Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

What does great shopper marketing look like?

with 13 comments

A little while ago I met with a potential client – a highly experienced Director at a blue chip organization. We spoke about shopper marketing and had a great conversation but at the end of it he said (and I’m paraphrasing):

“That’s all very well, but I just don’t see it happening. All is see in-stores is generic, ordinary – I can’t see the shopper marketing difference. Come back and show me what shopper marketing can do.”

Well that got me thinking. It got me thinking about the work we do, and the work I see around the world, and whilst there are exceptions, an awful lot of what I would call great shopper marketing is actually rather ordinary in execution. A great piece of advertising can be seen, it has a wow factor: the brilliance is typically there to be seen, so why isn’t this true about shopper work?

I began to review some of the work we’ve done recently. For a TV manufacturer in China, we painted the walls red in-store; for a milk company the major strategic output was re-arranging the product on the shelf. Not that dramatic and (in the case of the milk) probably invisible if you didn’t actually shop that particular fixture. In the image here (courtesy of my friends at @insightshopper) it’s just displaying two products together.

Behind each of these simple executions (certainly in the work we did) however there was hours of analysis, crunching, prioritizing and deliberations. Specific segmentations were developed, channels analyzed, re-cut and prioritized again. Investment costs were calculated and rebalanced to create the maximum ROI. But none of that is visible to the observer. The reality is that great shopper marketing is great marketing and marketing isn’t done in a store – it happens in offices, in meeting rooms and at desks. The brilliance of great marketing lies in the fabulous insights, the identification of different ways of looking at a situation, and turning that into something which is actionable and impactful. It doesn’t have to be beautiful to be brilliant marketing – it has to work. Indeed given the many constraints on in-store execution for it to be actionable, it often has to be really simple.

So, how do you spot great shopper marketing?

If great shopper marketing isn’t necessarily highly visible: how do we know that something is great?  Your shopper marketing is great when:

It creates a behavioral change in a target shopper

If there is no change in shopping behavior then there is no growth. It’s as simple as that. There are many shoppers whom we wish to keep buying as they normally do, but they wont’ drive growth of our brands. If you are a marketer and need to grow your brand (who doesn’t?) then shoppers need to behave differently.

It drives incremental consumption

If incremental purchase takes place but there is no increase in consumption, then there is a danger our activity is just filling up the larder.  In some categories we have found up to 80% of incremental purchases have not driven any change in consumption – i.e. product sits in a cupboard and just delays the next purchase. In the long term, no extra product is bought. If shopper activity also drives, enables or supports a change in consumption behavior, then as long as the consumption is rewarding, we are well on the way to a follow up purchase.

It creates habitual changes in shopping behavior

One purchase is nice, but if the shopper switches back to their old habits the next week then the gain is small. If the change is made permanent, habitual, then long term growth is assured.

It facilitates habitual changes in consumption behavior

Now we are really talking. Getting a consumer to take on our brand on a long term basis assures consumer demand, and this is one of the best ways of creating or reinforcing a shopping habit.

It supports the long term goals of the brand
If the brand goal is to be positioned as premium, then how does that deep price discount affect that? If the brand is looking to penetrate new users, how does the buy two get one free deal help? If the brand is looking to drive into new usage occasions, then how can our shopper marketing connect to that?
It supports the commercial and strategic goals of the retailer.
Until all of our activities are conducted outside of the real estate owned by retailers, their collaboration and support will be required. Shopper activities which drive incremental sales and profit for the retailer will get more support, period. Activities which go against a retailers strategy may not. For example, I was once witness to a presentation by a brand owner to Tesco which stated that the goal of the activity was to steal share from the Tesco label product. Needless to say it didn’t get the green light from the buyer!

It delivers a measurable ROI 
Beyond all of this, marketers exist to make money for their companies, and shopper marketers are no exception. If it doesn’t make a decent return, then it isn’t great shopper marketing, regardless of how clever the creative is.
When we work with shopper marketing agencies – they often complain that there brilliant creativity is never allowed to shine – that their amazing ideas for transforming brands at retail never see the light of day. When we work with clients (and retailers!) they complain that what is presented by agencies and brand owners is just too complicated to work across hundreds of stores. Perhaps agencies are trying too hard? Perhaps they are trying to justify their fees, and feel that the concept and execution has to be amazing. This is fallacy. In consumer marketing perhaps there is more space for brilliance in insight AND execution. But for now I feel that adding value in shopper marketing is more about the insight end of the spectrum – execution is more about, well, ensuring it gets executed, and that often means keeping it simple

It doesn’t have to be flashy – it needs to work. 

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Written by Mike Anthony

November 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Posted in Shopper Marketing

13 Responses

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  1. Totally agree Mike. As one of the judges at the POPAI Marketing At Retail Awards in Australia recently, I spent some time explaining to other judges why a ‘deceptively simple’ category management solution for a store was incredibly effective, even though it wasn’t ‘sexy’.
    I would also add that the scope of your article was related to shopper marketing activations, rather than necessarily activating against specific shopper segments in the right touchpoints across the purchase cycle, which is where I think the discipline can gain in sophistication.
    The next step is then actually building a shopper strategy with strategic pillars etc of which the activations are the tactical expression.
    Shopper strategy ties into the ‘long term goals of the brand’ but is often expressed at the category, rather than brand level.

    Norrelle

    November 8, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    • Hi Norelle,

      Thanks for this. You are right – there is plenty of room for increased sophistication too: the point I guess being that sophisticated thinking doesn’t always have to end up with sophisticated execution.

      In terms of your comments about strategy etc. I disagree somewhat. The cases I quoted were part of quite sophisticated and bespoke shopper segmentation work and massive amounts of strategy which altered the channel structure, priorities and investment decisions that the client made: this led to massive changes in their performance both in growth and in ROI. This involved stacks of what I call shopper marketitng (” great shopper marketing is great marketing and marketing isn’t done in a store – it happens in offices, in meeting rooms and at desks”). Hugely strategic shifts, yet most of it isn’t visible in the store.

      The same is true somewhat for consumer marketing but in the land of shoppers it appears that this is more often the case. The output of consumer marketing strategy appears to me to be often more visible than shopper marketing.

      Thanks again for sharing – it is really appreciated!

      All the best,

      Mike

      Mike Anthony

      November 9, 2012 at 8:50 am

    • Hi Norelle,

      Thanks for this. You are right – there is plenty of room for increased sophistication too: the point I guess being that sophisticated thinking doesn’t always have to end up with sophisticated execution.

      In terms of your comments about strategy etc. I disagree somewhat. The cases I quoted were part of quite sophisticated and bespoke shopper segmentation work and massive amounts of strategy which altered the channel structure, priorities and investment decisions that the client made: this led to massive changes in their performance both in growth and in ROI. This involved stacks of what I call shopper marketing (” great shopper marketing is great marketing and marketing isn’t done in a store – it happens in offices, in meeting rooms and at desks”). Hugely strategic shifts, yet most of it isn’t visible in the store.

      The same is true somewhat for consumer marketing but in the land of shoppers it appears that this is more often the case. The output of consumer marketing strategy appears to me to be often more visible than shopper marketing.

      Thanks again for sharing – it is really appreciated!

      All the best,

      Mike

      Mike Anthony

      November 9, 2012 at 8:50 am

  2. Mike I agree. Every year we struggle with lapping the YAG performance of our brands. How do you make icon brands more exciting and accessible to all shoppers when they are in the store. Certainly reminding them of additional usage occasions works, but year over year, this is an onerous task.

    Lindsay Mulock

    November 8, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    • Hi Lindsay,
      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      I know what you mean… and it is particularly difficult with well established brands. The way we look at it is to make sure the goal is not excitement – the goal is to change shopping behavior in a way which supports a shift in consumption.
      Sometimes I feel agencies forget this – they focus on “excitement” as the goal rather than changing behavior. Exciting shoppers is a strategy – changing their behavior is the goal.
      Sometimes excitement works, but sustaining it is notoriously challenging, as I can see you realize!

      Thanks again!

      Mike

      Mike Anthony

      November 9, 2012 at 8:53 am

    • Hi Lindsay,
      In South Africa, we have a medium that can be placed right at the shelf, which is a Banner with illumination within it. This certainly gains the shoppers attention. Cross merchandising is also possible, and for one of my clients this is how we do it i.e. Pasta will have our media “Captivision” which is a banner with illumination within it, then we will place another “banner” at a relevant site, such as tinned tomatoes, so that we engage the shopper at different touch-points. Of course the messaging has to be relevant, and the artwork is critical. We use the Tobii eye-tracking system to ensure clients artwork is not too cluttered, as obviously the shopper would then miss the whole message, as a long cluttered message cannot be assimilated within the few seconds that it takes for a shopper to notice an ad at point of purchase. I know in many countries the sort of media we offer is not allowed in-store, so in South Africa we are fortunate to be able to offer this to all our clients.
      kind regards
      Christine Cuningham
      Primedia Instore

      Christine Cuningham

      November 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm

  3. So often the pack itself is the primary barrier to purchase. It looks too down market to justify the price, messaging is poorly presented and confuses the shopper. Brands need to adopt a shelf out strategy and start where the shopper puts the product in the basket.

    John

    November 13, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    • Hi John,

      Packaging is indeed the unsung hero (or often villain!) in shopper marketing, and too often packaging is developed by consumer marketers, rather than shopper marketers, with no reference to the job it will need to do on shelf. Not only that, it is often a task passed to more junior marketers, whilst the more senior ones play with more “sexy” toys like social or TV… Take a look at this for more on packaging and shoppers.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting

      Mike Anthony

      November 14, 2012 at 7:56 am

  4. Mike, great post, it is meticulously thought through and brilliantly written. Needless to say I could’nt agree more. However, in the interest of professionalism and positive contribution I would like to make a few comments. I agree that end goal of a shopper marking professional is to generate incremental purchase leading to incremental consumption on a sustained basis (permanent habit change ensuring long term growth of the brand). But for many categories generating incremental purchase leading to incremental consumption (through alternate uses or increase in existing usage) is not so easy for e.g. laundry detergents, dish washing detergents.

    In case of laundry detergents, I guess the only way is to convince the consumer to have a lifestyle change of doing one extra laundry where as in case of dishwashing detergents co-marketing with prepared diner’s product manufacturers promoting eating at home assuming it will lead to a need for more dishwashing leading to increase in consumption. In order to increase overall laundry care category consumption companies like Unilever created a whole new platform called “dirt is good” to encourage children to experience outdoors and be close to nature based on sound research that outdoor activities close to nature are good for child’s physical and psychological development. I believe for shelf stable categories like the ones that I have mentioned increased purchase leading to increase in consumption is a challenging task. Therefore, for similar categories encouraging pantry stocking to keep the competition at bay, attracting and retaining large families and efforts directed towards across the board penetration gains are strategic moves that can create an impact.

    Another question, does’nt increase consumption is a category level phenomenon? How to ensure that habit change of increased and sustained consumption results in favor of our brand? I believe it take us to the product experience because that is the ultimate test of increased consumption resulting in favor of our brand (Getting a consumer to take on our brand on a long term basis assures consumer demand, and this is one of the best ways of creating or reinforcing a shopping habit). I think you already mentioned this in your post (If shopper activity also drives, enables or supports a change in consumption behavior, then as long as the consumption is rewarding, we are well on the way to a follow up purchase.)

    In the end just curious to find what objectives were set forth for this simple but seemingly effective in-store execution and whether your client got a +ROI on this activity?

    Thanks,

    Humayun Akhtar

    November 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    • Dear Humayan,

      Thanks for your kind words and your considered response.

      There appear to be two additional thoughts here: firstly how do we apply this thinking when categories have high usage, penetration etc. – in short, where consumption is “maxing out”; and secondly, does this thinking apply only at a category level.

      Addressing the second point first: absolutely not. if you work for a manufacturer, then the purpose of shopper marketing is to grow your brand. Therefore great shopper marketing changes shopping behavior in a way that drives additional consumption of your brand. the philosophy can be applied to categories for sure, but should not be limited to this, as it ignores the core purpose of consumer goods marketing. The entire “category management” movement appears to me to have created confusion – that many people seem to be more focused on growing categories rather than brands. Brands are our lifeblood. Of course, if we do not contribute to category growth then retailers may not support as strongly: strategies which grow categories as well as brands may be easier to implement. But I see many retailers happily implementing strategies which have nothing to do with category growth, and also spurning clear category growing initiatives in return for cash in the pocket. As brand owners we need to look after our brands first and foremost.

      And in part this is part of the answer to the first point you raised. If it is genuinely impossible to grow category consumption, then brands must focus on share. Shopper initiatives must build long term share by supporting long term changes in consumption in favor of the brand. But beyond this – this is where marketing needs to step up. This is where consumer marketers need to step up and either expand the relevance of their brand or extend the category usage. Again – this is why thinking category is so limiting. Brands can escape the confines of the category easily, but if our thinking is tied to a category then we make life harder. As marketers our job is to grow brands, not categories.

      However I also challenge the idea that categories cannot grow. there is always a gap. Moving consumers to more powerful products, introducing additional products (think softeners, ironing aids, etc.). Everytime a category peaks, then marketers need to use their understanding of consumers to find additional solutions. Until the entire laundry experience is perfect from a consumers point of view there is always room for category growth.

      Thanks again for stimulating such interesting debate.

      All the best,

      Mike

      Mike Anthony

      November 21, 2012 at 8:32 am

  5. Completely agree. I’ve often said that what looks simple at the shelf, when done correctly, is the result of hours and hours of deliberate thought and consideration. What color has stopping power – yellow or green? Exactly which word results in an action? Will scent work? Or sound? What sound?

    Like you, I’ve spent hours studying those little details. In the end, when I put something up, I have a degree of confidence that it is going to work. Elaborate can mean little – I’ve seen ideas that seem extremely “cool” ideas fail miserably when tested at the shelf.

    Shoppers choosing up my brands and placing them in their basket is what I”m after. It’s the carefully considered details that no one else necessarily noticed – that win in the moment.

    Anne Villarreal

    December 10, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    • Hi Anne,

      Many thanks for your contribution and apologies for not replying sooner – I’ve been in China and unfortunately WordPress is not accessible from there.

      I agree so much – “show me great shopper marketing” is a very hard thing to do – but I can show the great results!

      Do you have any specific examples of the tiniest detail which yielded the greatest result?

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment,

      Mike

      Mike Anthony

      December 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm

  6. […] or seminars. I present it because it is simple, surprising, and yet obvious, and demonstrates that great shopper marketing isn’t always about big and loud . On reflection (and thanks to David Boon for sharing this article with me) – the thing that […]


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