Shopper marketing: Fact or fiction

Shopper marketing is considered an important component of the marketing mix into 2011. We hear of increased investment within this arena and it is often touted as the next big thing, especially now that internet strategies are firmly entrenched on most marketing plans.
Shopper marketing: Fact or fictionMany years on we still see many above-the-line executions being directly placed online in the vain hope that "it will go viral". We all know how well that has worked. There are innovative brands that have sought to understand how people use the viral world and built campaigns around this, and slowly the groundswell is starting to build (and often simply copied).

The same is true, by and large, within the shopper marketing discipline, with the tried and trusted promotional mechanics simply being repackaged as "revolutionary shopper campaigns". As an industry we may see the Emperors new clothes, but the shopper doesn't.

How can they? When last did a shopper brief clearly outline an objective against a clearly defined audience? I would argue that "get all mothers, LSM 6-10, shopping in Pick 'n Pay to choose brand x" is not an effective, targeted shopper marketing objective, rather a scattergun approach to the mass market shopping audience in South Africa. If one asks whether the target is users or non-users, the answer is always simple - "everyone in the store who is shopping within that category".

The bottom line is that, just like consumers, not all shoppers are created equal and, as such, they do not all respond to the same stimuli. We have also found that certain segments of shoppers behave differently depending upon their channel.

The marketing issues of retail constraints, budgets, lack of shopper knowledge, short term volume requirements and, let's face it, fear of the new and untried has resulted in the shopper being the last thing that a marketing team considers.

If you knew your consumer needs better and the constraints they faced when choosing your brand, would you have to fight so hard to be one of the brands on their shopping list?

If it is not a part of the integrated marketing plan, call it what it is - a short term volume driver - there is no shame in this as often this is a great tactical response to market needs.

Shopper marketing is about building real on-going engagements with your shoppers in order that they want to choose you repeatedly. At each point that the shopper seeks you out (both in and out of store) you need to deliver to their needs or become wallpaper. To do this we at 34 believe you have to put the shopper at the heart of everything you do to deliver ideas that sell.

And the marketing team needs to be brave, because the hurdles are many - we are in a phase where "rules of engagement" are still being learned. Research methodology is not yet clearly defined, the retailers need to be sold on new thinking, in-store media owners are rigid on placement and pricing and the list continues.

But the bottom line is this -Greed is easy to cater to, loyalty is harder to earn. But at 34 we believe that making friends is always more rewarding than making acquaintances.

Editorial contact
Sue Evered: Strategic Planning Director, 34 Group

8 Feb 2011 12:42