Why is Shopper Marketing such a hard sell?

Andy Jarvis, shopper marketing specialist at integrated agency Billington Cartmell, talks about why shopper marketing is still a hard sell for some brands.

Andy Jarvis
Andy Jarvis

Things were falling to earth long before an apple landed on Newton’s head and the force was named ’gravity’. Similarly, humans have been shopping for some time; receiving marketing messages that guide purchase at every stage, right up to handing over the cash. So is shopper marketing a ’new’ medium? Just because these messages haven’t always been harnessed, doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.

Yet there is no argument about the growing focus on and investment in shopper marketing – 21% annually according to a Grocery Manufacturers Association & Deloitte report. Driven partly by the wealth of data-driven insights now available, this growth has led to new job titles and teams to process and act on this ’new’ thinking.

Corporate marketing structures now embrace and commit spend to an area that some had seen as the ’grubby’ end of the business. Yet to those marketers with a more open, ’integrated’ mindset, this is not ’new’ thinking, just thinking that has been carved up and packaged in a slightly different way and (worryingly in some cases) given a different silo.

In the eternal sales/marketing power struggle, the real opportunity for shopper marketing is to connect the ’silos’ and take the brand through to point of purchase in a meaningful, consistent way. Those at the coalface often bemoan the spend allocated to ’emotive’ ATL messaging and push back accordingly with harder messaging in-store. The functional element is certainly important in the shopping mindset; the average three-second POS engagement window is ten times smaller than the average TV ad, but we need both functional and emotional benefit.

At point of purchase, product messaging should always be 100% on brand, not just 100% about brand. We usually apply a ’sliding scale’ approach to brand/product messaging, looking to achieve an indirectly proportional relationship between brand and product the further along the shopper journey we go.

Whichever leg of the journey you focus on, any brand looking for commercial success is always going to end up at the same place – for sale, in a store, in front of a shopper. A holistic approach is key to success; marketers should focus not simply on reaching the next turn in the road, but on the ultimate destination for their brand.

This is why Billington Cartmell has built a series of principles to guide the stages of the shopper journey and REACH shoppers more effectively:

R Relevance
Increase awareness and affinity for the brand before shoppers reach store. Even where the shopper is not the end-consumer, we can understand the shopper/consumer relationship and influence this to give meaning to the shopper (happier families; easier meal solutions; greater convenience; etc).

The insights-driven approach that has fuelled shopper marketing growth can identify shopper missions, determine how the brand fits into those missions and understand how the brand will be digested in the store environment.
Understanding which channels and accounts we view as ’heroes’ to the business is also important. Not just those accounts which are most relevant through immediate sales, but also those that support brand strategy andgive positive exposure direct to the consumer so we are seen in the right places. We also need to consider the brand’s relevance to the retailer brand. What messages will appeal? Can our agendas be aligned?

E Emphasis
As cluttered retail environments restrict messaging cut-through, we should interrupt shoppers positively and often: press ads as they plan their shopping trip over breakfast; local radio on their way to town; proximity outdoor as they go down the high street and finally in-store with front-of-store display through to gold standard fixture display to off-fixture and co-siting. Segmentation and basket data can identify the best (sometimes unexpected) matches.

A Attraction
Shoppers need to be led through the store, into the aisle and to the right point at fixture. Effective signposting can take account of shopper missions to ensure PoS messaging, and position, matches shopper mindset.
Create positive disruption through theatre and promise of reward. Driving to aisle/category also provides a strong bargaining tool for retailer discussions.
Once in aisle the shopper will still need directing to the brand on fixture, particularly if siting is less prominent than competitors.

C Choice
At fixture, give the shopper a clear reason for preference by reinforcing the USP and role within category.

H Hook
Always include a call-to-action – tell shoppers what they need to do next. This should be simple, direct and urgent: “buy me now”. If the campaign has been well planned and executed, giving an experience that supported and benefited the shopper, the ’hook’ stage should extend beyond a single sale, ideally into repeat purchase and advocacy.

At each stage of the journey, influencers and gatekeepers need to be engaged in order to secure store space and shopper head-space.

– We need to get “On the LIST”, reaching shoppers and influencers before they get to store.
– We need to follow the rules of retailer engagement to gain display and get “Off the SHELF”.
– Finally, we need to match messages to the right missions and moments to get “In the BASKET”.

As surely as a falling apple will reach the ground, if shoppers can buy your product you’re already in the shopper marketing game. Understanding and harnessing sound shopper thinking can make sure your shoppers land exactly where you want them.



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