DTC Era   /   December 21, 2021

The Modern Retail Dictionary, 2021 edition: The hottest (and most meaningless) brand buzzwords, explained

Another year, another look back at linguistic trends.

If there’s one thing marketers, founders and VCs alike all love, it’s buzzwords. And it has certainly been a banner year for buzzwords. Investors known for evangelizing direct-to-consumer brands turned their crosshairs to Web3; but what does that even mean? We at Modern Retail are happy you asked!

The Modern Retail editorial team has spent hours — or at least many minutes — translating the hippest buzzwords plaguing retail right now. In the vein of our dictionaries from years past, we pored over press releases, reviewed earnings transcripts, interrogated sources — all to answer the ever-persistent question: ‘Huh?’ We put this all together below in our updated Modern Retail Dictionary.

In this robust (though, admittedly, not exhaustive) glossary of industry lingo, we aim to provide a lens into the turning tides of the brand and retailer landscape. From omnichannel to iOS14 to NFT, below is our attempt at explaining all the things you read on Twitter but were too lazy to look up. Enjoy!

15-minute delivery: A way for New Yorkers to get their groceries for free for a month by using 20 different promo codes 

Art Basel: New CES

Casper: He who shall not be named

Clubhouse: An app that hasn’t been opened since March 

Collaboration: Instagram giveaway 

Commitment: A vague promise that won’t need to be fulfilled until a decade from now

Container ships: What we’re blaming every back-end hiccup on

Covid safe: We installed a hand sanitizer dispenser

Creator: Someone with a big Instagram following and a Ring light 

Curated assortment: Here’s five products from my friends’ companies 

Customer centric: We held one (1) focus group

Discord: The next soon-to-be-uncool (read: cheugy) platform

Diversification: We’re running TV ads now

Drop model: We’re trying to be Supreme 

E-commerce spinoff: The latest strategy get rich quick scheme invented by PE

Experiential retail: How we defend our brick and mortar locations not being profitable 

First-party data: Our website pesters you nonstop until you give us your email address

Ghost kitchens: The back of a restaurant, but make it VC-backable 

Headless commerce: A way for developers to charge more 

IDFA: A thing to blame all of our customer acquisition troubles on 

Inflation: The thing we keep talking about so customers will be slightly less angry when we raise our prices in January

iOS 14: The excuse marketers are giving higher-ups so that they keep their jobs

Limited edition: Literally every new product we release

Livestream shopping: QVC redux

Loyalty program: Our customer retention strategy 

Marketplace: Our current e-commerce strategy isn’t working 

Metaverse: A meaningless term invented by Mark Zuckerberg and adopted by marketers

New normal: We refuse to say “Covid” 

NFT: A JPEG, with a Discord group 

Omnichannel: We finally implemented curbside pickup!

Omnipresence: The new omnichannel 

Operator: Someone who worked at one startup and won’t shut up about it 

Partnership: We put out a press release together 

Peloton: Either PR geniuses or PR pariahs, depending on what day it is

Preorder model: Our supply chain is still seriously messed up 

Profitability: “Eventually!” said every DTC start-up who IPOed this year

Retail media: How we convince investors that we’re actually a tech company, not a retailer

Roll-up company: The latest investment trend for VCs that are hoping will actually turn a quick buck

Same-day delivery: We are desperate for you to stop shopping on Amazon

Shop-in-shop: A bigger end-cap 

Shopper journey: Bombarding people with Instagram ads until they buy 

SMS strategy: No one is opening our emails anymore 

Supply chain issues: Why you may not get your new iPhone before next year

Sustainability: A new thing we’re mentioning in all of our marketing materials that has also always been core to our company since day one

TikTok: The thing we desperately want to build a proper ad platform so we can stop using Facebook so much 

Two-year stack: We grew too much in 2020 and don’t want to talk about it

Web3: The latest thing consumer investors will conveniently forget about one year from now

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