Commentary

How To Succeed At Shopper Marketing By Really Trying

Saying shopper marketing should be fully integrated and strategic is easy. Making it happen is a different story.

The ANA released the findings of a study last week conducted with research firm Gfk to examine the next generation of shopper marketing. Its purpose has evolved far beyond the “get ’em in the store and capture the impulse buy” formerly known as POP advertising.

We shop everywhere today — online, in brick-and-mortar stores, by phone and even mail. But the intentions and shopping stage are different at each touchpoint and the bigger mandate of shopper marketing is motivating behavior. Some $18.64 billion will be spent doing that by 2020, according to the ANA/PQ Media Brand Activation Forecast.

How must the organization evolve to make this happen? It helps when shopper marketing reports into the marketing department rather than sales and 53% of the research respondents say theirs does. Some 17% have created a shopper marketing manager or department within the past three years.

Sarah Gleason, SVP for shopper and retail strategy at Gfk, says one key to harmonious orchestration of the functions involved is to appreciate and understand the requirements of everyone’s role.

“Does brand fully appreciate that shopper marketing is about bringing brand and category solutions to life at the local level?” she asks, whether it’s through mobile, the Web site or onsite. “Does brand fully appreciate what the objectives of the retailer are that you’re trying to partner with?

“Back in the day there was a toolkit and your salesperson could go to the retailer and say, ‘We have a program. Program X. Program Y. What do you want to choose from? Shopper marketing is grounded in the understanding of the whole person as a shopper. Understand who is the shopper at Walmart and why are they going to Walmart vs. Kroger.”

Closer To Brand Marketing Than Sales
So what shopper marketers are doing now is more like traditional brand marketing — understanding consumer needs and behaviors and speaking to those needs.

While purchase data has long existed through shopper loyalty cards and other programs, this doesn’t mean retailers are sharing it with brands. And what consumers are doing vs. why they’re doing it are not the same thing. More research is needed, the study recommends.

Tension remains between marketing and sales — where sales is tempted to drop price to move volume. “Shopper marketing ends up playing a bridge role in trying to find the sweet spot that delivers a win for the category and brand,” Gleason says.

Gleason has witnessed smaller organizations succeed by bringing brand, sales and finance together, even if they can’t afford one dedicated shopper marketing exec. It works because they’re all communicating at the same table.

For bigger organizations, that is impractical.

“You’ve got to get really clear on the roles and responsibilities,” Gleason says. “Where are the communications connections between those so not everyone is sitting at every meeting. Another practice is to include shopper marketing programming as part of the annual strategic planning process.”

Companies that sell fast-moving consumer goods are further up the learning curve because the decision process for the purchase is less complex if you’re buying a can of peas vs. consumer electronics, she says.

Consumer electronics is a rapidly emerging category for shopper marketing and there are different levels of complexity. The amount of research that goes into buying a washer/dryer is different than earbuds, and so is the money spent. Identifying messaging for each stage requires research.

What’s the best way to get at these behavioral insights? Different ways of shopping require different approaches. There’s literally companion shopping and watching what a shopper does, eye-tracking, online community blogs and online surveys. Online tracking lets you understand what is happening in the online purchase path — where did the shoppers go before they came to your store, where do they go next, what competitive sites did they visit?

Mobile, Gleason believes, is still more of a shopping research tool than a point of purchase because of the screen size. 

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