By Ewa Orlowska, Senior Planner, Euro RSCG KLP
The last three feet
With modern media having lost a lot of its clout and with consumers being much more savvy, fewer purchasing decisions are being made by people before they enter stores – particularly within the FMCG market – this means that more of the key battles being fought by brands are taking place on the shop floor.
The last three feet is where these brands are hoping to win what they are not winning outside, and it’s a very hard battle to win. But to give themselves the best opportunity to make a difference in this space brands need to understand the following:
Before you get to three feet
There are three phases to engaging shoppers in store, and these start at around ten feet, where brands need to draw the shopper’s eye to the product with the aim of interesting the shopper and drawing them in. Then, at the three feet mark they need to engage with them – make them stop consider what the product is offering, get them to pick the product up and evaluate it closer. The brand may well have got their attention but unless it can be kept they are going to walk by. Inside three feet it’s about closing the deal and getting the brand into the basket. Retailers understand this and they use a range of techniques to draw shoppers’ attention. Brands need to understand these and then work within these confines.
Understand your shopper
If brands are going to succeed in closing the sale in the last three feet, they need to understand shoppers’ motivation, their predisposition and what mission they are on. All shoppers will behave in different ways: are they on a top-up shop, are they planners that have written down everything they want to buy, or are they looking for inspiration? And most importantly, why are they not buying your product? Above all brands need to understand these things about the shopper.
A lot of time and money is spent monitoring brand standing and attributes “on the street”, but very little is spent analysing the state of mind of shoppers when they approach the shopping aisles. Observing how shoppers react in the last ten feet when they find the category and in the last three feet when they’re making their final decision is critical to a successful in store campaign. Investing in this sort of research is about priorities, and too many brands still view in-store campaigns as a tactical hit rather than a strategic activity that can shift sales.
But this level of research is essential if brands are to understand who they can influence and who is most profitable to influence, and what they have to say that will influence them the most. Shopper marketing is a science and to do it effectively brands need to have good solid metrics in place.
Understand the barriers to purchase
Unless brands owners know what is preventing people from buying their brand in store, then they have no hope in being able to change their ways in the last few feet. Some of the barriers may not be brand related, they can be environmental, such as not being able to find or locate the product. Maybe the packaging and product design does not reflect the premium image the brand claims, or make it standout against the others around it. Or has the brand failed to deliver its benefits sufficiently to the shopper thereby not arming them with the reasons why it should be chosen over competitors. Marketers used to rely on advertising to do this work for them, but increasingly it will be the last 3 feet that delivers the reasons to buy.
How you can influence these barriers
Influencing barriers to purchase is not always a case of running a brand or price promotion. If the barrier is “I don’t believe in this brand” then some sort of brand in store campaign that talks about brand benefits might be a good idea, but if the barrier is “I don’t know what it’s for or don’t see the point”, then delivering an in store campaign that helps the shopper to understand why they should buy is the way forward. In short, brands need to align their assets to overcoming these barriers in way that best leverages what they know about how the shopper is shopping.
Understand how the retail environment influences shoppers
Brands can be affected by the activities of others around it. Everything from positioning within a store relative to other similar products, through to other promotions that are being run nearby can cause a shift in perspective. Brand owners need to be aware that their messages can be interfered with by what is going on around them. The “path to purchase” is a powerful tool that retailers understand, which is why they use disruption points along the path. They know they will be able to influence shoppers, and brands need to understand how these activities impact on them and plan strategies around them.
Keep Point of Sale messaging simple
People can only take in a small amount of information in the short amount of time they spend walking past a fixture; therefore brands need to consider this when trying to communicate with shoppers. This ultimately means rationalizing the messages that are delivered to a shopper and looking at visual queues to do most of the work for you. Across the “path to purchase” brands have different opportunities to present different messages. They need to understand what messages will best interrupt shoppers at the right points. These interruptions don’t have to be purely promotional, they can be visual or functional. For example, placing your product next to another that supports its usage occasion can not only help the shopper better understand your product but can also prompt pick up as the shopper considers their initial purchase needs and recognizes your brand’s role in meeting them.
Don’t forget about the retailer
Brands will very often find themselves battling against the retailers who are trying to promote their own labels. Retailers have access to a lot more information about shoppers and generally understand more about how they behave in store, so brands need to learn to work with them and not against them. Indeed, one of the biggest problems for most shopper marketers is getting their wonderful plans off the ground in store. A lot of retailers don’t want brands cluttering up their space, so brand owners need to understand what value their activity will have for the retailer and then work together with that retailer to deliver this, not just in the next few weeks but looking ahead to next year. Long term strategic partnerships are essential if brands are to work the retail space efficiently and effectively.
Have the people in place that understand shopper marketing
Shopper marketing has to be thought about strategically and not just tactically. The problem is that most marketing departments are still heavily focused on delivering above the line campaigns. The danger is that when you study what the barriers are to purchase within the last three feet, this could well turn out to be something that isn’t covered within the marketing budget – anything from development to distribution. Unless this is taken seriously by the brand they may not be able to effect the necessary change(s) to make a difference in store.
Get out of the office
Finally, if brand owners are going to make effective decisions about their in-store profile, they need to get out and watch shoppers in action. They can’t make effective decisions based on something that they’ve read they need to experience it for themselves – in store.
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