Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

The Most Important Step In Shopper Marketing: Defining The Target Market.

with 10 comments

Defining Your Target MarketIf there is one thing that, for me, explains what shopper marketing is about and which makes it different from its possible antecedents in trade marketing or category management, it is the concept of targeting.

Targeting is at the heart of all marketing: if the definition of marketing (let’s use the Chartered Institute of Marketing as a starting point) “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating, and satisfying customer requirements profitably,” then without targeting, marketing can only be effective if everyone has exactly the same needs. Clearly everyone does not have the same needs, and therefore marketing requires segmentation.  From the identification of segments, the decision to focus on some rather than others is arguably the primary strategic decision in marketing – and that is targeting.

Weak marketers have loose targets. Definitions which rely primarily on one or two demographics (females between the ages of 14 and 36) are far too broad to be useful.

How should shopper marketers identify their target market, and what makes a really good target definition?

It reflects consumption:

Shoppers buy to supply consumers: conversely they do not buy that which they do not believe will delight the consumer (unless we’re talking about Christmas presents for that embarrassing relative who is so difficult to buy for!). An excellent definition of a target shopper includes a comprehensive understanding of the consumer and the consumption occasion that the shopper is buying for.

It isn’t the same as the target consumer:

As argued many times previously  the consumer isn’t the same as the shopper. On this basis a ‘cut and paste’ from the consumer marketing team’s brand plan is unlikely to work (and there definition may not pass muster either!)

It reflects behavior:

Marketing should be about getting people to do something. Changing attitudes is only valuable when that attitude becomes a change in behavior. This is even more true in the realm of shopper marketing. If the shopper doesn’t change behavior, then there is no change in revenue for the retailer or the manufacturer. Change is defined as a movement from x to y: therefore for a clear target segment to be homogenous (see later) then they must all have common current behaviors (and current desired behaviors). Hence a target shopper definition should include details of their current behavior.

It isn’t (always) the current shopper:

If I was a temperamental guy, then this would get me hot under the collar: across marketing (and this is not limited to shopper marketing) too often the target is exactly the same as the current consumer or shopper. Yet if the goal of marketing is growth, then there is a fair chance that much growth will come from people who do not use the brand currently. Sure, growth can come from persuading current shoppers to buy more, or buy more frequently, but to neglect all of those shoppers that do not currently buy the brand is highly limiting. Therefore one potential behavior (see above) that might be included in a target definition is ‘not currently buying the brand’, or ‘currently buying (competitor brand X’). Most research briefs I see focus on current users; making it really hard to understand those that currently do not engage in the category.

There are more than one target shopper segments:

To many of you it will already be quite obvious that it is quite possible, if not certain, that a given brand might have more than one target market. Each consumption opportunity, if defined correctly, could yield a separate target shopper. And this is where it gets exciting and complicated in equal measures. Complicated because there is a need to juggle more than one concept across channels, customers and activities, but exciting because it creates the opportunity to prioritize (by focusing on the shopper segments which might yield the highest returns) and to differentiate activity across channels because of the presence of different target shoppers. At a stroke shopper marketing becomes far more focused and precise, and the investment that is made yields better returns.

It is sizable, actionable, homogenous and measurable:

Beyond this, shopper target segments must follow the textbook rules on marketing segmentation. They must be large enough to be worth chasing, actionable (in that it is possible to market to them separately in a meaningful way), homogenous (they must be similar), and measurable (if we can’t measure it, how do we know that our activity has been effective.

If there isn’t a defined target at the heart of your shopper marketing strategy or campaign, then I can guarantee that the effectiveness and returns from implementing these plans have not been optimized.

Before developing your next plan, challenge your current target definition (and that of your consumer marketing colleagues) to see if it passes the tests above. And for those of you in research or insight functions, are you sure that the respondents for your surveys are the shoppers  we really need to understand?

Featured image –  Flickr: Heretakis


Written by Mike Anthony

December 13, 2012 at 9:42 am

Posted in Shopper Marketing

10 Responses

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  1. Mike, it’s been a while since your last post. Great article.

    Looks like i have to redefine my target market in more detail.


    December 14, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    • HI Mario,

      Thanks for the support – though I have been posting pretty much once a week: feel free to check the back catalog!

      All the best and great to have you reading again,


      Mike Anthony

      December 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm

  2. I guess usual pitfall comes in prioritising shopper target. More often than not, we choose to believe that it is easier to grow profit by increasing consumption and buying frequency than getting new users from non-users including those loyal to competitor brands.

    Also have to take huge note in ensuring that we are conducting research with the right respondents. Great Article Mike!:)

    Sunshine Leyble - Arcilla

    December 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    • Hi Shine,
      Thanks for reading! It’s not always an easy decision and of course it is possible to have more than one target segment – and to then use different marketing mixes for each.
      And yes, often we choose the obvious and the easy, rather than the difficult – and from experience this is often driven by the way research is done. So often the research sample is driven by our paradigms about targets – then of course the research re-affirms this paradigms and on we go. Countless times I have been told by clients that penetration of a category is almost 100% only to find that this is based on research where respondents had to be category users to qualify. Under these circumstances it is impossible to see, let alone quantify that opportunity – agencies ignore it, it isn’t mentioned in the report and so the paradigm continues!

      Thanks again.


      Mike Anthony

      December 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm

  3. You’re just about the only guy whose articles I can read about this subject make me feel better.

    Chip Hoyt

    December 18, 2012 at 9:59 pm

  4. I must say as a follow up that shopper’s antecedents have a certain duality. From a practice standpoint, the trade and category stuff is primarily rooted in co-marketing, something promotion agencies were attracted to from, say, 1993-2005 and which causes much of the confusion about what, exactly, shopper marketing is (certainly it’s not retail marketing as you and I have discussed). On the other hand, because it’s marketing that focuses on a different target (or sometimes a different aspect of the target), it has principled roots in marketing (and the sales practice roots really should be subordinate to marketing).

    Some of the confusion may be attributed to touchpoint linkage and the locus of planning responsibility; marketers historically have turned their noses up on shopping venues, considering them as hopelessly pedestrian tactical vehicles unworthy of their time. Such tactics and vehicles, occurring somewhere beyond the door of the store (whether physical or virtual), were instead treated by those who are, in the brand’s eyes, responsible for uninteresting sales tactics, promotion agencies. Strategic planning suffered as execution considerations like touchpoint linkage was more often than not, rough, ad hoc, or hodge-podge.

    That’s too bad since a broader panoply of marketing skills is precisely that which is, and has been, needed in such places.

    As an ex-Ogilvy guy, I was always struck by their failure to adhere to their own 360 degree planning claim (this applies to every above the line agency I can think of; interestingly, if they had the capability to do so, the below the line shops have shown much more of a willingness to design complete plans).

    Big agencies like Ogilvy would make complete plans for above the line initiatives while completely ignoring below the line requirements. Anyone who can see would understand that as something less than 360 degree planning….Such above the line “strategists” were completely uninterested in a complete picture of a brand’s situation, begging the question “How can one be a strategist when one is unwilling to see?”

    Thankfully, the market is forcing these folks to put on some glasses.

    As always, thanks for insightful work, Mike.

    Chip Hoyt

    December 18, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    • Hi Chip,
      Thanks for both of your comments – and I agree – there are many reasons for the identity crisis that shopper marketing sometimes has, and I guess in the grand scheme of things it is still a young department. Go back a few decades and we’d possibly be discussing the differences between the role of advertising departments and promotions teams!
      You talk about a number of reasons why shopper marketing sometimes lacks the “marketing bit” – I think there is another (which might just be a little contentious). Whilst many shopper marketing practitioners have developed from the trade side, and many may not be familiar with core marketing techniques – there is a greater truth. Many marketers aren’t very good at the core skills and techniques of marketing. These days so many marketers are cut off from the heart of marketing that I don’t always see any marketers, be us consumer or shopper who can articulate a target market, for example, at any level beyond generic demographics and lifestyle (fun loving teens”). Perhaps the problem isn’t limited to shopper marketing?
      Thanks as always for your insight and kind words,


      Mike Anthony

      December 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm

  5. It’s semantics, but to me the most important step is setting a clear business objective, which of course should include a specific target market as well as what you want to accomplish (with specific metrics). I know we are talking about essentially the same thing but the target by itself is fairly useless.

    Jim Litwin

    December 19, 2012 at 2:30 am

    • Hi Jim,
      As you say Jim, it’s semantics – and I certainly wouldn’t want to give the impression that objectives are not important (an the topic is in a rough draft for a blog early in the new year!).

      But as you say a good marketing objective would have a decent target market embedded in it and whilst I see lots of objectives, I really don’t see much quality in the ability to identify target markets, hence the blog. It is the segmentation and subsequent targeting that will create the potential for competitive advantage and create the focus for the business.
      Thanks for reading and contributing to the discussion.

      Mike Anthony

      December 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm

  6. Totally agree Mike that segmentation is at the heart of good shopper marketing (and why shopper marketing is really a marketing discipline, not a sales or category one, as discussed in other areas previously). Shopper is about Whos, where Category is about Whats.

    Typically we find shopper segments for a given category are a combination of attitudinal and behavioural (with demographic overlays sitting over the top).

    The POWER is in demonstrating to retailers in which category specific shopper segments they over and under index vs their competitors (to your point about potential/future shoppers, not just current ones); what reversing the underindex is worth to them; and what the underindexed shoppers’ needs are (how to reverse it).

    The OPPORTUNITY is in overlaying a category specific shopper segmentation with a retailer’s broader customer segmentation (if they have one … early days yet in the Australian market, I know this has been happening for a while in the US and UK).

    The CHALLENGE in this is in figuring out how a category specific shopper segmentation works vs an overarching shopper segmentation for a channel … is there such a thing as a macro shopping orientation, irrespective of category? (We have found in our shopper research studies both yes and no).

    And to Sunshine’s point, I think there is another opportunity in using a shopper version of a consumer commitment scale to prioritise mechanics. Eg if you are targeting Adorers (loyals) and Adopters you would look for spend and AWOP because you already have frequency (in theory). If you are targeting Availables and Accepters then you typically need to increase frequency (and for Availables, Penetration/Incidence). So I think there is a job to do in overlaying shopper segmentations against consumer segmentations. Does anyone have any good examples of this they can share?


    December 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm

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