It’s moving time for this blog and I am excited to announce that I’ve launched a new and improved personal website at www.mikeanthony.me.
Going forwards, all future blogs will be posted on www.mikeanthony.me, so please check it out and even subscribe if you’d like to get every post delivered right to your inbox. I promise not to spam you and your email address will only be used for the purposes of notifying you of updated posts and very occasional special offers.
If you are already a subscriber to this blog you will need to resubscribe to the new site to keep on receiving any post updates. It’s been great having you follow and participate in posts over the past year or so and I would love to have you join me over at the new site too.
The new site contains additional information about myself and engage. It also provides better opportunities for us to connect, share and discuss the goings-on in the world of shopper marketing and customer management.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.
“Puppies are not for Christmas, they are for life… “
An old adage, but one that springs to mind when I think about shopper marketing. Shopper marketers have many opportunities to create exciting campaigns; but it isn’t the big, dazzling ‘one-offs’ that best represent the relationship between a brand and a shopper. The shopper-brand relationship isn’t a steamy “one night stand” – it’s more akin to an old married couple who are comfortable with each other. Shopper marketers need to ensure that they are up to serving their target market week in, week out.
The shopper-brand relationship is one built up from many tiny interactions, and the most important part of that relationship? Shoppers don’t always want to be excited, thrilled, or even engaged. What they really want, is not to be let down. And unfortunately marketers, customer managers, and retailers conspire to let down shoppers on a weekly basis. We forget, as we plan our campaigns, that it is what happens, day in day out, on the home shelf that really matters. As shopper marketers, we must be prepared to manage the minutiae of every day shopping, as that is what serves our target market best.
Good execution is only great if it’s consistent
A while back I blogged about a lovely in-store execution by Schwartz – the herbs and spice people. I loved this execution because it seemed to me to go to the heart of what shopper marketing is: a smart marketing mix designed to change shopping behavior in a way that also drives incremental consumption. That was then. Recently I returned to the aisles of Sainsbury, that same retailer, and was confronted with this: badly managed, badly maintained, and just plain awful. How many shopper impressions did this create? I suspect that this creates more ‘standout’ on shelf than the original execution – creating plenty of awareness but perhaps not the engagement or brand impact that was designed. Not sure what had happened, but somebody (or many people) had taken their eye off the ball.
Shoppers hit the shelves every week, and that means that what we present to them every week is critical.
What can we do to improve the chances of our shoppers not being let down when they get there?
The most important thing to a shopper is to be able to buy what they want to buy, when they want to buy it. Every campaign, every shelf layout, every promotion, must have availability metrics and checks built into it. If there is a chance that your activity may have an adverse effect on availability, then this needs to be planned for, or the activity should be dropped.
Go to stores
I’ve said it many times, but there really is no excuse for not spending time in-stores and seeing what shoppers see. You can never spend too much time in stores.
Invest in compliance checking.
If the activity is worth doing, it’s worth making sure it is done properly. If you don’t know what it is that confronts shoppers then it’s impossible to understand what is going on. Technology is bringing down the costs of compliance tracking all the time – consider what efforts you can make to ensure that what you envisaged and what shoppers actually see are actually the same thing.
Partner with retailers
Spending time in every store, every week isn’t going to be practical, and extensive compliance tracking is still going to be beyond the reach of many brands. But the retailer has people in the store every day of every week – and this execution has just as much negative impact on the retailer as it does on the brand in terms of image and shopper satisfaction. Engaging with retailers to ensure that the shoppers you share are served well should be part of your agenda.
Cut back on promotions
Promotions are the enemy of availability. They make forecasting harder, and they often create secondary stock points at retail making it harder to ascertain the actual stock at any one point. On store visits we regularly see that the majority of out of stocks are on promoted items.
Maintain and sustain
If there is a permanent installation (as with Schwartz) then it needs funds and people to audit, maintain and sustain it. If that isn’t built into your budget, then the activity should be culled.
Clean up after yourself
For temporary installations, then there needs to be a plan to clean up. If you can’t afford to maintain a display properly, then take it down. Plan to put things back where they were. Tidy up. Don’t disappoint those shoppers you’ve just wooed.
Our goal as marketers is to build, sustain and maintain long relationships with our target shoppers and consumers. If we are to make that happen, we need to be consistent and deliver what we promise day in and day out. If we can’t do that, we really don’t deserve them in the first place, do we?
Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will know that I’m a passionate supporter of the shopper marketing cause, so you can imagine my discomfort when I read a recent article in Adweek which, in its opening line, suggested that shopper marketing wasn’t “sexy”. I will confess it riled me a little and then it got me thinking. Is it that shopper marketing simply isn’t sexy, or is it more that shopper marketing has a bit of an image problem?
Can shopper marketing be sexy?
On one level it depends on what you mean by sexy, and it depends on what your benchmark is. True, there are many parts of the shopper marketing world that are far from sexy: crunching data, lots of cardboard in stores; but couldn’t that be said of most marketing jobs? Advertising shoots in the Caribbean are sexy; eighteen hour shifts in a digital studio signing off the final copy is, in my humble opinion, far from sexy.
And how about the work that Tesco have done in Korea? Creating a virtual online store in subway stations (and a cool video to promote it) – that’s pretty sexy. And Old Spice, with their fabulous “Smell Like a Man” campaign: that’s TV and YouTube viral marketing all rolled into one, and most certainly targeted at the shopper. What’s not sexy about that? It seems to me that, as in any marketing world, shopper marketing has its share of drudgery and drear, but also has its share of pizazz and glamour too.
Shopper Marketing has an image problem
So if shopper marketing is as sexy as any other type of marketing, then perhaps it has an image problem. Perhaps shopper marketing needs a makeover. And to be honest, if you were the brand manager for shopper marketing, you’d probably be polishing your resume now, as you are about to be fired.
Whilst shopper marketing has done a fabulous job on driving awareness, brand comprehension is still poor. Many practitioners still muddle up the consumer and the shopper (link to “when the shopper is not the consumer blog) Using the Adweek article as an example (and sadly an all too typical one) it is clear to see that there is little understanding of what shopper marketing is. The author is suffering from a very common misconception – that shopper marketing and retail marketing are the same thing. They are not, and perhaps it is this which leads the author to believe it isn’t sexy (I’ll leave it to someone else to defend retail marketing!). The Old Spice example above demonstrates clearly that shopper marketing is far more than the rather limited sphere of ‘what happens in stores’. The author gets confused about what shopper marketing is, misquoting Alan Lafley from P&G with his “First Moment of Truth”. For the record Mr. Lafley was talking about the point of purchase, not shopper marketing: in his original quote Mr. Lafley didn’t even refer to shoppers: he talked about the ‘consumer in the store’ – about as far away from shopper marketing as you can get!
Why do I care about this? Why should you care?
In a recent survey conducted in conjunction by engage with Nielsen (to be published shortly, and you can hear about it here first), industry leaders are bemoaning a lack of shopper marketing skills, and shopper marketing talent. I’m convinced that shopper marketing’s image problem contributes to this. How can shopper marketing attract the best of the best: really good people who really know how to market: when people who are writing about it really miss the point?
Shopper marketing is as sexy as any other marketing. Shopper marketing is not just about in-store; not just about the final point of purchase. Shopper marketing is about understanding and meeting the needs of shoppers: it is about developing a marketing mix which changes shopping behavior in a way that drives future consumption of your brand. Shopper marketing is an integral part of the Total Marketing Mix that makes the difference between your brand succeeding or failing in this world.
How sexy is that?!
Online is changing the way people shop. Grocery in total may, so far, be less affected, with online retail share of sales still 5% or below in most markets. But parts of the CPG industry are changing rapidly. In China almost 19% of skin care products are now sold online according to Euromonitor. Make no mistake – this change represents a seismic shift in the retail landscape, and that means there are going to be winners and losers. How ready for online are you? And I don’t mean whether you have your Facebook page up and running; or whether you have a social strategy in place: I mean are you ready to avoid the collateral damage from a retail Armageddon – and are your sales and marketing teams ready to capitalize on the massive opportunities that will come about?
Many of the big retailers have been slow to adopt online models – and who could blame them? Online has huge economic impact for them: a model where shoppers come to the store and collect products is a lot cheaper than one where the retailer has to deliver to each house (hence the experiments with models such as ‘click and collect’ where orders are placed online but goods are picked up at stores). Retailers are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place: online raises costs, but without it, there is a grave danger of losing share.
Those stores which used to be big retail’s biggest source of competitive advantage now run the risk of being the proverbial albatross around their necks. How much traffic needs to be lost before a store becomes unprofitable? 5%? 10%? With lean retail margins it can’t be much more, surely?
Make no mistake, online will rapidly begin to affect the behavior of retailers, and that means that manufacturers will need to adapt, and adapt quickly. Here are some of the key implications for brand manufacturers of online retail.
Multiple channels become the norm: channel teams become a necessity
The days when retailers largely operated one outlet type are long gone: online will just bring this into sharper relief. Manufacturers will need to think channel as well as retailer, and really understand how shopping behavior varies across channels, and how channels are used by different shoppers. Manufacturer plans will need to be truly omni-channel; not just separate plans for each channel, but also showing how channels connect and integrate on a path to purchase.
Price comparison becomes more of an obsession – putting pressure on margins
I’d love to say otherwise: I’d love to say that retailers will work out that they can’t win the price game and so will try something new. But unfortunately past performance suggests that the response of retailers under pressure is one dimensional – it’s price, and you, dear manufacturer (dear “partner”, of course!) will be asked to foot the bill. More promotions, more displays, more mailers. And some canny retailers will ask you to pay twice: once for the offline activity, and then again for the online version. Does your trade terms strategy cover this?
Online requires a different shopper marketing mix
The shopper marketing mix in the online space is still all about influencing shopper behaviors using a blend of availability, communication and offer: but it requires a different approach to that used offline. Range and merchandising become pages and search, and the opportunity to target offers becomes much greater. A review of most grocery stores’ online offer suggests that not many have really worked out how to excel in this: a brand who really knows how to lead the online shopper marketing mix could make significant gains. One that leaves their page position or ranking to chance may have lots to lose. And big brands may suffer the most. Brands who have fought to have a larger share of space based on their sales, may, if not careful, find themselves with exactly the same amount of space as everyone else on a web page.
Retailers will come, retailers will go
Seismic shifts will take place in the retail environment. In the last year we’ve seen Tesco and Carrefour retreat from markets; we’ve seen new online offers from major retailers, and online only businesses pop up everywhere. Assuming that your current key customers will be key in the future is dangerous. Prioritizing based only on size is no longer enough. Manufacturers need to manage risk, ensure their trade terms are defensible, and work hard to spot the new channels and customers who could drive growth in the future.
Even if online share in your category is still small that doesn’t mean you can afford to be complacent. Even if your category isn’t directly affected in the next ten years, your retail customers will be. They are losing sales somewhere, and they need to make up for it somehow. The development of a retail strategy which addresses the impact of online on your total business is now mandatory. That strategy must define which investments, in which customers (new, existing, online and offline) are required. This must be based on an understanding of which consumer opportunities the business is targeting; which shoppers are important to the realization of those opportunities, how those shoppers use online and offline channels and what online shopper marketing mix is required to influence those shoppers.
Contact me to help prepare your company, and to ensure your business is collateral-damage proof!
Image via Flickr
My last post focused on poor in-store execution and how much it was costing the industry. But what about the activity that is activated exactly as planned? Even when things are executed perfectly, do activities always deliver the highest value to our brands? I’ve seen plenty of evidence that many well-executed in-store activities don’t deliver any return on investment, and I’ve also seen plenty of evidence that some in-store activities, done in the name of shopper marketing, can have a negative impact on long term brand value too.
Before the discussion of why this happens and what to do about it, let’s take a quick tour some recent in-store horrors I have witnessed.
Olay – a brand to…. Kick in the face?
Here, on the staircase of an upmarket supermarket in Taiwan, even the mighty P&G makes mistakes. In an execution that probably looked great on the concept board, the Olay brand is scuffed and kicked by every passing shopper, looking a mess within days of installation. It may or may not have driven short term sales, but not what I’d want to do with a beauty brand if I were brand manager.
Barbie – you look… so cheap!
In Singapore Barbie is one of the more expensive dolls; yet here with laminated A4 sheets of paper announcing deals – concealing half of the product – you’d be hard pushed to tell. And where is this? In Toys R Us, the biggest toy retailer in Asia. (and as for executional excellence – the monitor isn’t working!)
Dove – Real Beauty – Really?
In the shadow of a billboard shouting out about a woman’s ‘real beauty’ I found this. Opening onto the sidewalk outside a chain drugstore in Tokyo, here is ‘real beauty’. In a wire basket, with a hand written discount card. And, I’m pretty sure, that the sales guys actually paid for this execution.
How do such terrible things happen to brands? Sometimes, short termism kicks in and there is a grab for short term sales. Sometimes the person who is executing this gets carried away and focuses solely on what the store will allow, without thinking about what it says about the brand. And sometimes the individual responsible for implementation is simply unaware of the impact of what they do on long term brand health. Yet these in-store executions often create far more impressions than our carefully crafted consumer communication.
Building brand equity may not be possible in every situation, but we can do our best to align, and make sure that execution doesn’t destroy hard (and expensively) won image. As in-store plans are developed, ask yourself these key questions:
How to stay true to your brand in-store
Does this support my brand equity (and do I even know what it is)? – What could be done to this execution that would make it more in line with the brand? It’s not always about building a brand in the store, but let’s make sure we’re at least supporting what we’re trying to say.
Does the brand have guidelines that must be adhered to? – In the Brand Diamond and Brand Pyramid Models which we use at engage to develop brands for clients, there is a clear statement of brand constraints: things the brand would never do, places the brand would never go. As you plan your activity, check that brand constraints are being honored. And if your brand model doesn’t describe brand constraints – perhaps it should!
How much of this is about what the retailer wants, and how much is about what is right for the brand? – Whilst we clearly need retail support, and alignment is a great, the retailer’s needs and constraints should not be the starting point. What is good for the brand should be the start; from there compromises can be charted, and blocked or mitigated where appropriate.
It’s not all about short term sales – We all know the pressure to hit the short term numbers; I’ve been there myself too often. But unless we can honestly say the impact of the activity on brand equity is at least neutral in the long term (it doesn’t have to be perfect), and that we’ve considered all practical alternatives, then we really aren’t trying hard enough.
Shoppers see our brands in stores every day. Poor compliance prevents our carefully crafted activities having the impact that they should. And a lack of strategic thought creates activities which needlessly damage our brands. Everything we do communicates. Everything sends a message. A brand manager who doesn’t take accountability for the entire brand is arguably not managing that brand. Her remit does not stop at the door to the store. More than ever there is a need for a Total Marketing solution, which ensures that brand guardianship covers everything we do. If you think your brand needs a Total Marketing approach, then drop me a line and let’s talk.
Whether you are in marketing or sales, poor in-store execution is a problem of nightmare proportions: all of the planning, the late nights, the negotiations, the blood sweat, tears and dollars that go into making a brilliant piece of work come to this: did it actually happen in the store in the way it was supposed to? And in far too many cases, the answer is no.
Across most of the world compliance is an enormous problem. POPAI suggested that in the UK it was around 50% and heading downwards, and that this may be costing the industry in the UK alone something in the region of US$600 million. I hear anecdotally in the US of rates in some chains in the low thirty percent range. All that effort, and perhaps half of the shoppers (or maybe more) that were supposed to see the activity, don’t get a chance.
How did we get here? How in this world of collaboration, of integrated systems, and of real time data, are we still in a situation where the industry finds it difficult to set up a display, or put a product on a shelf, or fix a sign in a specific place for a specific period of time. The reasons are complex and many: and I’m sure I won’t be able to pick them all up here; but there are a few things that can be done which, in my experience, consistently improve the situation.
Key actions to improve in-store execution – guaranteed
Incentivize good compliance
The fact that retailers make money as much from fees as they do from sales creates a very perverse situation. In some store audits we have made, over 10% of the entire range in the store is out of stock. For many businesses this would be a shocking statistic as it suggests that customer satisfaction is poor. Large retailers are insulated f (at least financially) in part by the fees they get from manufacturers, which for some retailers is the difference between profit and loss. Whilst I would never claim that retailers do not care about shoppers, the fact that much of their profit comes from a completely different source perhaps allows a level of sloppiness that might not be permissible in any other industry.
The solution? Increase the percentage of fees paid to be based on a pay for performance basis. We’ve worked with some companies where over 50% of their trade spend is unconditional – that is to say, the retailer gets paid regardless of what they do. Making payments conditional upon execution where possible would be a great first step to rewarding compliance and creating a focus on this.
Make sure what you want is possible
Too often ideas are developed by agencies that aren’t necessarily aware of what is and isn’t allowed in the retailer. Whilst I would never advocate limiting all of our thinking to what retailers will allow (we should push the envelope where it adds massive value), knowing where the boundaries lie and making sure that the agency understands that to break out of this would require special returns is a great start. And this means, marketers, a really good brief that really explains the retail reality. Few marketers on either the client side or the agency side have worked in retail – but this retail reality needs to be baked into the activity from the start.
Motivate ALL of the key people
Whilst the buyer is key to any retail relationship – it is not the buyer who actually does stuff. Logistics, operations, marketing: a whole raft of other people in the retail business are involved, and retail is a people intensive business. Understanding the needs of all of these people in the process, and ensuring that there needs are met, considered and addressed will always help with compliance. A good sales person will make sure her pitch meets the buyer’s needs. A great sales person will have a pitch for all of the departments and will either deliver this personally, or will arm the buyer with enough so that he can persuade these people on her behalf.
Do fewer things
The number of activities being executed at retail continues to rise. The number of staff in stores does not (in many cases it has gone down). I don’t have any data on this but it stands to reason that too many activities may well affect the quality of that execution. Doing fewer, more important activities and promotions might allow teams across the business to focus on what really is important.
Measure and monitor
Lastly, if it is important, measure it. Checking that things happened the way they were supposed to and then making changes to future actions to improve lies at the heart of everything. Too often marketers are too busy getting on this the next activity to check how the previous one went (which goes back to the point above).
The situation is complicated for sure. If it was simple someone would have cracked it by now. By addressing these key five things however marketers and key account managers can immediately make their scarce resources go further and deliver an immediate improvement in Return on Investment. I’m sure there are many other factors, and many other solutions – please share these so that we can all make progress towards better in-store execution.
I’m often asked why we need shopper marketing (thankfully less now than before). There are many possible answers – but here is one: Shopper marketing exists because shoppers and consumers have fundamentally different relationships with brands.
There are some brands I really love. Not many, but some are truly awesome. But let’s explore that love When do I love these brands? Where do I love them? I love them when I’m consuming. I love them at the point of consumption (or at the point of anticipation of consumption). I love my minty shower gel when it zings me in the morning in the shower. I don’t give it a second thought for the rest of the day. At that precise moment, it is awesome. Ten minutes later I’ve “dumped” it for that Illy coffee which is hitting the spot at the breakfast table.
Marketers – Consumers are promiscuous. I don’t mean within a category necessarily, but my love lasts for a few precious moments of consumption, and then I’m off professing my love for the next brand. Our relationship may be long lasting, but the periods of intensity that you, my dear brand, are in the zone with me, are fleeting.
This is especially true when I’m shopping. Most brands fail to create that quality of relationship with shoppers. Apple may be able to recreate it in their stores, but they are the exception. Out there in the store the shopper may not even be the consumer. But even if I’m the end consumer, I’m now in shopping mode, not loving mode…. And that makes me a completely different target.
Here on the shelf the brand I love is just another product, and it’s hard for marketers to conjure up that “consumer-love” that exists at the point of consumption. In the store brand relationships are diluted by all of the other stuff that is going on: the noise, the deals, and all the other elements of my shopping mission of which your brand is only a small contributor: my budget, my time, the check-out queue, the other things I need to buy today. At this point, as a shopper, I am so far removed from the intimacy of the consumption moment – it is hard to believe that marketers believe that what works for me as a consumer would also work for me as a shopper. Often I buy the same brand often not because I love it, but because I habitually do – it’s easier that way, and no other brand is offering enough of a reason for me to switch.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, dear brand. Whilst the in-store environment may never be quite as intimate and close as those consumption occasions we share, there are things you can do to woo me in the store.
What can brands do to create love in the store?
- Be realistic. Not everyone loves your brand. And those that do probably feel that love in or around the moment of consumption – only at that point of relevance.
- Rekindle the romance. Can the magic be conjured up in-store? Is it possible to remind the shopper, there in the store, of just how special that consumption moment is? And, no, I don’t mean playing your commercial on in-store TV – but what cues can be delivered to rekindle the romance? It might be difficult to build significant brand value in a store, but reminding shoppers of values that already exist is often eminently possible.
- Check if the consumer is the shopper. If they are not, then that consumer love is even harder to work with. The shopper almost certainly has little love for your brand. Live with it.
- Recognize habits – don’t disrupt them. If your brand relies on shopper habits, then please let’s not disrupt those habits. Execution focus must be on availability, and almost certainly on the home shelf. Take care with promotions, or any activity which makes it harder to maintain availability. The last thing we want to do is to force shoppers to change their habits.
- Add value to the shopper. Consider if there is anything that can be done to add value to the shopper (and I don’t mean a coupon!). What would make their life easier as a shopper? Easier to carry? Easier to shop? Easier to find? Choice of sizes? By understanding the shopper’s value points as distinct from the consumers, we may be able to find something to build just a little ‘shopper-love’.
Understanding brands as they work across consumers and shoppers requires a paradigm shift. Successful brands require a Total Marketing mix which recognizes that the target market is a consumer AND a shopper. By understanding the difference between the brand relationship at the point of consumption, and that at the point of purchase, our plans in both areas can be much more effective. If you want to know more about how shoppers differ from consumers, and why this is important for consumer goods marketers and managers, you can download a free chapter of my new book here . Do let me know what you think.