Shopper Marketing â is it all itâs cracked up to be? | DMA

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Shopper Marketing â is it all itâs cracked up to be?


Shopper Marketing has been defined as “Driving sales through something other than price”. Numerous other versions of this definition amount to more or less the same thing. But are they really achieving this goal?

In practice, rather than sparing brands from price promotion, Shopper Marketing has become one of the principal means by which news of these deals is delivered.

Significant sums are now spent annually under the Shopper banner which amount to retailer media plans delivering Half Price, 1/3rd off, BOGOF discount messages at or close to the point of purchase.

And the specific role played by Shopper Marketing? Well, in reality, differentiation by customer media is often as far as it goes.

Unsurprisingly, many people who’ve heard all the hype now want to know: where is the gain?

The great new hope or yet another false dawn?

The below-the-line space has always suffered from a perception as the blunt tool of the marketing mix. When it arrived, Shopper Marketing held the promise of something more substantial, more cerebral.

Heralded by FMCG icons such as P&G and necessitated by the increasing dominance of retail Customers and challenging relationships, its value shifted from questionable to unarguable.

Businesses began to restructure their human and financial resources to accommodate "Shopper teams". Global FMCG players opened up cutting edge research and collaboration centres, and 'Shopper insight' became a highly desirable new commodity.

One way or another, most FMCG businesses got in on the act, with a belief they would transform their sales and Customer fortunes.

Several years on and many are now wondering what all the fuss was about. A new name, some new faces, but where are the results?

So, what went wrong?

Despite all the industry and investment, the brave new world, which sounded so exciting, has proven much harder to reach in practice.

The primary reason for this is simply that many businesses have failed to use it correctly. Over the past few years a number of tell-tale signs have emerged that separate those businesses truly set up for Shopper success from those going through the motions.

Does your business really value Shopper Marketing?

This is not about the number of people who sit within the Shopper team, or even how much money it invests. It’s a case of ensuring everyone understands and appreciates the role and value Shopper can play in the business’s success, and affording it a fair opportunity to contribute at both a strategic and executional level alongside other functions. Where this has not been identified and communicated, people naturally default to the past, seeing it as an ancillary activation service to other departments.

Do your initiatives have an irrefutable Shopper need at their core?

Not some familiar Shopper snippets, but the kind of incisive emotional imperatives that can penetrate a shopper’s reflective mind and motivate them to select a premium brand over a cheaper alternative. Experience shows you can't cheat this and still expect to deliver the numbers, yet initiatives are commonly built upon assumptions because insight has become something people feel they can imagine for themselves.

Is your Customer fully engaged and on-board?

It stands to reason that the more brand, retailer and shopper agendas are connected, the greater the opportunity for engagement and Shopper action. Collaboration between Brand and Customer is therefore surely implicit, or at the very least, extraordinarily helpful.

However, too many initiatives are still developed with limited connection to retail partners. This stems from the misperception of Shopper as a purely activation resource and an inability to see the possibilities beyond pure ‘Brand out’ communication.

Going it alone with a Brand in Shopper media is an understandable intent. But without super-budgets, activations can be costly, short-lived and often without the required levels of impact or disruption to make a commercial return.

A fully engaged Customer has the ability to influence the impact, scale and longevity of any initiative. It pays dividends to get them meaningfully on-board.

Do you have an unarguable commercial case?

There are graveyards of really interesting ideas that simply never made it to the Shopper because at some point in their development your boss, the Finance Director, a Buyer, member of the pos committee or whoever, raised an objection and the project lacked the commercial imperative to ensure it stayed its course.

There are few elements of marketing that can so directly link action to purchase reaction as Shopper. To forego this at either the planning or measurement stage is to miss a chance to make the strongest case.

“Driving sales through something other than price”

This remains as good a Shopper Marketing mantra as any currently around.

Research has shown us that we can now see into the minds and need-states of people as shoppers in order to better understand, target, plan, create, tailor, design, disrupt and inspire ideas to meet their needs. But how often is this happening? How often is Shopper Marketing given, or giving itself, the best chance of success?

Ultimately, to succeed in generating material change, businesses must first fully embrace change.

Yes, Shopper Marketing is a new name with a similar intent to the past, but the tools and measurement at our disposal are better than ever. They can greatly increase our chances of commercial success in this far more competitive market place. We should be sure to use them.

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