Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

What Is The Difference Between Shoppers And Consumers? Love.

with 10 comments

What Is The Difference Between Shoppers And Consumers? Love.I’m often asked why we need shopper marketing (thankfully less now than before). There are many possible answers – but here is one: Shopper marketing exists because shoppers and consumers have fundamentally different relationships with brands.

There are some brands I really love. Not many, but some are truly awesome. But let’s explore that love When do I love these brands? Where do I love them? I love them when I’m consuming. I love them at the point of consumption (or at the point of anticipation of consumption). I love my minty shower gel when it zings me in the morning in the shower. I don’t give it a second thought for the rest of the day. At that precise moment, it is awesome. Ten minutes later I’ve “dumped” it for that Illy coffee which is hitting the spot at the breakfast table.

Marketers – Consumers are promiscuous. I don’t mean within a category necessarily, but my love lasts for a few precious moments of consumption, and then I’m off professing my love for the next brand. Our relationship may be long lasting, but the periods of intensity that you, my dear brand, are in the zone with me, are fleeting.

This is especially true when I’m shopping. Most brands fail to create that quality of relationship with shoppers. Apple may be able to recreate it in their stores, but they are the exception. Out there in the store the shopper may not even be the consumer.  But even if I’m the end consumer, I’m now in shopping mode, not loving mode…. And that makes me a completely different target.

Here on the shelf the brand I love is just another product, and it’s hard for marketers to conjure up that “consumer-love” that exists at the point of consumption. In the store brand relationships are diluted by all of the other stuff that is going on: the noise, the deals, and all the other elements of my shopping mission of which your brand is only a small contributor: my budget, my time, the check-out queue, the other things I need to buy today. At this point, as a shopper, I am so far removed from the intimacy of the consumption moment –  it is hard to believe that marketers believe that what works for me as a consumer would also work for me as a shopper. Often I buy the same brand often not because I love it, but because I habitually do – it’s easier that way, and no other brand is offering enough of a reason for me to switch.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, dear brand. Whilst the in-store environment may never be quite as intimate and close as those consumption occasions we share, there are things you can do to woo me in the store.

What can brands do to create love in the store?

  • Be realistic. Not everyone loves your brand. And those that do probably feel that love in or around the moment of consumption – only at that point of relevance.
  • Rekindle the romance. Can the magic be conjured up in-store? Is it possible to remind the shopper, there in the store, of just how special that consumption moment is? And, no, I don’t mean playing your commercial on in-store TV – but what cues can be delivered to rekindle the romance? It might be difficult to build significant brand value in a store, but reminding shoppers of values that already exist is often eminently possible.
  • Check if the consumer is the shopper. If they are not, then that consumer love is even harder to work with. The shopper almost certainly has little love for your brand. Live with it.
  • Recognize habits – don’t disrupt them. If your brand relies on shopper habits, then please let’s not disrupt those habits. Execution focus must be on availability, and almost certainly on the home shelf. Take care with promotions, or any activity which makes it harder to maintain availability. The last thing we want to do is to force shoppers to change their habits.
  • Add value to the shopper. Consider if there is anything that can be done to add value to the shopper (and I don’t mean a coupon!). What would make their life easier as a shopper? Easier to carry? Easier to shop? Easier to find? Choice of sizes? By understanding the shopper’s value points as distinct from the consumers, we may be able to find something to build just a little ‘shopper-love’.

Understanding brands as they work across consumers and shoppers requires a paradigm shift. Successful brands require a Total Marketing mix which recognizes that the target market is a consumer AND a shopper. By understanding the difference between the brand relationship at the point of consumption, and that at the point of purchase, our plans in both areas can be much more effective. If you want to know more about how shoppers differ from consumers, and why this is important for consumer goods marketers and managers, you can download a free chapter of my new book here . Do let me know what you think.

Image: Flickr


Written by Mike Anthony

May 8, 2013 at 8:30 am

10 Responses

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  1. Like the “shopper-love” tag! Could be the start of a true HOARDER……

    joe underwood

    joe underwood

    May 8, 2013 at 9:11 am

  2. Good post Mike,

    It is for this reason that I think, for most categories, with the possible exception of some categories where the products purchased are an indulgence, leading with a practical rather than emotional message in the in-store environment is more advantageous. As you mentioned, it is extremely difficult to recreate that feeling of “consumer-love” while in-store, but, what you can do is fulfill the practical needs they feel while they’re in shopper mode by reassuring them that this product they love so much, as a consumer, is also fresher / longer lasting / better value than the its competitors, therefore fulfilling both their shopper and consumer needs and leading to a stronger relationship.

    Also, if you look at things from the point of view of a brand trying to steal a competitors’ shoppers; these shoppers haven’t, yet, fallen in love with your product as consumers, but you don’t need to fall in love to cheat! Give them enough practical reasons why picking your brand will fulfill their needs, at that given time, and you might just convince them to stray from the product at home they love so much!!

    Eoghan Phelan

    May 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    • Hi Eoghan,

      Thanks for this – really good points…

      As I said in the last part of the post – its hard to create ‘that loving feeling’ in a store (but not impossible), but it is that reminder that brings the consumption moment back into the mind, that might make a difference. If your brand delivers a great consumption moment, then it should be memorable, and therefore the challenge is merely to ‘remind’, rather than create. If brands really understood the cues that lie behind the essence of the consumption moment (for me in this post: that zing in the shower or the first smell of the first coffee of the day) they’d get closer to reminding me why I loved the brand in the first place.

      And as you say – if we can add value to the shopper (as opposed to the consumer) then these two things together should reinforce the brands total value proposition, and ensure it ends up in the shopping basket.

      As to your last point, I steered clear of this (perhaps another post?) – its really tough (and we have found little evidence) that brands can be built in stores (they can be destroyed, but building is harder). As you rightly point out – under these circumstances it is not about building love just yet – merely persuading shoppers to have a quick fling!

      Thanks so much for reading and contributing!

      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      May 9, 2013 at 7:02 am

      • Hi Mike,

        No problem. Your posts are always enjoyable and insightful. I definitely agree there is potential to create a reminder of the consumption moment in-store. I particularly like your description, below, of creating an “echo of the consumption love”. As you say, if you understand the cues which define the essence of the moment of consumption, then you can attempt to evoke these memories in-store. This could be something as lavish as creating an elaborate in-store experience (with the help of an accommodating retailer!!) to a very small sensory touchpoint which acts as a trigger. As you point out this might be all it takes to remind the shopper why they loved your brand in the first place, and ultimately stop them running off with that cheaper brand from across the aisle (There’s a rom-com in here somewhere!!)

        Take care.


        Eoghan Phelan

        May 9, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      • Hi Eoghan,

        Thanks for sharing… I don’t think it always has to be lavish, as you say – more about defining what the ‘thing’ is – and working out how to evoke it in a different environment. Sometimes just a word, a color, an image, may suffice to trigger the memory.

        Glad you enjoy the posts – thanks for taking the time to contribute – it is much appreciated.

        All the best,


        Mike Anthony

        May 10, 2013 at 6:31 pm

  3. Mike,
    Your articles are always engaging (no pun intended) and fascinating. Trying to create the consumption feeling at the shopping moment…what a challenge! But one that I will now be contemplating. Thanks for the continuous stream of insightful writings.

    Nancy MacDonald

    May 9, 2013 at 3:38 am

    • Hi Nancy,

      Thanks so much for your kind words – really lovely to get feedback like this – thanks!

      As for the challenge: you are so right, and I guess many brands will find it hard. I think, however, that if brands worked to create just an echo of the ‘consumption love’ at the point of purchase, and elsewhere in the shopping journey, then they would stand out in the crowd, as most brands fail to do anything of the sort.

      Good luck with the journey and let me know how you get on!

      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      May 9, 2013 at 6:55 am

  4. Hi Mike,

    This is so true but has never seen it so well explained before.
    High time we stop trying to get that elusive emotional connection in store (its idealist, and a very big challenge in most channels). Better off understanding what shoppers are really looking for and tailoring messages, experiences and solutions that address these needs.

    Your blogs are always so insightful. look forward to your book. When is it going to be out?



    May 25, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    • Hi Amar,

      Thanks for this. As you say it is possible to really connect emotionally in a store – but it is a rare occurrence indeed. Focus on what can be achieved, and win small battles every day – rather than shoot for a big battle once a year….

      Thanks for your very kind words – I’m glad you appreciate what I write. The book is out towards the end of June – so around three weeks away… very exciting. Did you check out the free chapter?

      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      May 27, 2013 at 10:07 am

      • Thanks Mike, well said! Yes I’ve read your free/ sample chapter. Great idea to give people a taste of things to come. All the best.



        May 28, 2013 at 4:08 pm

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