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

Data is destroying insight – Marketing’s biggest problem

with 18 comments

Data Is Destroying Insight

I’m more than a little worried. One of the core foundations of marketing seems to be wobbling, and this wobble is extremely prevalent in the shopper marketing space. My concern? We’re forgetting what an insight is.

As more and more data reaches marketers’ desks you’d think that we’d see more insight, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. Across the globe jobs are advertised as “Shopper Insight Manager”; yet the job description is more of an analyst’s role – a number cruncher. “Marketers” are so busy crunching the data they don’t seem to have time to be insightful. The word insight is now so misused that perhaps it should be retired, and replaced with some other word which actually means what insight used to mean.

Can there be too much data?

Unfortunately more data does not necessarily mean more insight. Worse: If that data is misinterpreted, taken in its purest form, or there is no ‘overlay’ of insight to understand what that data actually means, then the data is worse than useless: it gives a false sense of security that what I am doing is ‘supported’ by the data.

So what is driving this worrying trend, and what should marketers do about it?

Big Data: digital, social, retail –  we have more data than ever before. But crunching through all of that data takes a lot of time. So much time is being spent ‘getting through’ the data, nobody has time to dwell on what it might mean. When we (link to engage) work on projects, we habitually use existing client data or reports that have not been referenced since they were created. Why? Clients were too busy analyzing ‘new’ data!

In this world of data, everything now has to be absolute. Surprisingly people seem to think that if something comes from data, it satisfies this requirement. The data doesn’t lie – true. But the stories we allow the data to support are nothing more than that – stories.

The brilliance of insights is that they aren’t absolute. That is where competitive advantage comes from. It doesn’t come just from crunching data – it comes from the leaps we make from that data – that connect things that are apparently unconnected.

So how to become (or remain) insightful?

Don’t use data as a crutch – It’s OK to make a decision which is not completely supported by data. More than OK – it’s essential to great marketing. If the story is all in the data, then there is almost certainly something missing. Get comfortable with ambiguity. Trust your gut sometimes. Great marketing existed before big data; whilst great marketing often relies on data to some extent, it  is not a pre-requisite for great marketing.

Allow time – Staring at charts and tables is an essential part of the insight process  – but so is NOT staring at the data. Crunch data to a deadline for sure, but allow insight time to percolate.

Ban the word insight from your business – Until we learn how to use the word properly, at least! Call it an idea, call it a supposition, call it analysis, call it thought. Anything – but not insight, please. When people use the word – ask if that is really what they mean!

Go looking for questions, not answers – Data is crunched to produce an output – to track a trend, to fill in a chart. That’s fine – but sometimes we should look at data with no specific purpose. Ignore the headings the agency might have put on the chart (or better still get a deck that has no headings). Go look at the data tables and just see what you see.

Remember qualitative – Qualitative research isn’t just something we do as a prelude to quantitative work: nor is it something we only do when we can’t afford a full quantitative study (“I can only afford a couple of focus groups…”). Qualitative research doesn’t always have to be quantified to be valid. It is this qualitative work that often gives us the key triggers needed to change behavior.

Don’t get me wrong. I love data. I really do. When it is used correctly it creates massive value. But it isn’t everything. Analyzing data is not the same as creating insight. Both are valuable – let’s just not get them muddled up. And if your team needs help creating insights – just let me know.

Image: Flickr

Written by Mike Anthony

April 25, 2013 at 1:15 pm

How To Set Marketing KPIs That Support Your Goals

leave a comment »

How To Set Marketing KPIs That Support Your GoalsI am a big fan of KPIs, and regularly insist that any plan without a clear way of measuring its effectiveness is, well, a bit of a waste of time. KPIs are brilliant, possibly essential, to effective marketing.

And yet, it appears, they are also very dangerous. The Harvard Business Review even suggests not setting goals, as they can be so dangerous. KPIs are a double edged sword for sure – they create focus and measurability, but sometimes that focus is misplaced. Like nuclear material they can be extremely powerful, but in the wrong hands, they are extremely hazardous.

The problem may lie in the name, or rather the acronym which is now used so liberally. KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. I repeat, with stress on the last word: Indicator. A KPI indicates that performance is good. It doesn’t demonstrate it, or prove it, merely indicates it. KPIs are extremely useful when measuring the actual performance is difficult; they indicate that things are going well when it is hard to really know.

This is particularly true in marketing – where goals linked to specific consumption or shopping behavior are often difficult to measure. Our data often covers what is easy to measure, rather than the outcome we’re really interested in. We measure sales into trade, because we have shipment data. We know that visibility is what is important, rather than distribution, but it’s hard to measure, so we settle for a proxy.

The problem occurs when people forget that a KPI is only that – an indicator. A Facebook pages follower count is simply an indicator of consumers being willing to view our message, that we are forming the type of relationship which could yield future growth. But those “likes” are merely an indicator. They are not the end result we desire (growth). Yet when I look at some client briefs; I see that apparently hitting 70,000 likes is now an objective.

KPIs remind me of the proverbial drunk searching for his keys under a lamppost. When asked if that was where he dropped them the drunk replies “No – I dropped them over there, but the light is better here”.

The goals we are seeking in marketing, in shopper marketing, are rather simple. We are looking to drive increased levels of brand consumption. Shopper marketers are looking to change shopper behavior to enable and drive future consumption growth. As we move from activity to activity we set goals for those activities, and we create measures.

But managers come to regard what is measured as the goal. For example, promotions are designed to drive brand growth, but are measured on the promotional uplift, and that becomes the goal. Since when is selling lots of product at a discount a good thing? Only if it gets into the right hands: the hands of the shoppers who hold the keys to increased consumption. The value is in WHO buys and what they do next, but given that is hard to measure, we focus on what we can measure. The uplift. The fact that most of the promotional sales went to existing shoppers who merely stocked up but didn’t consume more isn’t factored in. The promotion is deemed a success because it hit the KPI, not the original goal.

Now I know that measuring these behavioral changes all of the time can be time consuming, expensive, and possibly overkill. KPIs help enormously here. KPIs are great. I love them. Just as long as we don’t forget that they are indicators, and nothing more.

So how do we set better marketing KPIs and metrics? 

It’s a complex task, and one that, I confess, I find to be one of the hardest (but most rewarding) things we take on for clients. Here are a few steps you could take:

Start with the goal in mind – No matter that the voice in your head is telling you that you don’t have the data to measure it, start with that higher level goal. Look for a link to a long term behavioral change in consumption or shopping

Brainstorm the possible ways to measure it. Again – ignore the nagging voice telling you that you need to focus on the available data – work out the possible ways to measure it, even if at first they seem preposterous or unaffordable.

Consider the value and cost of each measure You may be surprised: new ways of measuring a better proxy for the actual result we’re looking for might not be that expensive – certainly when juxtaposed against the value of getting it right (or the cost of getting it wrong).

Consider the implications of that measure as a KPI. Brainstorm the ways that the KPI could be achieved which are not aligned with the goal or outcome. If there is a possible way it can be subverted, then there is a good chance it will be. A simple example is in sales, where a sales target could easily be achieved by loading the trade with extra inventory.

Where there is a chance of misdirection, create a KPI to balance this. Putting KPIs in dynamic tension is often a great remedy for this. In the example above, setting a ‘balancing’ KPI to keep trade inventory below a certain level would go some way to mitigating this risk.

Review regularly KPIs become outmoded, strategies change, so ensure that KPIs (and metrics) are reviewed on a regular basis to check that they are still fit for purpose. Check that people are still clear of the goal hidden behind the measure. Stop measuring that which is no longer useful (this might help fund that extra tracking you needed). Consider “dipstick” research to support ongoing metric tracking to ensure that underlying (harder to track) behavior is changing in the desired way.

KPIs are an essential tool in measuring performance. Used effectively they can incentivize business performance and help teams come together under common goals. But they need managing. How sure are you that the KPIs in your business are actually driving the results you want, and not just driving the achievement of KPIs? If they were set more than a year ago, then perhaps it’s time to review them to ensure that they are still relevant, and are not being subverted.

Written by Mike Anthony

April 18, 2013 at 8:52 am

Posted in Marketing

The Most Dangerous Number In (Shopper) Marketing

with 16 comments


As in  “76% of purchase decisions are made in-store”. At first glance it might feel almost comforting, its been around for so long. How dangerous could it possibly be? Well that depends on if it is true, and if it is true for you. The answer to the first is, “probably not”, and to the second ‘definitely not’.

Why is it dangerous? Because it is this number that legitimizes (for some) the extravagance of in-store spending. In-store marketing budgets continue to rise both in real terms and as a percentage of total spend – but if that is where most purchase decisions are made, then surely this is OK?

This perhaps is why this number, which seems to contradict virtually every piece of common sense around, is so pervasive and sticky. People want to believe it.

Marketers faced with fragmented media, finding it harder to connect with a mass market, love the idea of being able to grab that mass market at one spot. Businesses faced with increasingly demanding retailers, feel legitimized. “This isn’t capitulation, this is smart marketing! This is investment”.

And so it would be, if the statistic were true.

But what if the number of purchase decisions made in-store, for your business, is much much less?

We’ve studied lots of categories and very few get anywhere close to a 76% in-store decision rate. In one category (kid’s milk), the in-store decision rate was below 5%.

But I’d rather not dispute this number, because actually that misses the main point – the main danger if you will. Even if the number were true, it wouldn’t be true for your brand, your category, all of the time. Making decisions based on an average statistic (whether or not it is true) is dangerous. Most situations are not ‘average’ The challenge of marketing, and of shopper marketing, is to be far more specific.

In-store decision rates vary by category

As I’ve stated above, we’ve seen huge variance from category to category. Some categories are clearly more impulsive in nature, some more planned. If you work in snacks, then you may find many more shoppers making decisions in aisles, than if you market toothpaste, perhaps.

In-store decision rates vary by channel

Whatever the average for your category, the number will vary wildly by channel. We’ve worked in categories where one channel represented a minority of purchases but a majority of in-store decisions: people actually went to this channel when they went sure what to buy. This often occurs where in-store personnel are important to the decision making process (think pharmacy or drugstore). The biggest influence on this though is…

In-store decision rates vary by shopper mission

In a recent study Bell, Corsten and Knox found that major weekly shops had a much higher incidence of unplanned buying than other trips. We all know from our own experiences as shoppers that there are times when we are highly planned, and times when we are very much in browsing mode. Different missions equals different shopping behavior, which means that the number of decisions made in-store varies.

In-store decision rates vary by availability

In some studies we’ve seen, of the biggest causes of switching, is out of stocks. From in-store checks we’ve found that up to 92% of out-of-stocks are on promoted lines: so promotions cause (or at least contribute to) out of stocks. But promotions are done (sometimes) because we believe that people switch brands in store and so we need to influence shoppers. But many of them switch brands because there is an out-of-stock. Anyone getting dizzy yet?

In-store decision rates vary by shopper

Most important is to remember that as marketers we’re not interested in ‘the average shopper’. We’re interested in a specific target shopper, and therefore we must strive to understand how they make decisions, where they make decisions, and how those decisions are influenced. The 76% number is simply an irrelevance. All that matters is how (and where) our target shopper makes choices.

Deal seekers switch

And a last thought – who are these shoppers who switch in-store? In many categories, they are what we call deal seekers: they come to a store with an open mind, and will buy whatever is on deal. They may buy your brand this week, but they’ll switch next time as soon as your competitor is on deal. They may be making decisions in-store, but do we want to spend our marketing money against them?

I’m not trying to pick a fight with POPAI. I’m sure they have solid data to back up their claim. My problem doesn’t lie there. My problem is with the pervasiveness of it: how many ‘experts’ swallow it, and how that leads many marketers astray.

Whether you are a brand manager, shopper marketer, category manager or key account manager – the number is almost certainly wrong for you. Before you spend another dime, go find out where decisions are made by the shoppers you are interested in. 

Image: Flickr

Written by Mike Anthony

April 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm

When The Shopper Isn’t The Consumer

with 41 comments

When shopper marketing first became a ‘buzz’ there were lots of people using the term consumer when they really meant shopper, and I would politely, but firmly point out the difference. After many years of beating this drum, I’d have hoped by now that the point about the shopper not being the consumer would, by now be well made, and now be part of common practice.

Apparently not. Whilst a couple of years ago now, in  2011, Joe Tripodi, CMO of Coca Cola: “Shopper marketing is simply a detailed understanding, culled through insights of how consumers make choices, and what they respond to”. Today on their website, Nielsen understand that their panels track shopping behavior, but they call it a ‘consumer panel’ . Whilst Wikipedia isn’t necessarily the most reliable authority, their definition of Shopper Marketing (understanding how one’s target consumers behave as shoppers…) is quoted by, amongst others, the Canadian Marketers Association and the Institute of Promotional Marketing. A google search for ‘Consumer in the store” reveals a glut of agencies who purport to be shopper marketing experts, yet still apparently haven’t got this simple distinction. It appears my 2013  prediction will almost certainly not come true

No. Shopper Marketing is not about understanding how consumers make choices. It is about understanding how shoppers make choices, and then creating a marketing mix (that’ll be a shopper marketing mix) which affects the desired changes in their behavior. Is this semantics? Far from it. Let’s explore why.

The Shopper Is Not Always The Consumer.

In every category we’ve studied, some of the people buying are not buying for themselves. Every category (and we’ve studied a lot). In many categories (toys for example) the number of shoppers who are not consumers is very high. In some markets almost half of male personal care products are bought by women. Whilst researching our upcoming book (Click here for an introductory chapter), I spoke to Hans Hallen, of Carlsberg, and in the beer category, whilst the majority of beer in the home is drunk by men, decisions about stocking up are often made by, you guessed it, women. Even in an intimate and highly personal category such as feminine hygiene, there are a small number of people buying for others (mothers and embarrassed husbands, typically). In every category the story is the same. Some shoppers are not consumers.

So what you might ask? Well… Surely as a target, someone who uses your brand must be different to someone who does not. Their experience of your brand is fundamentally different, and therefore the approach you make must be varied.

Different activities might be required

If the shopper isn’t the consumer, some of that expensive shopper marketing efforts may have a limited impact. If you want to market a new beverage in a store, then wet sampling is a great technique – get people to actually try the product there and then, and assuming its great they can buy it. But amongst shoppers who are not consumers, this tactic will be less effective. As will product consultants, who typically talk a consumer story. As a shopper I might quite like the look of a new product, but if I’m not the consumer it isn’t necessarily so that I have permission to switch to a different brand. Communication messages that are ‘consumer targeted’ can’t be directly delivered. Let’s go back to sanitary towels. How many guys here would be brave enough to go back home with a different brand because “the lady in the store recommended it” Thought not!

All of the above we know to be intrinsically true. But whilst CMOs and authorities such as Wikipedia, indulge in this lazy approximation, marketing effectiveness and efficiency will not be optimized. What happens to the money that is targeted against the “consumer in the store” but hits the “shopper who isn’t the consumer”? It is much more likely to be wasted.

No. Consumers are not the same as shoppers. They are not. Moms buy for kids. Daughters buy for granny. Husbands buy for wives. Consumer does not equal shopper. A consumer choice is different to a shopper choice. So what should a shopper marketer do about it?

Insist on accuracy

Risk being called a pedant. Insist that the word ‘Shopper” is used when talking about purchase. Politely correct the guys from the agency when they talk about consumer decisions in an in-store environment. No need for a soapbox – but do insist.

Write to Wikipedia and ask them to sort it out already

I’ve tried. Maybe if a few more people did things might get changed

Check the data

If you have data that suggests all of your consumers buy for themselves, check the sample. Often consumer research deliberately selects people who are purchase decision makers too. This therefore becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and proves nothing.

Check your marketing mix

Based on this, work out whether your activity requires the consumer to be present. If the consumer isn’t present in the store, can a message be sent to the consumer via the shopper (e.g. giving samples to take home rather than in-store sampling: or leaflets versus signage).

Check the mix by channel

Different shoppers will be in different channels. If one channel has lots who are buying for themselves, this might require a different marketing mix versus channels where shoppers are buying for others.

Evaluate differently

I know that many of you don’t have this type of data, but even so, you can build your thinking into the way you evaluate activities. DO certain activities require the consumer to be present? Do these work, or not work, versus activities that do not require the consumer to be in the store? Does the performance of these activities vary by channel? Create some hypotheses around this and test with future activity. Shopper data is great, but the absence of data doesn’t mean there has to be an absence of insight too.

Whilst often the consumer is the same person as the shopper, they are sometimes not. Make sure, as a shopper marketer, you are clear on who you are marketing to, otherwise you risk wasting at least some of your marketing spend.

Written by Mike Anthony

April 3, 2013 at 9:00 am

Shopper Marketing Is A Team Sport – What Position Does Everyone Need To Play?

with 20 comments

soccer-tactics-diagramIn my last post I referenced The Hub’s latest survey on the state of shopper marketing and this created a fair amount of discussion around where shopper marketing was, and what needs to happen to move it forward.  There were a couple of questions about what it takes to create ‘real shopper marketing’ – which is the topic of this post, but before I do that I’d like to just remind everyone of why a strategic approach to shopper marketing might be worth pursuing.

Shopper Marketing, done correctly, delivers massive value. Chris Hoyt of Hoyt & Co suggests that a strategic approach to shopper marketing can deliver ROIs of over 2.5, compared to a more tactical shopper approach barely breaking even – better than plain old trade promotions but nowhere near what a strategic shopper marketing approach may deliver.

Creating a strategic shopper marketing approach requires many things and there are many factors to consider. Whilst covering all of these lies beyond the scope of one blog post one thing is clear – making shopper marketing work requires the cooperation of more than just the shopper marketers themselves. Shopper marketing truly is a team sport – so who do you need on your team, and what positions must they play?

In this I am going to make gross generalizations, and be critical. I do this based on experience, and included in that is experience of being a Marketing Director, being a Sales Director, and being a CEO – I’ve been there, and I’ve made the mistakes, and if I had a time machine and could go back and do it all again…..

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.

To win at the game of shopper marketing, shopper marketers need consumer marketing on their team. Sometimes marketers seem to want to stand on the sidelines, be the strategists and see any game with shopper or retail in its title as tactical. Marketers – if you are on the team you need to be on the pitch, and that means you might get a little muddy. That’s OK. It washes off.

Teams play together, and win together. Marketers need to step up and to embrace accountability, and that means ROI. In the world of consumer goods there is no ROI until someone buys the product and that means shopping (and by the way there is no consumption without purchase either!). Marketers cannot achieve ROI without shoppers – and that means somehow integrating consumer and shopper. Marketers who may appear reluctant to get involved need to realize that actually they have no choice. To extend my soccer metaphor consumer teams can’t score goals without shoppers.

The CEO is the Head Coach – and he needs to start to call different plays. Those 75% of CEOs who are fed up with a lack of accountability from their marketing teams need to call them on that, or make a substitution. The ball needs to be passed seamlessly from consumer marketers to shopper marketers to trade – Ensuring everyone knows their roles in this process, and ensure that everyone’s KPIs are linked to this. No-one wins unless we score goals with the shopper. Just because we have more Facebook likes than anyone doesn’t mean we’re winning. You can’t take love to the bank.

Sales Directors, so often seen as the lone striker, hanging around the opposition goal and spending more time closer to the other team than their own, need to look in the mirror and remind themselves of the color of the shirt they wear. They are not in the customers’ team. Partnership with retailers is a myth – at best we have coerced collaboration. The Sales Team’s job is to create conditions for shoppers to buy, and to buy our brands. Their job is not to improve the performance of the retailer, nor grow the category. Their job is to facilitate the sale of the company’s brands.

Finance Directors need to demand accountability – but demand it equally. Sometimes it seems as though the poor shopper marketer is held to much higher standards than their counterparts in marketing and sales. Carry on being demanding, but do it in a balanced way. Why is it that cutting advertising budgets is seen as a “bad thing” but budgets to create shopper insight are given so grudgingly? How many consumer marketers have a standing research budget, compared to their shopper marketing counterparts who have to beg on a project by project basis?

I was asked recently why I thought shopper marketing was a revolution. Let me be clear. Shopper Marketing could be a revolution. If and only if it is done properly. It is revolutionary because it demands a significant change in, not just how we plan activities in stores, but in how consumer teams, sales teams and boards behave: it requires a complete shift in the way that consumer goods companies market their brands. The future is a completely different game.


Written by Mike Anthony

March 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Posted in 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

%d bloggers like this: