The New Normal and the New Commerce Marketing | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

The New Normal and the New Commerce Marketing

February 23, 2021

By Paul P. Robinson


In a year of social distancing and incredible disruption the world of commerce has transformed at a pace not seen before. This needed revolution has positioned marketers doing commerce marketing — whether in shopper, digital, social, retail or e-commerce — in a more indispensable role and with greater visibility throughout the organization than ever before.

Over the past few years, the industry chatter has been about the changing consumer and shopper. We’ve seen many successful direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands get swallowed by some of the biggest names in retail, CPG, and others. Analogous to Moore’s Law in technology, the exponential growth of social media has been thundering along creating dramatic shifts in consumer consumption of brand’s and media creative. Privacy regulations have driven unprecedented consumer impact on the control and dissemination of consumers to marketing. But it took the pandemic for the immediacy on the bottom line to drive meaningful, tectonic shifts in the customer journey.

There was not a single 2020 marketing review or “Top Predictions for 2021” post or article in the past two months that failed to recognize this shift — it literally happened in front of our eyes. The ANA recently surveyed its members to better understand what is driving the shift, and the results reinforced this trend.

When asked to respond to a question about resource planning and investment toward the future of commerce, the results indicated that the pursuits were shifting in the next two years primarily toward e-commerce (third party, owned and through traditional retail channels) as well as DTC and social commerce. With the absence of in-person purchases, that was the immediate need of course. However the real long-term value comes from the data, the direct relationship and the critical learning that comes from the data and related analytics. This investment in data and analytics will continue to pay dividends exponentially and will penetrate the C-suite moving forward.


Beyond the practical needs for revenue replacement and purchase conversion within 2020, these efforts have exposed a much deeper intrinsic value to the extended benefit of how we drive commerce in the future. In a recent Commerce Marketing Committee meeting (January 2021) the discussion was specifically focused on these connected commerce moments. These moments were leveraged in a period void of the connections to humans that the world craved. And while these connections will evolve back to what we as humans are wired to crave, marketers have also been able to finally drive conversion and profitable interactions with meaningful digital connections that will only become more powerful in the coming decades.

What was more fascinating to hear from the various brands and agencies in attendance was that regardless of the size or stage of the product or brand, the ability to finally get all oars in the water working together relating to commerce was inspiring. For the first time, you could really appreciate the “one team, one dream” determination to break down silos, embrace the learning of new skills and the absorption without resistance of the new normal. Larger companies were successful in creating true omnichannel efforts with data and insights leading the charge. Smaller companies and emerging product lines were utilizing their precious resources with greater focus on test and learn that would lead directly and measurably toward the revenue growth needed to survive.

In the ANA survey, these shifts are predicted in a question looking forward to the distribution of revenue expected by channel in the next 2 years. The data still showed the incredible importance and continued presence of the traditional brick-and-mortar channel — even with some level of expected nominal decline. However, the areas where this learning and these efforts are starting to emerge, cumulatively are all moving to drive revenue. Given these areas are still emerging and have existed in an era of survival mode, likely with more conservative investments, it will be interesting to see how these estimated revenue numbers may shift and change in the coming year.


Clearly, 2020 was tipping point for so many cultural, sociological, and technical shifts in our society. There is a significant belief that these shifts were the match that may light a bonfire. Time will of course be the ultimate truth-teller. Marketing has always embraced the “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” mentality, and if early indications ring true, we are in for a period of incredible opportunity in the world of commerce marketing. At the end of the day, it’s all about driving growth, either via retail, e-commerce, m-commerce, direct-to-consumer, or other emerging methods of commerce. With the incredible industry response in 2020 — and the early indicators pointing in the right direction — the future is finally now.

More about the Commerce Marketing Committee: This committee focuses on the blending of consumer and shopper insights, driving growth via retail, e-commerce, m-commerce, direct-to-consumer, or any method of commerce experienced by a company/brand. With this expanded scope, our goal is to engage members in any industry. Please contact me if you’re interested in learning more about the Commerce Marketing Committee, the resources the ANA has to offer or just to geek out on all things commerce.

The ANA Brand Activation Conference series begins on April 20, with the 2021 Experiential, Content & Commerce Marketing Virtual Conference. For more information or to register, please click here.

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