Marketers have long had separate definitions for consumers and shoppers, and specific disciplines for appealing to the needs of each. But as technology changes how people make purchasing decisions, as well as how and where they interact with brands, the distinctions between the two are evolving.
Shopper marketing, once a purely tactical practice of influencing shoppers at the point of sale through in-store displays, shelf placement and circulars, is getting a strategic make-over—and with it more attention and dollars from brands than ever before. Here are a few things advertisers should know about the rising prominence of the practice.
From In-Store to Online to C-Suite
According to FutureScope, an annual study by GfK that has been tracking changes in the discipline since 2006, senior management is now more likely to view insight-driven shopper marketing as critical to brand success rather than just a “bolt-on” with narrow applications.
In fact, the study indicates that shopper marketers are increasingly valued for strategic decision-making at all stages of a campaign because of their unique position in the marketing ecosystem—partly in the global brand world and partly on the ground where in-store activities determine the fates of products and stores. In other words, as shopping gets more fragmented, shopper marketers’ abilities to bridge the gap between corporate priorities and field-level retailers will continue to gain in importance.
Fully half (49 percent) of shopper marketers in the FutureScope survey said they expect their roles to change in the coming 12 to 18 months. Not surprisingly, digital/mobile shopper marketing (44 percent) and e-tailing/e-commerce (40%) top the responsibility list, trailed distantly by more traditional duties such as channel marketing (16%) and packaging (4%).
The Amazon Effect
Those shifts are already in motion, propelled primarily by Amazon. As Digiday—which has been reporting in detail on SM developments—noted, one-third of the estimated $180 million allocated to trade marketing annually is now going online, much of it to Amazon. This makes sense given that Amazon is not just a huge online retailer, but also a hugely influential marketing platform.
“We used to frown at shopper marketing,” Anthony Reeves, chief creative officer at Wunderman Thompson Seattle, told Digiday. “That’s changed now. The biggest thing is that shopper and brand have to work together.” And given where they sit, shopper marketers are poised to help guide such a collaboration.
Driving the Creative
So how does this next iteration of shopper marketing play out? It’s not so much about online video killing the paper circular by putting those deals and promotions online. It’s about campaigns that have SM executives involved at the conception of the creative and working in tandem with the entire marketing team to reinforce brand identity AND drive purchases at the point of sale through TV, digital, social and mobile efforts. One great example of this at work is Coca-Cola’s Bottle Bat cricket campaign in Australia a few years back.
With data showing the deep passion for the sport of cricket among Aussies, Coke devised a TV campaign pushing Coke cricket handles at participating stores during the excitement of the cricket World Cup. Cricket enthusiasts could buy a big bottle of soda along with a special handle that would transform the empty bottle into an improvised cricket bat. The TV commercials showed how the handle worked. Social and mobile campaigns repurposed TV video and, ultimately, what started as a run of 60,000 bats transformed into the sale of 400,000.
Clearly, when done effectively, shopper marketing has the power to transform marketing efforts forever — and for the better.