Thought Leadership - Sharing insights

Shopper Marketing based social selling for brands

Relationships matter

Sometimes we forget that the hard yards count for something.

Yesterday I received an unexpected email from Tim Hughes who along with Adam Gray and Alexander Low is part of Digital Leadership Associates. This team are at the forefront of social selling globally.

Tim’s email asked me to review an article he had written based on a conversation we had had some weeks ago. I was very humbled and flattered take a look.

One Wednesday over a coffee, Tim, Adam and I chatted about the dynamics of the grocery marketplace, the role supermarkets and big box formats had played in shaping our parents and grandparents shopping habits from the 60’s to 2000’s.

We talked about category management and shopper marketing and the need to understand digital along the path to purchase. We talked about how language evolves all the time. The internet used to be e-commerce, then it becomes omnichannel now that discipline has morphed into digital in CPG.

We talked about the economics of the CPG industry, the casualties, the areas of growth and the communication challenges brands were facing today.

I explained that when Christine Edwards and I started Big River Solutions back in 2004, we understood that for brands to be successful they had to demonstrate connected thinking between the consumer, the shopper and the customer. Christine and I knew then, that the time would come when the brand would have to work hard emotionally engaging with the consumer, anticipating shopper behaviour and future proofing the category for the customer.

Over a second coffee Tim, Adam and I reminisced about our childhoods and how our parents still influence our shopping habits today. As for today’s consumers, we influence our partners as to what brands we prefer. It’s the same in any partnership irrespective of age, culture or upbringing. We teach each other what is acceptable to us as individuals or as a group.

As a child of the 60’s I was heavily influenced by the brands my mother bought. They were trusted and perceived to be a necessity for strong family values. Shopping every other day was normal and taking your own shopping bags to the grocery store was essential.

By the 70’s the weekly shop had become part of our family weekend routine. Every Saturday we went shopping. It took hours. It was a bun fight. At the check-outs kids were sent to find big empty brown boxes to fill with the family purchases. The big boxes would then be filled with the weeks shopping and carried to the car. There were inevitable breakages and on Saturdays, you were lucky to survive the broken egg slide that had been created by midday, just by the entrance. Health and Safety was not even a dream.

We never saw a plastic or paper bag, or a complimentary cup of coffee. What we saw more often was 20 to 30-minute queues at the check-out as we all waited for the boxes to be packed by the family in front. People got married, had children and died in those queues.

By the 80’s shoppers were on a roll. The home freezer was a household essential. Preferably a chest freezer stored in the garage. Everything was frozen. Every meal came from the freezer. Every meal was planned. Wednesday it was burger and chips. On Saturdays, it was ice cream whilst watching Through the Keyhole, Surprise Surprise and Noel’s House Party. All on four channels.

In the 90’s we have Beaujolais days, Psion computers and a PC in well-off houses. The weekly shop was still happening but the chest freezer had been replaced by bigger fridges and ingredients to make stuff. Growth came from ready-made meals and we ate out more. Fast food, TGI Fridays and Pizza Hut were big.

At the turn of the century, we were obsessed with big-box supermarkets. Getting everything under one roof including estate agents, cars, insurance, mobile phones and a bar of chocolate. Every World Cup saw a massive rise in the purchase of TV and beer. By then the thing was to have was a TV in every room in the house.

Then 2007 came along and the money ran out. Shoppers had to economise. We saw the rise of the discounters and Amazon. Our shopping habits changed. The consumer started to take back control and the need to see what was is available in the store was and still is, in decline.

And this is where Big River Solutions and Digital Leadership Associates have a part to play in the category management and shopper marketing story. Brands need shelf space or conversation space. Brands need social selling time. Fashions come and go because shoppers are instinctively competitive. Only the strongest survive. It’s in our DNA.

Social selling is the new game in town. A consumer in Japan can influence someone in LA, who can promote to someone in London.

Quick stat – it took 68 years before there were 50 million airline passengers in the world. It took 19 days for pokemon to reach 50 million users source – Visual Capitalist.

New brands, disruptive brands and legacy brands have to fight for our attention. With the decline in TV advertising and an increase in solo screen time and with the speed of influence growing, brands can succeed even before they are born. The emotional global fishbowl that we all now live in, allows companies like Zara to thrive whilst New Look fails. Both have the same business model but one started in Franco’s Spain in 1975 has spent 42 years getting there and the other is loaded with debt source: Reuters.

Aldi and Lidl might be new to the UK but both started in very humble circumstances in war-torn Germany. Aldi in Essen in 1946 where two brothers had to fight farmers for their produce, literally.  In 1930 Lidl was a fruit and vegetable wholesaler that was destroyed during the war years. After the war Lidl rebuilt. Today both companies have approximately 10,000 stores each globally.

Both grew their businesses, by serving locally and then moving to the next town. Both are now cash rich, family owned and independent.

This is another area in which social selling can help. Here is the oxymoron. Although the internet is a global communications platform, it has the ability to reach every eyeball locally to you, wherever you are in the world.

If you are a food manufacturer making dermatological child-friendly skin care sun creams and hand creams in Hampshire, UK, with the internet you have a global supply chain, sales and marketing communications channel, free at the point of access. The cost comes when the item has been sold. The investment and risk are in NPD.

Today, however, the cost of entry is lower than at any other time in history but the rewards potentially higher…if you can cut through the noise. All you need is a global retail platform and a product that has strong consumer values and you’re off.

Today the internet ‘shouts a great deal’. Everyone is focused on “data”, “the story”, “the attributes”. Not many are focused on “the conversation”, “the pitch”, “the consumer relationship”. Data is only a part of the mission. There are many brands out there drowning in data and failing to grow.

Legacy brands, laden with institutional finance are having to acquire and consolidate the supply chain and head offices to reduce cost and return shareholder value. Many have developed incubator units to find the next innovative brand. It’s in this area that shopper marketing based social selling can help.

Retailers and food manufacturers are acquiring or expanding to remain relevant to the consumer, but they have to do more to survive.  As a shopper, I don’t care about your price or clever marketing. I care about legacy, provenance, convenience and my health. I care about myself. What conversation are you having with me today?


David EdwardsAbout the Author:

David Edwards co-founded Big River Solutions with his wife Christine in 2004 to address the emerging relationship between CPG technology, operational practice and process within category management and shopper marketing disciplines. Traditionally a siloed community with any CPG organisation,  David believes category management and shopper marketing value should be central to any client consumer engagement program.

Since its formation, the Big River team has become a trusted advisor to many clients across Europe and North America. Latterly, the Big River team has extended to Africa and Australasia. Next stop the Far East!

For an informal chat in the first instance email David on +44 1189 326 875


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