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The Modern Retail Dictionary, 2023 edition: The real meanings behind the most popular industry buzzwords

Retail is an industry laden with jargon. Luckily, Modern Retail is here to explain what it all means.

In the fifth edition of our yearly look back at the most popular (and meaningless) words in the industry, we tried our best to explain why executives are saying what they’re saying.

From Shein and Temu being the reason for every brand’s woes to generative AI taking up space in every press release, Modern Retail has you covered. Below, we decipher the buzzwords of the past year. Let’s hope we can retire a few of these in the months to come.

Affiliate marketing: We bug publishers to post about our products.

AI: We’re using a chatbot now.

Authenticity: Our ad copy doesn’t use capital letters.

Barbie collab: We launched a pink-colored product this summer.

Brand collaborations: We’re slapping another brand’s logo on a product.

Community: The comments on Instagram.

Community-led: Instagram surveys.

Composable commerce: Only five CTOs actually understand why this is different from headless, but we’ve told our marketing team to talk about it a lot.

Creator-led: We gave an influencer some equity.

Decarbonize: We now use ocean freight.

First-party data: We have a quiz on our website.

Full-funnel: We think we can get people to purchase via a QR code on a TV ad.

Funflation: People got tired of buying stuff.

Gen Alpha: Gen Z but somehow scarier.

Generative AI: Our press releases were written by ChatGPT.

Innovation: Literally any idea anyone has had ever.

Investing in content: We’re posting more TikTok videos.

iOS 14: We’re still blaming it for all our troubles.

Loyalty program: Our way of getting more of your data.

Meet the customers where they are: Our Pavlovian response to when anyone asks why we’re no longer purely DTC.

Mobile-first: We send customers a minimum of five texts a day with no clear way of opting out.

Multi-channel: Fine, we sell on Amazon now.

Optimized for mobile: Don’t even try to load our webpage on a desktop. 

Personalization: Our emails call you by your first name.

Premiumization: We’re trying to rebrand inflation as a luxury item.

Profitability: Don’t ask us about our finances last month.

Rebrand: Not enough young people shop with us.

Reels: A place that also houses our TikTok content.

Renaissance: The way for a creative director to not have to think up new ideas.

Rizz: Our marketing team says we have to use this word in all of our TikToks.

Shein: Our explanation to investors for why sales weren’t great this year.

Sustainability: There’s an official-looking badge at the bottom of our website.

Temu: See above entry for Shein.

Test and learn: We didn’t fail! We were just having some fun!

Third-party cookies: Marketers’ petroleum – they shouldn’t be using them but will until they’re forced not to.

Thought leader: Our founder likes to post on LinkedIn.

User-generated content: We’re letting other people do the work for us.

Web3: Something we don’t talk about anymore.

X: If you see us advertising here, something has gone awry. 

Zero waste: Our packaging can be composted (maybe).