Shopper marketing consultancies are keen to prove their worth in this role but amid all the smoke and noise, it is easy to lose sight of what such a simple phrase really means.
First off, shopper marketing is not sales promotion with a new name – It is a discipline that requires companies to raise their game. Shopper marketing is about influencing shopper behaviour. The purpose is to turn shoppers into buyers and a large part of that challenge lies in interpreting above the line messages in stores. The interpretation is key – simply repeating an above the line message ad nauseum, can mean a message is lost or filtered out. I liken this to going on a dinner date with a very attractive companion, who makes a bright and perceptive point within the first five minutes, then goes on about it all night like a stuck record. A similar effect is achieved by taking a witty line from an ad campaign and smearing it over every piece of cardboard available, until shoppers are bored stiff.
We are all familiar with the claim that 70% of purchasing decisions are made in store, but this figure is misleading and inaccurate. If it were ever true, it could only pertain to one category, in one store and one particular time. Learning how decisions really occur opens up a world of opportunity.
The reality is that it varies enormously between categories. We use different frames of mind when buying toothpaste, a gift, a television, or chocolate – yet all might be purchased in the same shop, even on the same visit. We shop differently when grabbing food to eat at lunchtime, then when at the weekend and again differently if we are purchasing from a forecourt or a large supermarket.
It is essential to recognise that shoppers change constantly. A ‘one size fits all’ communication strategy does not work. The problem for many brands is to admit that is never has. Shopper marketing is the science of finding the right message for the right moment. To become a shopper marketing specialist, existing consultancies must do more than add a phrase to their logo. Shopper marketing requires deep, upstream thinking. A shopper marketing consultancy must consider the shoppers mission in the store – including what they already know about the retailer in question and the brands on sale. The fruit of this knowledge should not be a cardboard display, but an entire toolbox to help a brand communicate with shoppers.
So communication for Diet Coke, drunk mainly by women, will be pitched in a different way, in different places, to Coke Zero which is favoured by young men. The latter might be highlighted by ads on petrol pumps, which the audience might visit in the course of their working day, while Diet Coke could be highlighted more effectively next to the meal deals in a Boots store. Both messages would be different to those used for either product in a supermarket or fast food chain.
To work effectively, shopper marketing must involve clients at the highest level, as a shopper marketing programme should reach to the heart of a company. Data analysis and customer profiling has a direct impact on product segmentation, even on the portfolio of products produced. That can’t be done via individual departments on an ad hoc basis.
Alongside the insight and scientific analysis that are pre-requisites of a shopper marketing consultancy, it is imperative to offer top-level creativity. Insight and analysis are essential, but if they are not converted into strategic creative vision, the exercise can become purely academic. If there is one thing retailing cannot afford to be, it is academic.
That is just one reason why shopper marketing is exciting and why it is catching the attention of clients. The whole vibrant retail industry is about action and effective shopper marketing allows brands to take part in that action with the tools they need to convert shoppers into buyers.
CEO, Vivid Brand