Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

Shopper Marketing Is Growing Up – Don’t Be Surprised By Growing Pains!

with 10 comments

The Hub Magazine have recently published their latest Shopper Marketing survey and Chris Hoyt has produced an erudite and comprehensive analysis of what the data might tell us about the state of shopper marketing in the United States.

Chris sees a story of success and of limitations, which makes for interesting, and thought provoking reading.

Shopper Marketing is clearly having an impact on many businesses: driving better understanding, better engagement internally, and better retail collaboration. Having said that there are concerns in Chris’ eyes: a significant drop in the number of practitioners seeing their performance as ‘excellent’ and only a minority seeing a positive impact on ROI and sales. There are, too, signs of frustration, with some amusing quotes about the differences between what is (in some people’s eyes) shopper marketing, and what isn’t (for example: “My client’s idea of shopper marketing is to call us on a Friday afternoon for some kind of promotion that will help get trade feature or display support so they can meet monthly or quarterly volume objectives. It’s all about the money — the shopper is invisible.”)

babycrawlingTo those of us working in the industry, little of this is surprising. Shopper Marketing has been around for quite a few years now, and like a toddler, is only just finding its feet. Trying to run when you can barely walk is a tough task, and there should be no surprise that the majority of organizations which class themselves as excellent has a strong correlation with those that have been doing shopper marketing for a while.

There should be no surprise that (to extend the metaphor), a baby satisfied with crawling feels less satisfied when they realize that walking is the goal – the drop in the number of respondents classing themselves as “excellent” may actually be due to a better realization of what ‘excellent’ actually means. There will only ever be a few who are excellent. That is what competitive advantage is all about after all.

The fact that the benefits of shopper marketing are not universally felt too, should not be a surprise. Given the various executions from role, strategic versus tactical, and place in the organizational structure, it is not surprising (and nor should we necessarily expect everyone to get it right first time). I’m pretty sure that not everyone got consumer marketing right first time either!

Which brings me on to another point. Chris (quite rightfully) expresses a concern in the area of the lack of tangible commercial returns from shopper marketing. Shopper Marketing can, should, and must hold itself up to the highest standards. But when Fournaise quotes 75% of CEOs as saying their marketing teams fail to connect their actions to the business measures that matter (ROI, revenue, profit). Leaving a mere 23% which are able to make that connection (let alone deliver a positive impact) surely the fact that a nascent shopper marketing is already ahead of this should be a cause for celebration?

Chris suggests Shopper Marketing is at a crossroads. I respectfully disagree. Shopper Marketing is not at a crossroad: the consumer goods industry is. Shopper Marketing, properly integrated into the commercial spectrum with consumer and customer teams, is one path ahead. This is the path that creates a better understanding of the entire marketing journey, that creates integration across functions, and that delivers significant growth and ROI. The other path is to continue business as usual and continuing to waste money on tactical trade spend that adds no strategic value. Whether this is badged as shopper marketing or not is largely irrelevant. I know which path I would take. It’s the one called Shopper Marketing.

Should Shopper Marketers be concerned about ‘pretenders’ – rebadged trade departments that have changed little but their business cards? Perhaps, but I don’t think it should be our prime concern. There are plenty of marketing teams out there in the world that are largely tactical, do not measure their activity, and even their CEOs are exasperated by their lack of accountability. This report is a cause for celebration: shopper marketers are holding themselves to high standards, standards of insight, excellence, focus and accountability. Perhaps other commercial teams could learn a little from this too!


Written by Mike Anthony

March 21, 2013 at 5:02 pm

10 Responses

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  1. I agree that the crossroads is really in the consumer goods industry, most notably in CPG brands, whose legacy need for “anniversary the case volume” is one of the things that holds back much progress in what marketers can and should be doing to effectively activate consumers and shoppers.

    Anne Howe (ShopperAnnie)

    March 21, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    • Hi Anne,

      Thanks. So very true. There is a serious need for a lot of CPG companies to wake up to the reality that the way they marketed fifty years ago is no longer effective in the 21st century. Propping up poor marketing with deals and promotions will only last so long – there needs to be a different approach, and shopper marketing, whilst it won’t fix everything, is an important shift towards a better marketing approach – a better Total Marketing approach if you will. But for that we need shopper MARKETING, not rebadged trade promos.

      Mike Anthony

      March 22, 2013 at 8:45 am

  2. Here’s a good question. How many organizations have you seen properly structured with a SM director with an independent team and budget, separate from trade or marketing? Any? Until the company becomes shopper focused and restructures its unlikely to be anything more than a title. I’m often asked by clients for an example of best practice structure for SM and other than chatting about P&G shellback, I struggle with a really good solid example.

    Ken Hughes

    March 23, 2013 at 3:42 am

    • Hi Ken,

      The simple answer is “very few” – and this lies at the heart of the difficulties of shopper marketing.

      There are, as I argue here, two different things which some people call shopper marketing. One is barely an evolution from trade marketing, or category management: an infusion of shopper ‘stuff’ perhaps but no real substantial difference. It is shopper flavored marketing rather than shopper marketing per se.

      I have just finished writing a book called “The Shopper Marketing Revoution” with Toby Desforges – and in it we argue exactly this – that what the industry requires is a fundamental shift. Not shopper flavored marketing, but real shopper marketing, really, marketing to shoppers!

      This requires a significant shift in the way not just shopper marketing is organized, but how the entire commercial arm of the organization is organized.

      Whilst companies continue to fool themselves that they are doing shopper marketing they will fail. Doing it right requires a break with the past, both in terms of organization and in many other areas.

      If you’d like a free sample of one of the book chapters, click here

      All the best and thanks for contributing,


      Mike Anthony

      March 23, 2013 at 8:17 am

  3. Officer: “You’re a clown, Lawrence.”

    Lawrence: “Ah, well, we can’t all be lion tamers…”

    Sort of sums it up nicely, eh?

    Chip Hoyt

    April 13, 2013 at 10:32 am

  4. Reblogged this on Blacksheep AMBD and commented:
    In Ireland, Shopper Marketing is still an embryo. Surprising, really, considering more brand investment is spent on retail marketing, trade promotions, data & insights, and POS than on traditional ATL advertising. We guess most Irish marketers are more fixated on the bubble of Social Media Marketing than on Shopper Marketing…pity for them.

    Blacksheep AMBD

    May 7, 2013 at 5:55 pm

  5. […] is happening in the space. Of course this is not limited to shopper research: but for some reason, expectations appear to be higher here than elsewhere. And, having seen a lot of shopper work, and reviewed a lot of shopper research, I have a degree of […]

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