Shopper Marketing: De-bunking the urban myth

Firstly let’s be controversial… most Shopper Marketing undertaken by a brand should be inspired and informed by a Category Vision / Strategy.

Yes, it can be brand activation inspired by brand insights or brand collateral, but either way, it needs to have an identified consumption and shopper behaviour change. It needs to be aligned to both the category and your organisation’s growth agenda, (or at least the latter). Why would you have a clear growth agenda and then not align your activities to it? We will assume that each growth opportunity has a clear target in terms of behaviour change, a clear understanding of where we are now and where we think we can get to.

Another controversial point, Byron Sharpe believes that driving penetration, i.e. achieving more shoppers, should be the only objective, but we shouldn’t forget appealing to existing shoppers.

So what is needed to deliver excellent shopper marketing?

As mentioned above, we need to start with a definite source of inspiration, and this can be your category vision/drivers/strategies and tactics, a brand initiative, a JBP or channel plan.

You then need a process that efficiently helps you to identify the best activation plan to deliver for your source of inspiration. We use a six-step process that starts with your motivation.

The second step is to consider who we are targeting – why they are buying (need/occasion), who they are buying for, where they purchase (channel/mission), where we can influence them. We also should consider how we will create value – what is our single objective with a clear set of metrics? Where are we now and where we think we can get to.

A key point is then to consider triggers and barriers to purchase along the whole path to purchase. This will inform the proposition that we develop. What will cause the shopper to drop out of the conversion funnel and what do we need to overcome to keep them engaged? Where are the barriers along the funnel? Does the shopper ‘consider’ our category and do they ‘see’ our category? Do they ‘buy’ our category? What will help the shopper to connect with our category and our brands? What are the needs and occasions we are fulfilling? What will make it easy for the shopper to find and engage with the category / our brands? What do we need to do to help shoppers to make their final selection? Understanding how to overcome the barrier is vital and what would trigger a purchase. What shopper insights do we have available to inform this step? Do we need to commission more?

Next, we need to create an activation plan. In olden days (as my daughter calls it), life was simpler. There were a limited number of touchpoints that could influence the shopper. These days thanks to technology and access, this has exploded. But all touchpoints are not equal, which ones are relevant for your target shopper and objective? Which ones do you have ownership of and which ones will you have to buy into? Which ones do your customers own? It is about choosing the right tools for the job. Let’s not forget the need to be consistent in look, feel and messaging. At every point of connection, the shopper and consumer should see continuity. Again it is about being targeted and precise, as resources are limited – choices need to be made.

Once we have a plan, we need to consider customers. Are we going to customise our approach? Why do we need to consider customers? Because in many cases they will act as a filter for our activation, as well as owning some of the touchpoints we may want to include in our plan. Do we need to add a communication plan with customers? What will ensure great implementation, so we achieve our objectives? What are the barriers to implementation? How do we minimise these?

Once the activity is in progress, we need to consider implementation. Have we achieved what we had planned for? If not, is there anything we can do now, to improve this, before the activity has finished? Then when the event has ended, we need to track how the activity performed, and if it didn’t deliver what we were expecting, why not? Did we get the activation plan away? Did we get the feature/display to the level as expected? Were we in the number of stores we planned to activate?

For an activity to deliver the best returns, we need to focus on:

  • Who are the right shoppers (strategic for the brand/category/retailer)?
  • What are the right behaviours to target?
  • What is the right equity / message (for the brand / category / retailer)?
  • What is the right brand/pack (format)?
  • Which are the right touchpoints and mechanics (including customer specific marketing tools)?
  • What is the right look and feel for activation?

Delivering for shoppers/consumers/customers requires both art and science.  clear growth agenda and a desire to deliver against that agenda will lead to growth.