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In Defense Of Analog Retail Marketing


Digital marketing has been the most effective form of marketing in the history of the world. Leveraging the enormous reach of the internet, it is the least expensive way of sending a marketing message to the entire world.

Still, despite the staggering amount of digital marketing done today, businesses still use analog marketing methods. This is particularly true when it comes to the retail industry.

There is a reason why the enormous success of digital marketing has not made analog marketing obsolete: a great retail experience usually centers around a real person.

For instance, when you call a business to place an order for a product, it’s possible for the entire order to be managed perfectly well by automation, yet you feel a sense of relief when you speak to a real person.

The Buyer’s Journey

Let’s look at an example of ways that analog marketing is still going strong despite the fact that customers know that it transfers higher prices and inefficiencies to them.

Let’s suppose you want to shop for a small item. Should you drive to the mall or go online and buy it?

A Trip to the Mall

When you go shopping, you do it because you love to touch things. You want sensory contact with some of the things you plan to buy, whether it’s an item of clothing like a black leather belt or a kitchen gadget like a potato peeler. You want to know how the belt will look around your waist or what type of grip the potato peeler offers you. When you go up to the counter with your purchase, you feel pleased when the sales clerk rubber stamps it as a special discount.

An eCommerce Purchase

When you think about it, you could easily have made the same type of purchases online just looking at a product photo, and, what’s more, the entire purchase could have been done in less than ten minutes. There would have been no need to drive 30 minutes to the mall to buy them. As for the price, it would probably have been cheaper, the coupon could have been a digital code you entered into an empty field, and the product would have been conveniently dropshipped to your doorstep.

Faux Bookstore or Real Bookstore?

Here’s another example. When you go to an eCom bookstore, you’ll see an image of the book you want as a 3-D image, although you know you’ll just get a PDF document. You accept this facsimile because you can get your hands on the information. But if you had a chance, you’d probably prefer to walk into a real bookstore, hold the book in your hands, read the first page, glance at the blurb at the back, and then take it up to the sales clerk to ring it up.

Why Does Analog Still Work?

Ironically, although there is nothing wrong with the automated and digitized version of a purchase, other than the fact that you would not be able to touch it before purchase or receive it immediately upon payment, you may prefer the experience of shopping in person and conferring with a real person to complete the transaction.

Despite the humming efficiency of ATMs, bank tellers still have jobs because they greet you by name. Despite the ease with which it’s possible to process an online order with a credit card, eCom has not replaced department stores because retail clerks still smile at you when you walk through the door. And despite the brilliant faux-personalization of digital experiences, we still prefer the real thing.

In conclusion, analog marketing, at least in the realm of the retail industry, is still alive and well. It’s because we like the experience of going places, touching things, and talking to other people. For this reason, we will still have malls, department stores, and whole areas of a city devoted to a form of commerce that is neither cost-effective nor efficient. Analog marketing in the retail space has not been eclipsed because it offers us a refreshing change. What was old is now new again.