By Neil Jenkinson, new business director, Dialogue141.
Shopper marketing is a long-fought battle to persuade shoppers to buy your brand. It is not an entirely new discipline, distinct from everything that has gone before it.
The tendency to see it as such is neither correct nor helpful because it overlooks decades of strategic and creative skill and insight that helped the communications industry deal with the advent of mass television ownership in the 60s and the arrival of the digital age in the 90s and beyond.
Shopper marketing can be defined as any marketing stimulus, driven by deep shopper insight, designed to influence what shoppers buy by understanding how they buy.
It works by identifying the relationship between brand objectives, shopper behaviour and customer expectations and using that insight to get the right message across to shoppers at the right time.
It is important to get the balance right. Few people love or even respect brands that routinely disrupt their daily lives, but people do actively seek out brands that facilitate their lifestyles.
The starting point should be a ‘shopper is king’ philosophy that looks at the brand through shoppers’ eyes first and from the shelf outwards. The brand battle is won or lost in store at the fixture.
Shopper marketing is also sometimes disparaged as a hubristic dressing up of a traditional sales promotion, but sales promotion does not build long-term brand value – it simply pulls value forward by stealing sales from the future.
Building a brand and driving sales don’t have to be exclusive. Shopper marketing can and should promote a brand. And just because it has been around for a long time, it does not mean you cannot do original and creative things with it.
There is a formula for successful shopper marketing: it should combine consumer insight with compelling brand creative ideas that are then activated in partnership with customers – in other words, brands need to find ways to engage shoppers.
A winning shopper marketing formula can be thought of in three parts: insight, creative development and sell in.
First, consider where the brand fits in its category and within its competitive set – any brands targeting the same audience. Then consider the shopper: what is their shopping mission? How do they shop? What drives their preference? What triggers and barriers are there in relation to the brand?
Think about the shopping environment and identify the key channels and retailers for a particular brand. You should also identify the media channels available. And how will certain store policies on POS and display affect your strategy?
Plan touch-points – where will shoppers be exposed to your brand? Brand, shopper and customer objectives should also be established, along with solutions that best meet each one.
Find a way to engage retailers to persuade them to buy into your brand.
For argument’s sake, pet food is a good example of a category in which understanding shopper missions, needs and behaviours can unlock brand opportunities.
The pet food category is very similar to the baby food one because the strong emotional link between people and their pets means, to be successful, brands need to find new ways in which owners can treat their animals like part of the family. This goes some way to understanding the shopper – part of the insight that can make a pet food shopper marketing campaign successful.
Pet owners are not going to buy just any food – it has to be what is right specifically for their pet. Despite this, the category is a very functional one, with shoppers spending a relatively low amount of time deciding which brand to buy at the shelf.
Pets’ food consumption changes as they grow older, just like a baby, and shoppers look for guidance on what is right for their pets at different stages of their development. Now we have identified the mission for shoppers in this category, and how they shop, what can we do with it?
The use of parasite units, which attach to existing shelf displays, can drive emotive messages such as ‘treat me’, ‘spoil me’ and ‘take care of me’ designed to engage shoppers and move them to buy a brand.
A change to the category’s planogram to reflect shopper needs could also drive sales by, for example, segmenting a brand’s products into life stages to help educate shoppers on what their pets need at different stages of their development.
These steps along the path of creative development and sell-in are more likely to be successful because retailers want to see initiatives that will radically grow the category, rather than more brand-switching initiatives.
How, when and what you communicate to shoppers makes a world of difference. And getting it right results in sales and long-term relationships with retailers.
So use your shopper marketing strategy to create ideas that create desire. Win the brand battle, and you will win the shopper war.
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