Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

Shopper Missions, Convenience, and Dr. Feelgood

with 4 comments

In a world where retail behemoths seem sometimes to be taking over, Vietnam can often seem like a breath of fresh air. Whilst Makro and Casino have a presence, and convenience store chains such as Circle K are experimenting, this is a market where big global retail has not yet taken over. And whilst complex regulation is part of the reason why, the other part lies in understanding the Vietnamese shopper.

In our shopper marketing training and workshops, we talk about one of the biggest shopping decisions a shopper makes (and yes it takes place outside the store!): where will I shop?

This decision is based on the shopper’s interpretation of the consumption needs and the needs of the shopper. I was in Vietnam earlier this week meeting potential partners and coaching sales and marketing leaders for a CPG company there. After some great coaching sessions I had a little spare time to explore some stores, and found some which are possibly unique to the market there and a perfect example of shopper needs driving outlet selection.

In Ho Chi Minh City there is a curious store type, called (rather unimaginatively) “Milk, Biscuit and Spirit Stores”. One step further than Dr. Feelgood at least! These are a curious breed of shops which sell (go on, guess!) milk, biscuits, and spirits. Many of them sell a little of other categories – perhaps some confectionery, or some diapers – but the vast majority of their range is limited to those three categories.

This rather unique store is apparently a throwback to a time when some Vietnamese had access to imported goods via relatives living abroad and they started to sell the surplus. The stores are clustered on a single street and virtually every store sells the same stuff. You can even find a “store” consisting of two women, two lawn chairs and a box of product that the ladies bought from a shop further down the road (unfortunately they declined to be photographed).


Drive Thru Milk

In this day and age it’s hard to imagine how it works until you see the shopping process. Shoppers mount the pavement on their motorbikes, have a brief chat to the shop assistant and drive off with their product. Milk powder is expensive enough to warrant a detour home, the price is good, and the shopping experience perfect – you don’t even need to switch off the engine. In Vietnam this (existing convenience and focus on the shopper?) is one of the reasons big box retail has struggled. By far the dominant form of transportation in urban areas is by motorcycle, and there is only so much stuff I can pack onto a bike on the way home. By contrast the Milk Shop hits shopper needs almost perfectly.

In the world of shopper needs – convenience is often king.


Written by Mike Anthony

February 10, 2012 at 11:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. Great article but don’t underestimate how much they can carry on a motor cycle.

    When I was in Ho Chi Min, I saw a guy driving his moped one handed, while his other arm was steadying a big fridge/ freezer that was on the pillion seat, leaning on his back.

    Mark Goldsmith

    February 16, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your kind words and yes, I know what you mean. Four family members and a live pig? No problem for a motorbike in this part of the world! What is interesting is that for years companies like Casino built huge out-of-town hypermarkets with enormous car-parks, which were largely empty!



      Mike Anthony

      February 17, 2012 at 8:59 am

  2. Hello Mike, Vietnam and other developing markets can remind us all about some of the basics of successful retail enterprise; your description of the original drive through has yet to be re-invented in the west!

    I first worked there in 1995, a truly exciting time when the bicycle ruled the streets and pulling up to what we called a ‘mama and papa’ roadside store, was often as much a social experience as a commercial shopper transaction. Life was often hard for the Vietnamese shopper so they compensated with very human characteristics, engaging one another in a camaraderie that lifted the spirit and generated the smile we so often associate with people from this part ofthe world.

    Shopper marketing from a ‘brand’s perspective’ meant that the role of packaging had far greater prominence. The outcome of project I worked on for Nestle, after weeks of design development, western style focus groups and ‘strategic’ contemplation was finally determined by the ability of the cyclist to read it on the move from a distance of 15 feet! Sales escalated and the brand become number 1 in the market.

    Andy Lock

    February 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    • Hi Andy,
      Thanks for the comments! So true that it is easy to get lost in complex shopper analytics when sometimes there are much simpler things going on!

      I love your anecdote about packaging and the ability to read it from 15 feet away! So often I still find packaging development solely in the hands of the consumer marketing team – and yet it needs to work at least as well (if not harder) for shoppers in-store… Maybe you’ve just given me an idea for this week’s blog!

      Cheers – Mike

      Mike Anthony

      February 20, 2012 at 10:00 am

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