November 24, 2023
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Days of ‘build it and they will come’ are over


Sarah Fischbach

By Sarah Fischbach

In marketing, we often talk about product, price, place and promotion when it comes to the elements of the marketing mix used to help decision makers assess their product against the competition for a successful launch in the marketplace.

One of the areas of the marketing mix that has been experiencing a major shift in the last 10 years is place, specifically the idea of traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.

This shift has impacted large retailers such as Staples, Bebe and JCPenney, which have been among a host of retail giants to announce store closures across North America.

The traditional brick-and-mortar stores are perishing due to the patterns of retail shopping, which are drawing consumers toward more online purchases. Non-store retailing — including automatic vending, direct retailing, internet retailing and direct marketing — gives the customer the opportunity to shop without visiting a traditional physical location.

Retailers are facing many challenges in dealing with internationalization and technological advances. They must face the paradigm shift of consumer-buying behavior. This evolving consumer mindset challenges retailers, both large and small, to consider new ways of engaging with consumers. As a result, product placement is erupting with new approaches and models to appeal to the values and behaviors of today’s consumers.

“Build it and they will come” is proving to be a costly and ineffective placement approach for retail business owners. “Location, location, location” was the cornerstone of the placement strategy for many retail chain developers in the past. However, recent headlines proclaim the crumbling of the traditional brick-and-mortar business model through the announcement of store closures on almost a daily basis. In the past year alone, retail giants Macy’s, Sears, CVS, The Limited, Staples and Sports Authority have been just a few of those shuttering stores. The once coveted high-traffic street corner location is becoming less appealing, creating new opportunities for product placement.

Online shopping and the practice of delivering unique shopping experiences to where consumers live and work have shifted the perception of what constitutes an effective retail shopping location.

In the marketing classes at California Lutheran University, faculty members work with students to develop these emerging new placement strategies. Working closing with the American Mobile Retail Association, students have developed distinctive business platforms that encompass a wide array of product and service categories including, but not limited to, food trucks, pet grooming, knife-sharpening services, grocery delivery, clothing boutiques, salon services, video gaming and even dental care. One of the key elements in the marketing mix is placement. From clothing boutiques to video-gaming party experiences to pet grooming to floral shops, the list of mobile retail truck shopping experiences continues to grow.

Developing product ideas beyond the mobile business experience with the same marketing plan elements is another area for opportunity. For example, delivery of product boxes ranging from children’s crafting projects (i.e. Kiwi Crate) to workplace fashion (i.e. Stitch Fix) to ingredients for dinner (i.e. Blue Apron) has manipulated the traditional element of placement. Students and other entrepreneurs can develop product box themed ideas and market their brand similar to the mobile business project marketing plan. When it comes to placement, it’s time to think outside the box.

• Sarah Fischbach has a doctorate in marketing and is an assistant professor at California Lutheran University.