Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

What Makes A Great Shopper Marketer?

with 29 comments

Shopper Marketers Mind

It’s the beginning of the year and often this is a time for change. Survey after survey suggests that consumer goods companies are expanding their shopper marketing teams, and maybe there are lots of people out there considering a career in one of the fastest areas of the marketing arena. But if you’re recruiting, what are the top qualities you should look for: and if you’re job hunting, how do you know if you were suited to a job in shopper marketing?

Shopper Marketing is not the easiest place in the organization to sit. In many companies the shopper marketer’s role is not clearly defined either inside the team, expectations are high but funding can be low, and often representation at the highest level in the organization is limited. At the same time shopper marketing is at the heart of what is going on in the business – the point where consumer, shopper and retailer and brand meet. For the right person this role is, I feel, the most exciting part of the marketing world. It is strategic, but practical and real: it is untested in many organizations which makes it scary and exhilarating.

Do you have what it takes to be a great shopper marketer?

Communicator and peace envoy

Shopper marketers are often sandwiched between brand marketers and sales teams: Some brand marketers will look down on you; some sales people will treat you like admin staff – and both parties will treat you as an excuse not to talk directly to each other.

Managing conflicts is part of any job and  shopper marketing is no exception. Being the filling in a sales/brand sandwich is not always the most comfortable place. Being able to pragmatically but forcibly deliver things that will drive brand growth, and support customers, is a tricky balancing act, and it requires really excellent communication skills.

Analytical, insightful and flexible

Shopper Marketing (in some parts of the world) is rapidly becoming flooded with data. And its not just shopper specific data. As the point of connection between consumer marketing and sales, shopper marketers sit at the confluence of three rivers of information: what we know about consumers, what we know about shoppers, and what we know about retailers. The ability to handle all of this and create meaningful stories to support recommendations, plans and decisions is critical. As is the ability to adapt and create new models, because next week there will be a whole new data stream to handle!

At the same time, all marketing is driven by great insight, and shopper marketing is no exception. The ability to crunch data will get you nowhere unless it can be turned into brilliant insight.

A great marketer

Shopper marketing. Note the second word. Marketing. Shopper marketers must be able to master the core marketing skills. If you can’t’ do marketing, then you can’t do shopper marketing.

Comfortable with ambiguity

Things are not certain. Retailers change their minds. Promises get broken. Brand plans change. Your research data will not tell you everything. You won’t know everything you need to know to make a decision. Typically there is a yawning gap between the amount of consumer research an organization does and the amount of shopper data it has accumulated. Get used to it.

Happy to follow your gut

Some shopper marketers are drowning in data. Many are not. In either circumstance (though clearly the latter more than the former) marketing requires inspiration as much as perspiration. The data will not give you the answer all of the time. Great marketers thrive on gut. Great shopper marketers do the same.

Make strategic decisions

The ability to consider the long term goals of both the brand and the retailer, and to understand how these can be brought together is critical to effective shopper marketing. The ability to turn this into decisions is what really matters. The difficult part of prioritizing is not deciding what to do, it is deciding what not to do. Every shopper marketer I know is swamped with too many things to do: lots of brands, lots of activities, lots of retailers – lots of shoppers. The ability to make strategic decisions on which shoppers to focus on, which channels to prioritize; and which activities to invest in with which retailers is the key to driving better ROI, and to remaining sane.

Execute flawlessly

Shopper marketing is where the marketing rubber hits the road. For objectives to be delivered, stuff needs to happen, in the right stores, at the right time. Predicting obstacles and issues, and making the effort to ensure that the tiny details are in place to make things actually happen are key to the shopper marketers success.

Ownership and accountability

OK – So there is a “brand manager” – or at least there is someone in the brand team with that title. But it’s your brand too. Own it, love it, and be its champion. We all know those brand managers who manage the brands that no-one else cares about but they are always passionate about it? You need to be like them. Not consulted on the new packaging development, for example? Force your way into the discussion. If shoppers see it, you should take note and have an input. Take accountability for your brands, and the interface they have with shoppers, whether it is directly in your remit or not. It is the biggest asset you have!

I am sure there are many more, please add them to the list. Shopper marketing is new to many, for practitioners, managers and recruitment specialists. Considering these key areas as you recruit new people, develop your existing team, or even as you consider your next career move. And if you think that shopper marketing might be for you, then reach out to me. I’d love to help you join the most exciting part of the business to be in!

Feature Image: Flickr


Written by Mike Anthony

January 16, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Shopper Marketing

29 Responses

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  1. I love this Mike! You’ve distilled it perfectly. Can I use this as part of a presentation if I quote you?

    Kenan -Shopper Boffin

    January 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    • Hi Kenan,
      Thanks so much! I would be honored if you quote me in your presentations! Let me know if you think I might have missed anything!



      Mike Anthony

      January 16, 2013 at 4:36 pm

  2. There are times when you read blogs and you leave thinking “so what’ On rare occasions you read ‘stuff’ and you think – “Thats it”. Mike, you’ve captured the essence of what we shopper marketeers do every day. If you don’t mind I will print this off to remind me everyday what we do and like Kenan – Shopper Boffin I wouldn’t mind quoting the article as well?

    David E - Big River

    January 16, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    • David,
      Thank you so much for your kind words – so pleased that this strikes a chord and hopefully adds value. Please feel free to share far and wide!
      All the best and thanks again for taking the time to read and comment.

      Mike Anthony

      January 16, 2013 at 6:09 pm

  3. Unbelievable post Mike! Well done.


    January 18, 2013 at 8:15 am

    • Hi Jason,

      Thanks so much! Glad you liked it – do you think I missed anything? Do let me know.


      Mike Anthony

      January 18, 2013 at 9:23 am

  4. mike i like very much your comments about this, i would like to know where can i to get more information o some book of Shopper Martketing.

    claudio Aguilar

    January 20, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    • Hi Claudio,

      Thanks very much for your kind words. Unfortunately there isn’t a book on shopper marketing that really gets into this – I am publishing a book “The Shopper Marketing Revolution” with my partner Toby Desforges, and that shoudl be available in April or May. I’ll let you know when it is available for order.

      In the meantime there are lots of articles at POPAI which is a useful resource as well, and you can follow @shopperexperts on Twitter (and this blog too….

      All the best, and feel free to ask me if you have any specific questions,


      Mike Anthony

      January 21, 2013 at 10:55 am

  5. Mike,

    I like the attributes and feel they are attributes that can be applied across a variety of disciplines.
    I still think that adding another layer can take away from an organization’s focus and diffuse resources.

    To me shopper marketing is the Q that provides weapons for the front line CPG sales and retail planning.

    Coupons, signage, POP…and co-marketing collaboration is where I see the value. Still it takes a back seat to the sales nad retail categogy business planning that achieves the day to day budgets.

    Much of what you describe is already done through good category management teams. Sales people in some organizations are called category development managers.

    Bottom line: There is a heirachy of defined roles in retail and how you are able to integrate with that will determine success.

    Ken Dailey

    January 21, 2013 at 2:36 am

    • Hi Ken,

      thanks. I agree that many of the attributes are far from unique to shopper marketing – but the entire combination may well be.

      As for being the Q – I agree that this is one role shopper marketing can play: though there are plenty of success stories with SM playign a very different role.

      As to the role that it plays versus category teams – that is a big question, and it goes to the definition of what shopper marketing is, and opens up the need to discuss the need to “market to shoppers” versus the need for “shopper marketing teams”. For my part if the job is being done then that is great. Unfortunately many category management teams stray far too close to the needs of retailers and not the brand – and that is the crux of the issue for me.

      Finally – roles and organization are the last questions to be answered. More importantly is to understand what is important, and what needs to be done. This lies at the heart of good marketing, and good business. then a decision about roles and structure can be made effectively.

      Thanks for the interesting input!


      Mike Anthony

      January 23, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      • Mike,

        It seems to me that what you are working towards is eliminating that disconnect between sales and marketing that stumps everyone,,,

        I have done that in my role…but as an individual…not as a defined role within the corporate structure. I still have to use my skills to engage and persuade others in the company to work with me on projects.

        Developing POP for the WM craft area now and working with three different marketing groups. By themselves they were unable to engage WM directly as they talk the brand language well but do not talk retail. I approached WM from a category viewpoint and was able to establish the project which with execture shortly.

        There is a share group that meets or used to meet helpd by the Category Management Association that discusses that topic or where category management should be etc.

        You may wish to attend one as a presenter sometime.

        Let me know if interested and I can foreward your contact information,


        Ken Dailey

        January 23, 2013 at 8:51 pm

      • Hi Ken,

        Indeed – one of the great benefits we see when people implement shopper marketing effectively is that there are clearly defined connections. We use an integrated marketing approach which connect consumer to shopper to trade. To do it properly it affects more than just the shopper marketers – everyone in the commercial sphere has to change, and it often requires a change in organizational structure too.

        I’d love to connect with the CMA – though I live in Asia there is no reason that should necessarily be a barrier to contributing. Please feel free to connect me – it would be much appreciated.

        All the best,


        Mike Anthony

        January 25, 2013 at 3:00 pm

  6. Mike:
    Great article! In many organizations, I have experienced the Shopper team focus all of their energy and resources on the development of the shopper insights and than forget to activate against the insights. Such a waste of time and money. Thanks for sharing.

    Can you add a link to LinkedIn? I would love to share via LI.

    Meg Levene

    Meg Levene

    January 21, 2013 at 5:09 am

    • HI Meg,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I think that one of the biggest challenges in shopper marketing is that ability to connect all teh way from shopper insight through to action. You mention people forgetting to activate – I see lots of that but I also see a huge amount of shopper activation done in the absence of any insight!

      By the way – the Linked In widget should now be working so please feel free to share.

      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      January 21, 2013 at 1:44 pm

  7. Hi Mike,
    I write from Italy, which does not seem to bea shopper-marketing-.marketplace yet. Though, in many Companies (such as mine), they do not know they are already doing this. I’ve got a couple of questions for you:
    1) Is it better – at the stage Italy seems to be right now – being a Shopper Marketing Agency or a Shopper Marketer into the Company?
    2) How can I succeed in highlighting the “backstage job” I am doing? Communication skills are strong but if the ears are not ready?

    Thank you,


    January 23, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    • Hi Simona,

      Thanks for writing; let me try and help as best I can.

      In terms of the fact that many of the shopper marketing tasks are being done, then that is very normal. These things happen in many companies. The question is more about how they are being done. Activities are planned, but how well is insight used to create clear segmentation, targeting, and therefore more effective activities?

      In terms of your first question I think that is quite difficult to ask: I think some people are happier in an agency world rather than a client world. I think more importantly is to consider which company you might want to be in – being in a forward thinking company – either agency or brand owner, might be a more important factor.

      As to your second question – ears are always ready – but you need to talk their language. Understand the language of your company and express the value you create in their language (not yours or mine). then they will here. No-one needs shopper marketing, but people need the results it can deliver!

      I hope this helps. If you want more please feel free to contact me directly.

      All the best and keep it up!!!


      Mike Anthony

      January 23, 2013 at 7:08 pm

  8. Hi Mike

    What this clearly demonstrates for me is that great Shopper Marketing cannot be boxed into a single individual in an organisation and quite honestly needs to be seen as an integrated process and set of principles which existing Brand, Trade and Customer Teams all apply with rigour and a common sense of purpose. To try and find this “ideal” individual is mistake I think many businesses are making today and is resulting in a new silo’s and divisions without clear portfolio responsibilities, this all within an already disjointed process. It may be this route that they are taking that is giving the discipline a bad rap. I would rather see organisations using the list above as a guide to what success looks like and have all the relevant departments subscribing to this as a set of key principles and not a recruitment brief…?

    Your thoughts…?

    Craig Lodge
    MD, Integer, Africa

    Craig Lodge

    January 24, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    • Hi Craig,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Totally agree!

      I think the difficulty people have is that “shopper marketing” is taken to mean so many things: a function, a group of tasks, a philosophy, a supplier – and we end up sometimes talking at cross purposes.

      The huge opportunity (and where we see biggest gains) is when the philosophical point (that brands need to be marketed to shoppers as well as consumers)is internalized and, as you say, the organization then realizes that different things need to be done, and (more importantly) things need to be done differently. Shopper Marketing, when taken on in this way, revolutionizes not just the shopper bit, but the consumer and the trade bit. It is at this point that the magic really starts to happen.

      If people see shopper marketing as a “new function” alone then my concern is that it will be yet another silo/wedge that gets in the way of doing what businesses should be doing – driving brand growth.

      Make sense?



      Mike Anthony

      January 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm

  9. […] recently wrote about the characteristics of a great shopper marketer: many agreed that a shopper marketer required a number of great qualities: flexible, analytical, […]

    • Love that phrase – Shopper marketing is where the marketing rubber hits the road – just wish there were more people with the brand manager title who got this.

      John Saxon

      February 5, 2013 at 6:59 pm

      • HI John,

        Thanks! I agree – one of the biggest challenges in taking shopper marketing forward in an organization is that, to be effective, it requires change not only in the shopper space, but across the business. And that includes brand marketing teams, who are often the least willing to change!

        All the best,


        Mike Anthony

        February 6, 2013 at 8:40 am

  10. Hi! I am currently at Northwestern University’s Medill School earning a M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications. I have 4 years of marcomm experience in a PR agency and non-profit marketing but am trying to transition my career.

    I would like to have a career where I can conduct, use, and interpret (qualitative and quantitative) data to generate insights and develop marketing strategies based on these insights. This seems like it’s a good fit with shopper marketing based on what you provided. What do you think?

    Where’s the best place or the best kind of job to look for to get started in shopper marketing? What job/companies would probably be the best training ground to grow in this career track? What are examples of job titles to look out for?

    Also, do shopper marketing jobs typically have the opportunity to conduct their own qualitative research such as ethnographies, in-depth interviews, focus groups, etc.? Would having that type of experience make me more marketable/attractive to a recruiter/company?


    Monica Raugitinane

    February 6, 2013 at 10:14 am

    • Hi Monica,

      Thanks so much for reading, and for your questions. In simple terms, yes – shopper marketing in the right company could be a really interesting place to pursue your career, and your experience could be extremely valuable. The challenge would lie in finding the right company: a question that perhaps requires a more detailed answer than I can provide in a blog comment.

      I’ll send you some more to your private email address.

      Thanks again, and good luck with your career!

      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      February 7, 2013 at 7:28 am

  11. […] engage, we regularly go out and visit stores (as Mike Anthony says in his blog “Too Busy To Visit Stores? No Excuse!” – there is no excuse) – we go in groups […]

  12. […] In the game of shopper marketing, if  (and forgive me attempting a soccer analogy that I will almost certainly stretch far beyond the point of snapping), the Shopper Marketer is the midfield general (or for my American friends, the quarterback) who calls the shots, I’ve already described the characteristics of this key player in the middle of the park. […]

  13. […] In my earlier years, it was almost impossible to synergise, strategize and execute a shopper plan. Misaligned meetings month after month resulting in a stalemate and departments finally retreating back to their silos was the order of the day. Since then, I’ve mediated numerous practical workshops for some leading brands. The focus? Connect the teams; agree on strategy with the final output being an action plan with allocated roles and responsibilities. All this in just one day. In most cases, it is this simple but a shopper marketer needs to be, as Mike Anthony puts it, a communicator and peace envoy. […]

  14. I sometimes feel like a lone voice here in Australia waving the shopper flag and desperately trying to get people to understand what we do and what value we can add. This really helps bring it all together in a way people outside the discipline can understand… THANK YOU! I’ve been working in this space for about 6 years now but find opportunities rare here. Many companies don’t get shopper; some think its a junior tactical role that just an extension of category or trade activation; representation at a senior level still feels like a dream. Tapping into the international community with things like your blog are my escape and give me hope it’s worth the fight and one day the Aussie market will catch up with other developed markets.


    March 27, 2015 at 6:35 am

    • Hi Clare,

      Thanks for writing – and I know that feeling! The great news is that you are not a lone voice (although it feels that way sometimes!) Things are beginning to change in many organizations and the power of shopper marketing is getting some of the recognition it deserves!
      Australia does seem to lag in some ways: perhaps its rather strange retail environment has contributed. But that duopoly is looking shaky now, so perhaps that will help things move along.
      And, I’ll be chairing the Connected Marketing conference in Melbourne next month – a shopper marketer chairing a huge marketing conference – so that has to be a step in the right direction!

      Keep it up – it’s worth it!

      And… I closed this blog a while ago and moved to a new platform: you can find lots more up to date posts at http://www.mikeanthony.me

      Keep in touch,


      Mike Anthony

      March 29, 2015 at 7:58 am

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