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In-Store as a Media Channel to keep up with evolving shopper

Let’s face it: the modern shopping experience has been forever changed, and consumers now expect much more from the brands and retailers they shop with. New shopper behaviors and needs are driving a refreshed focus on in-store shopping — and, thankfully, that means a whole new realm of opportunity.

In-Store as a Media Channel to keep up with evolving shopper

If you want to keep up with the evolving shopper, treating the store as a media channel is a necessity. Data and digital combine in this article to inform a proactive, effective strategy.

Content Summary

Consumer Attention is Stretched Thin in the Digital Realm
In-Store is a Focused Brand Bubble
Consumers Are Ready to Return to Stores
Following Consumers Through the Store
The Impact of Pricing on In-Store Purchase Decisions
In-Store Messaging Makes a Real Impact
Shoot Your In-Store Signage Shot
Making the Best Use of In-Store as a Media Channel
Start Thinking of In-Store As Media and More
How We’re Changing the In-Store Media Game

In the past decade, stores have become media outlets, engaging customers with ads, novelty, and interactivity like never before. Shopping experiences have changed fundamentally to reflect complex consumer needs and expectations, pushing physical locations to act as a media channel as much as an outlet for commerce.


Amazon is exploring investments into physical department stores. If the global leader in e-commerce sees something in the channel it once threatened to destroy, there’s probably something there. Thanks to more than a year of COVID restrictions, consumers have grown tired of shopping from behind a screen. After months of heavy online shopping and grocery delivery, shoppers have an appetite for shopping in person.

  • 61% of shoppers would rather shop with brands that have a tangible location than those that exist solely online.
  • 78% of U.S. consumers plan to shop more in-store in 2021.
  • 42% of shoppers miss being able to touch and feel products.
  • 63% of shoppers miss getting out of the house.


Consumers are open to influential messaging and decision motivators at every stage of the path-to-purchase — especially while in the store. For example, our data shows that almost 90% of people build lists before visiting a store, but only 11% put brand names on those lists — meaning the brand they ultimately buy can be determined by the messaging they’re exposed to while in the store.

  • The majority of shoppers (69%) recall seeing in-store product advertisements
  • 69% of consumers who saw an in-store ad browsed the featured product on the shelf, and 61% purchased the product.
  • 53% of consumers recall seeing printed ads, and 15.56% recall seeing digital screen ads.


While the task of developing innovative in-store strategies once puzzled many talented marketers, it’s now possible to avoid falling into the common cycle of unintentional in-store neglect. With a healthy mix of data and creativity, the store can shine as an effective media channel.

82% of purchase decisions are made while in a store. Are you ready to be in charge of those decisions? This article outlines the four in-store focus areas you should give attention to. We’ve identified processes that work — and achieved significant brand sales lift and messaging impressions in the high millions for our clients. The store is the next great media channel — it’s just waiting for proper recognition.


In simplest terms, a media channel is a framework that allows advertisers to connect with their intended audience. When examining media channels, marketers most often turn to the traditional applications of the definition — print, digital, and broadcast. These broad categories include newspapers, television, radio, websites, social media, sponsored search… the list goes on.

Concerningly, the physical store is frequently considered outside of the “media channel” definition. While marketers frequently advertise in stores, the effort is typically considered promotional, rather than a media investment, when it comes to budgeting and measurement. However, framing the store as a media channel can help advertisers more effectively reach consumers at a major point of purchase — a realization that is becoming more apparent to marketers and, consequently, is changing the in-store landscape entirely.

61% of shoppers would rather shop with brands that also have a physical location than ones that are online only.

“THE MOST IMPORTANT MEDIA CHANNEL THAT WE HAVE IS OUR STORE.” – John Fleming, Wal-Mart’s Executive VP and Chief Marketing Officer

Consumer Attention is Stretched Thin in the Digital Realm

While e-commerce and social media are undeniably powerful tools, user attention in the virtual world is a more precious commodity than ever. A constant feed of notifications, ads, and information streaming to every user on every device all of the time means that messages must be meaningful and valuable to stand out.

It can be difficult to earn a few seconds of attention from a passing internet user. However, in-store shoppers are virtually free from the online messaging mush that comes from every direction. While in the store, the shopper is subject to your digital messaging and yours alone. Take this opportunity to combine the familiarity of digital with a focus on your individual brand and products.

On average, Americans are exposed to up to 10,000 ads each day.

In-Store is a Focused Brand Bubble

Online shopping allows consumers to browse multiple websites and platforms simultaneously — all while being exposed to the aforementioned digital messaging mush — and divides attention between innumerable brands and retailers. Fortunately, in-store shopping offers a far more focused experience. Shoppers are presented with choices at the shelf, where the selections are curated and the opportunities to drive awareness are much more meaningful.

Because of shoppers’ purposeful choice to visit a physical location, you have an opportunity to engage with them in meaningful, shopper-centric, and intentional ways.

For Retailer Marketers: A consumer visiting your physical location is locked-in to the experience that you — and only you — provide them. While exploring the store, your identity is top-of-mind. Shoppers aren’t thinking of Target while browsing in WalMart, or considering Lowe’s while in Home Depot. Use this to your advantage, and create a memorable shopping experience that encourages visitors to associate your brand identity with positive emotions.

For Brand Marketers: While still fighting for some attention on the shelf, the competing forces are far fewer. Opportunities are abundant to achieve face-time with shoppers — displays, signage, offers and incentives can be applied to the store, and the shelf, to draw browsers in and land space in their carts.

Consumers Are Ready to Return to Stores

Following a year of restrictions on gathering and increased reliance on digital channels, shoppers are excited to resume their in-person excursions. Excitement surrounding in-store shopping is at peak levels, with consumers ready to experience anything and everything the store has to offer.

  • 78% of U.S. consumers plan to shop more in-store in 2021
  • 42% of shoppers miss being able to touch and feel products
  • 63% of shoppers miss getting out of the house

Despite the challenges of 2020, retail sales still grew 6.7% over the course of the year. In fact, the NRF expects growth to continue toward $4.44 trillion in 2021 as shoppers return to stores.

2021 Inmar survey data shows that shoppers associate in-store shopping with:

  • Better Prices 43%
  • More Convenient 49%
  • More Product Variety 31%
  • Ability to Test a Product 39%
  • Customer Service 31%
  • Fun Or Enjoyable Experience 29%
  • Personalized Shopping Experience 23%
  • Access to More Deals, Promotions, & Incentives 27%
  • Time Saved 27%
  • Ease of Returns and Exchanges 24%

Following Consumers Through the Store

Shoppers typically spend 41 minutes in the store on an average trip. Considering the 1.5-trip per week average for most grocery shoppers, that means that people tend to spend over 53 hours per year in a grocery store alone.

  • 65% of respondents will browse the store for new products during their shopping trips.
  • Only 11% of shoppers build out their shopping lists with brand names.

Shoppers are exposed to in-store signage, which can feature sale messaging, coupons, recipes, and so on. Mobile search queries that take place in a store have grown 15% in recent years. A growing number of shoppers are checking store, competitor, and e-commerce websites while already in a store to verify stock and compare prices. Missing information, or store/site inconsistencies, may drive shoppers to another location or online. Keep this subset of physical-digital comboshoppers in mind when reviewing in-store and online strategy.

The Impact of Pricing on In-Store Purchase Decisions

Pricing, discounts, offers, and incentives affect shopper purchasing decisions to a huge degree. Special deals are yet another way for brands and retailers to connect with customers — a simple tactic that breeds trust and positivity. When it comes down to it, pricing is one of the most critical factors in a purchase decision. By way of purposeful in-store media, shoppers can make informed, effective decisions that fit within — and even improve — their shopping experiences.

The U.S. economy is trending toward inflation and increased prices, and consumers are starting to take notice.

  • 89% of shoppers have noticed an increase in prices of groceries and everyday household items that they regularly purchase.
  • 68% have gone so far as to shop at a different store for these items because of this price jump.

But shoppers are using the loyalty programs, incentives, and offers so that purchasing is not too thoroughly disrupted by these increases. And these tools can significantly affect purchase decisions.

  • 52% of shoppers have joined more than one loyalty program due to rising prices.
  • 80% of respondents will purchase a new product based on price. 44% will purchase the product if they have a coupon.
  • 73% say a sale helps persuade them to purchase an item not on their list. 44% will do so if there is a coupon, 29% if they see a recipe, 27% if they see the item on a feature display.
  • 80% of shoppers say getting a discount, points, or other type of credit through a store loyalty program after purchasing a certain brand always or sometimes influences their decision to buy.

In-Store Messaging Makes a Real Impact

Message form, function, and placement can profoundly impact consumer purchase decisions and retention. Shoppers at every point along the path to purchase are susceptible to influential content and decision motivators — and because this is all occurring within the store’s focused brand bubble, the direction in which these shoppers are pointed is entirely up to the store and their brand partners.

  • 85% of consumers make a shopping list prior to going to the store, but only 11% of shoppers build their lists with brand names.
  • The majority of shoppers (69%) recall seeing in-store product advertisements:
  • And those impressions lead to browsing and buying: 69% of consumers who saw an in-store ad browsed the featured product in-store and 61% purchased the product.
  • 53% of consumers recall seeing printed ads, and 15.56% recall seeing digital screen ads.

Shoot Your In-Store Signage Shot

It would be impossible to talk about the media channel potential of the store without discussing signage. When it comes to displays, there are two main roads to travel — the traditional and the tech-enabled — each with its own pros and cons.

Proof of Concept: In one instance, we used at-shelf media to build awareness around a new OTC product for a retailer. The effort resulted in a 9.86% sales lift and 14MM impressions.

Inmar Tip: To improve in-store signage, use data to construct theoretical profiles of your shoppers. With this information, you can hone in on the right message to present to your audience.


Pro: Physical signage is the tried-and-true, the well-tested, the go-to for in-store marketing. Shoppers expect to see signs throughout their store trip, and they are eager to purchase featured items. Over time, customers have been conditioned to associate signs and displays with saving money in some way, and respond by making purchases.

Con: Physical signage is, by nature, static media, and therefore suffers lower levels of engagement compared to digital alternatives. Lead times can be long, and changing messages quickly can be difficult.


Pro: Digital signage is still the new kid on the block. The future is bright, though, and with new capabilities emerging that can advertise based on changing environmental factors like weather or time, the possibilities are endless. The most basic features including immediate updates, simple A/B testing, message changes based on stock, and the like are often selling points enough.

Con: The up-front costs of digital signage can be higher than print alternatives. However, the displayed digital ads are then priced lower thanks to a lack of physical execution, print production, and shipping. The convenience of updates and increased interactivity are often worth the cost of entry.

Making the Best Use of In-Store as a Media Channel

Many talented, proven marketers get stuck on developing an innovative in-store marketing strategy. Why? Well, for starters, there has long been a lack of comprehensive, applicable information about best practices, opportunities, results and so on — a remnant of e-commerce’s multi-decade attempts to replace physical shopping entirely.

It’s possible, though, to avoid falling into the common cycle of unintentional in-store neglect. A healthy mix of data, creativity, and effort can allow the store to truly shine as an effective media channel. The short answer — communicate well and often with customers, improve their in-store experience, and provide them with the information needed to make good purchase decisions.

  • Placement: Location, location, location. Installing in-store advertising relies on proper placement and should be positioned in areas that shoppers spend significant time in. Shopper data can inform effective placement decisions.
  • Applicability: Messages that do not appropriately apply to shopper interests are counterintuitive and wasteful. Use data to define and segment your audience by interest and intent, and tailor content to speak directly to them.
  • Message Efficacy: Shopping trips typically take less than an hour, so your time with each shopper is short. Avoid lengthy descriptions, content-packed videos, and graphic overload — a simple, targeted piece will work wonders.
  • Timing: Never let a message go stale. In-store signage, advertisements, offers, and anything else seen by guests should be refreshed regularly to apply to new trends and interests. Build a marketing plan that frequently reinvents itself, and ensure that quick pivots are possible when fresh data or insights become available.

Start Thinking of In-Store As Media and More

With around 82% of purchase decisions made while in a store, in-store is at its best when considered as a media and promotional vehicle. The format is both media and promotional in terms of how performance is measured and should be evaluated as a multi-functional channel with grand potential.

When considering ways to leverage data for intelligent campaign planning in this channel, look to a smarter way of running signage. In-store signage, both printed and digital, delivers valuable impressions to consumers who are in an active purchasing mindset. In addition, intelligently designed and placed signage creates conversion at shelf delivering sales results.

Inmar’s Intelligent In-Store Media solution is delivering between 6 million and 188 million impressions depending on signage placement for a one-event campaign — including navigating shoppers from the most-trafficked aisles to products with strong basket purchase affinities in aisles that usually get less traffic. And, between 5% to 11% incremental sales lift is achieved with an average of 3.5x incremental return on ad spend in a majority of campaigns as measured through test and control studies.

To shape in-store signage into a targeted, results-oriented, shopper-centric secret weapon, you’ll need to know:

  • How customers navigate the store
  • How they shop a particular category and brand
  • When and where advertising influences decisions
  • What trends impact shopper behavior

How We’re Changing the In-Store Media Game


Increase awareness of a national brand during the peak season of its usage.

Promote multiple brands owned by the manufacturer to create bigger impact from the media investment.

Boldly call out the effects of the product, reinforcing the brand’s reputation on the large five-foot tall advertisement.

Leverage the prominent placement at the entrance for maximum visibility.

Two security pedestal wrap ads bookend the entrance / exit area of each store.

Signage production durability which allows the brand to stretch their investment over 3 events generating additional impressions and sales volume.

5.2% Brand sales lift



Drove both brand incremental sales and category volume during the three-event campaign window, based on test vs control match panel program.


Build awareness and drive sales of a new OTC product launch.

Customize national campaign messaging with a retailer-branded specific call-out on a shelf sign to draw shopper attention down the aisle.

Feature new product on both sides of creative.

Flight campaign over two events with a holdover to extend media impressions and optimize return on ad spend.

Place in-front of product for all stores.

Add retailer-branded new product launch call-out in creative.

Use high performing store list for national coverage.

9.86% Brand sales lift



Base brand also benefited from signage; strong basket affinity observed with stock-up items in high-traffic store areas, based on test vs control match panel program.


Drive frozen pizza shoppers to the carbonated beverage aisle to complete their meal with a drink and generate core brand equity.

Promote core brand on creative with a national campaign tagline.

Also feature retailer’s meal solution campaign on creative.

Place one sign in front of the frozen pizza with a navigational message driving shoppers to the carbonated beverage aisle.

Place one sign in front of carbonated beverage to draw shoppers down the aisle to the brand’s product.

Use food-focused store list to maximize results.

10.4% Brand sales lift



Campaign created strong incremental return based on the core brand featured product alone – even more return if considering the larger brand portfolio halo dollars earned, based on test vs control match panel program