortar establishments and e-commerce. Regardless of venue, whether it is a pure play e-commerce business or a hybrid between brick and mortar and e-commerce, every brand will be challenged with the same thing: getting the right message to the right consumer at the right time.

To accomplish this, here are a few key steps retail/e-tail marketers can take:

  1. Dig deep into customer data or external information to formulate the best strategies to grow business;
  2. Work to integrate the customer’s media mix by including a combination of traditional media like broadcast and print with digital; and
  3. Establish a media placement strategy that is multi-form and penetrates the target audience, delivering multiple brand touch-points to the same audience to drive engagement and activation.In the end, the savviest of marketers will take advantage of marketing partners that can help enrich their data, targeting, and messaging so they become the Tesla of e-commerce – not the Model T.