A Personalized Future, with Mike Barclay of MoEngage

Personalization in marketing is nothing new; since the dawn of the internet, brands have been able to customize messaging to specific groups or even individuals. However, we haven’t always used this engagement superpower for good. Many brands have been guilty of getting a little too personal and creeping out their customers in the process. But today’s guest says there’s a bright future for personalization as a cornerstone to modern marketing. Mike Barclay of MoEngage joined the pod to discuss the highs and lows of personalization, and what brands born before the dawn of the internet can do to get in on the personalization game.

> See all episodes
Marketers in the Metaverse of Madness: VR, Crypto, Communities, Gaming, Ecommerce, and More Converge

Media channels, and the ways in which marketers have used them, have always evolved. Marketers can access consumers where they are in more and more places online presently – from social media, gaming, online communities, and simple ecommerce transactions. The rapid development of virtual and augmented reality, however, has opened up a door beyond all of these: Consumers are now, via avatars (yes, just like the movie), experiencing entire virtual worlds that are also constantly developing. Marketers have an opportunity to incorporate all of the channels they were already reaching consumers at within these worlds, converging them all into one fully realized alternate reality – what’s now being called the “metaverse.” The resources collected here explore just what the metaverse entails, how brands can take advantage of them, and some examples of marketers who have already dipped their toe in these unchartered waters:

> See all issues
Pulse Issue 31

Light at the End of the Tunnel: How Dark Stores and Micro-Fulfillment Centers are Revolutionizing the Retail Supply Chain

July 2021

By Josch Chodakowsky, Senior Manager, Research & Innovation at Ask the Expert
By Josch Chodakowsky, Research Manager at Ask the Expert
As the well-worn proverb says, “necessity is the mother of invention,” the pandemic hit retail spaces particularly hard, pushing consumers to use ecommerce more as social and safety protocols increased. While there may be more stores open now, shoppers have found that the convenience and speed when ordering items online is invaluable even long after the protocols have gone. 
To take advantage of this, retailers have turned parts or all of their spaces into “dark stores,” which act much the same way a warehouse or fulfillment center would. The opportunity then arises for retailers to not only leverage a wealth of direct consumer data from these types of transactions, but also provide greater personalization and localization services. This itself sets off a bevy of offers and angles from which to engage their customers. The resources here discuss the dark store trend and how it will affect the future of retailing.
The challenge for retailers is that consumer expectations for omnichannel continue to evolve, and competitive differentiation is becoming harder to achieve. To truly meet customer needs and to do so profitably, brands are looking to provide omnichannel flexibility and scalability at the local level. But this, in effect, means rethinking fulfillment from start to finish. Chain Store Age describes the five steps needed to make this happen:
  • Learn from the Future: Advanced/predictive analytics, as well as internal and third-party data sources, are key to forecasting demand, the impact of changing customer behaviors, and shifting market dynamics.
  • Reconfigure the Network: This focuses on leveraging distribution centers, micro-fulfillment centers, partial dark stores, dark stores, and more. There will be no one-size-fits-all solution, with a variety of set-ups required to handle different volumes, order patterns and service requirements.
  • Update Inventory Management: Inventory powered by analytics solutions that model consumers’ probable spending patterns are needed to ensure retailers have the inventory they need for rapid fulfillment.
  • Reimagining Delivery and the Last Mile: Gig economy delivery services or in-house “mini gig economy” operations will increase to meet demand. Greener transport solutions, multi-tenant fulfillment hubs, and customers themselves can even be part of the solution if given the right incentives  — and if retailers can offer more convenient pick-up options.
  • Partner Up: Partnerships will span areas including on-demand warehousing and new options for transportation and last-mile delivery. Technology providers also have a key role to play, developing specialist solutions such as order management systems and carrier management tools.
Few retailers can hope to grow, or even survive today, without the ability to sell through ecommerce channels. Supply chains are continually disrupted by container shortages, a lack of air freight capacity, and movement restrictions implemented by governments to combat the pandemic. 


How have retailers fared in the online and traditional sales environments during all this turmoil? Some have hit on the right strategies and are thriving, while others struggle. This shares examples of the highs and lows of online and in-store retail that enterprises have endured between late 2019 and early 2021, and highlights some of the most notable changes in the retail supply chain arena during that period.
Initially, brick-and-mortar storefronts went dark due to social restrictions and less foot traffic. It was a way for retailers to boost their e-commerce sites and get their products into customers’ hands. It’s no secret that online shopping skyrocketed during the pandemic, with existing and new customers ordering everything from groceries to home essentials to be delivered to their homes.  Dark stores were most helpful during the holiday shopping season when companies faced daunting shipping demands and long delivery times. Running a dark store enabled retailers to get items to customers in a timely matter and build loyalty.
Major supermarket chains including Kroger, Walmart, and H-E-B have started micro-fulfillment center (MFC) projects, tapping automation companies that offer robotic, high-density storage and picking systems. These can be placed inside of a store, or in a so-called “dark store” that fulfills online orders for a compact geographic area. Micro-fulfillment can be thought of as putting advanced automation right into the back of stores or in dark stores to rapidly meet the need for same-day fulfillment, especially in the grocery sector.
Grocery sales exploded in 2020 — thanks to restaurant closure and people increasingly ordering their goods online. Now, as the world returns to normal, grocers are hoping to use ghost kitchen to convince shoppers they should buy prepared food in additional to daily necessities. Both Walmart and Kroger’s ghost kitchens will let shoppers order pre-made meals and have them ready for pick-up in the stores or via their own delivery program.


Are you an ANA member with a research request? Contact Ask the Expert to submit your question.

About ANA Marketing Futures

Knowing that marketers are increasingly challenged in their efforts to keep up with the latest trends and technologies, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) tasked itself with creating a program designed to help marketers anticipate—and prepare for—the future of marketing.


ANA Marketing Futures is what emerged. With a focus on innovative topics and emerging trends, ANA Marketing Futures provides resources that will influence and inform via member cases, research studies, and insight from industry innovators. Check back often to learn about emerging trends and become inspired to take steps toward the growth of your business.


Copyright © 2021 Association of National Advertisers-established in 1910


10 Grand Central

155 E 44th Street

New York, NY 10017

Phone: 212.697.5950

Email: marketingfutures@ana.net