No more flat-earthing: the Path to Purchase is round

Topics: Business Strategy, E-Bulletins / Newsletters, FMCG, Home Previews, Point of Purchase, Shopper, Shopper marketing

The recent Path to Purchase Summit held in Sydney brought together a host of international and national speakers to explore what a 360 degree view of shopper marketing means now, in the most rapidly-changing period in retail history. The team from ShopAbility share their key take-outs from the event, for Retail World Magazine.

Amongst all the diversity of perspective in the industry on ‘where to shopper marketing?’ – in the broadest sense, there is one thing upon which everyone seems to agree – the need for a genuinely holistic approach; resulting in real integration. Between supplier and retailer, consumer and shopper, among currently disparate marketing tactics, and around concepts of value.

Within that, four key areas are standing out in the current landscape:

  1. 1.       Digital and mobile – the new black
  2. 2.       Holistic marketing – from consumer to shopper and back
  3. 3.       Language and vision – supplier versus retailer
  4. 4.       What ‘value’ means now


The first one, in particular, is the biggest ‘buzzword’ around, and consequently gets the most attention!

1.       Digital and mobile – the new black


Speaking of flat-earthing, up until recently in Australia the importance of digital and mobile has been pooh-poohed to some extent by the argument that 90% of sales are still physical. Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the technologies to influence and create the sale, not just to transact.

Digital/mobile is under still utilised in Australia for influence. Referencing Google’s ‘Zero moment of truth’ approach,  we’re currently undercooked at all points (Stimulus, Zero Moment of Truth, First Moment of Truth, Second Moment of Truth) given we are approximately 60% smartphone penetration in this country.

As a result of this lag, many of the Path to Purchase presentations focused very much on digital.

It is evident that many companies aren’t using digital very well. If they have it tends to be something like “hey let’s put our brand on Facebook” with little thought on how can we communicate with our audience and more importantly what do we want to communicate with this medium.

One company that is using digital media particularly effectively is Coopers. Here is a family-owned company rooted in tradition (in fact celebrating 150 yrs in 2012!) that has embraced digital and in the process shown the bigger players in the industry that you don’t need a big budget to be effective. Their Coopers Clear campaign used augmented reality to make a connection with both male and female shoppers but it was much more than that – it is one of the first examples in this country where a manufacturer has effectively utilised digital media to promote and bypass the retailer. ( One simply scans their smartphone over a symbol on the pack to see if they’ve won. Even better is that they didn’t even have to educate their shoppers on how to access the promotion. Coopers sales reps simply showed the store manager how to do it and got them so excited they were showing shoppers how to do it. “Clean store policy?” –  not a problem. They’ve also used their “order of Coopers” website to make a fantastic connection with consumers. In fact, I feel like a Coopers now.

While some are using digital effectively (Coopers obviously, Supre and Debenhams come to mind), examples of integrating it in a combined effort with other forms of marketing have historically been light on. Toby Desforges made a good point when he said that in the same way that marketing isn’t just advertising, promotions isn’t just shopper marketing. The point is that a marketing campaign needs to encompass digital, print, TV and in-store – and in fact whichever are the most appropriate marketing tactics to bring the bigger picture to life. Ann Mooney, ex P&G, shared some excellent examples of how they have been able to achieve this in the USA – which relate also to the need for a holistic and integrated approach, so we’ll discuss them under those points.

Moving forward, one of the ‘holy grails’ will be how to effectively measure the impact of digital media in the shopper process. There are lots of models around but the ones that are measured really focus solely on in-store.  Speaker Ben Grill who made a good point about the traditional ‘pathway’ approach, suggesting “we should call this the path to purchase and repurchase”.  Indeed. And this is where digital can potentially help to keep the connection with the shopper and consumer so as to encourage repurchase.

A cautionary word on social media, however…

‘Social media’ and ‘shopper’ have now become buzz words that are bandied with gay abandon but a lack of depth of understanding and strategic rationale. John Bastistich from Westfield made the point that some of the biggest brands have either closed down their Facebook online store or view it purely as brand engagement with no commercial expectations from it. Companies need a meaningful reason beyond ‘having a presence’ behind where they invest in the social media landscape, and what they invest with. When it comes to forums like Facebook, the gulf between awareness and purchase is wide.  Back to the point around influence – the acid test is how can each element of the mix influence the shopper decision-making process?


2.       Holistic marketing – from consumer to shopper and back


Back to this business of a 360 degree view.  In this era of rapid change and a fragmented marketing environment, it’s clear that a holistic whole-of-customer view is required, from consumer to shopper and back again (pre/in/post store) rather than shopper in isolation.

This is a re-emerging theme that also came up strongly in the POPAI / ShopAbility Shopper Marketing Industry Survey. That shopper is not just about in-store, and nor is it ‘just a mindset’ (as clearly stated by Ann Mooney at the Summit).

Shopper marketing involves pre, in and post-store and we need to understand the relationship between consumer and shopper.


Consumer needs and desires drive shopper purchase. At the point where those consumer desires and needs become purchase choices and decisions, we’re speaking to the shopper, whether or not they’re in-store at that point.  And there is any number of influences along this ‘path’, which is somehow no longer the right word to use, since it’s clearly not linear.  And to that point, when the shopper becomes the consumer again; using the product is also an ongoing expression of their choice.  And then there’s post purchase.

Post purchase is also currently underutilised (expressions versus impressions, to quote Ben Grill from Google).Post purchase hasn’t really been thought about for repurchase and transactions, just for ‘loyalty’.

This all points to the importance of tailoring offers based on an understanding of individuals as whole-of-customer. And technology enables us to do this now. We can find out more about our customers than ever in the history of marketing. The era of ‘mass communications’ is over, for those of us who still haven’t got the message and cling to our TVCs.


3.       Language and vision – supplier versus retailer


Another theme is the need for a common language for suppliers and retailers (and within suppliers) by putting shopper and store back, or ‘store first’, as Ann Mooney from P&G likes to call it.

It’s not just about ‘doing shopper marketing’, which isn’t a term retailers use anyway; all shoppers are ‘customers’ to a retailer.

From the successful examples given at the conference, it seems internal structure dedicated to shopper is less important than having a common language, clear vision and clearly understood process for getting things to market and using insights.

Several of the speakers, and in particular Ann Mooney (formerly of P&G), spoke of the need for genuine integration in shopper-led marketing initiatives. In order for all facets of a campaign to sing from the same hymn book (including digital) with shopper-focused messaging, this integration needs to be built in to process before a single campaign light bulb goes ‘bing’. Ann spoke to the realities involved in making that happen, including:

  • Nominating lead agencies to coordinate other agencies (and the politics of that)
  • Ensuring that Insights not only have a seat at the table, but that shopper insights actually inform all integrated marketing initiatives
  • Building in processes for Retailer engagement from the outset (i.e. during the insights gathering stage) and a seat at the table for every stage


At this stage, the Australian market is still very tactical and for many working in the industry, the task feels overwhelming to get from where they are operating now and where they would like to be. There is a real need to get the attitude and processes (including who holds particular budgets and how they work together) within businesses right to ensure that the strategy (or in many cases tactics disguised as strategy) are not determined by company structure.

What ‘value’ means now


Low price is not a differentiator anymore, it’s a given. There is a need to define the types of value different shoppers look for, and this  means retailers will need to move away from a ‘lowest price’ to defining what ‘value’ actually means or find a different platform altogether.

Jon Bird of Ideaworks delivered a brilliant presentation which spoke to 8 Paths to Value; being:

  1. Basic Buys
  2. Proven Performer
  3. Creative Solutions
  4. Expert Advice
  5. Built to Last
  6. Affordable Chic
  7. Small Indulgences
  8. Everyday Heroes


Arnaud Frade from TNS also spoke to Values and Concepts being beyond price, and certainly in our own experience of category strategy and the development of category drivers, there is a need for a holistic approach to what value means to our customers, just as there is a need for a 360 degree view on the points we’ve mentioned earlier.

Ann Mooney also made the valid point that packaging is underleveraged for shopper communications and activations, not just as a brand platform. Packaging is often the only guaranteed communication medium there is. So, what are we communicating on it and how does that address this broader concept of ‘value beyond price’?

And… finally, back to being human.

Simon Small of Nestle Switzerland reminded us of the fundamental truth that ultimately it’s all about emotional connection. Which can be easily forgotten while trying to navigate what ‘shopper’ means now in an increasingly fragmented and complex communication world. Simon’s stories of powerful emotional connections between shoppers and brands in surprising environments, such as developing nations where retail channels are unsophisticated at best and chaotic at worst, prove that when you hit the emotional ‘sweet spot’ with shoppers, the dividends can be enormous.

So, in summary:

  1. All tactics need good reasons
  2. Shopper marketing is about whole human beings, who are consumers, shoppers and seek ‘value’ (whatever that means for them), and are influenced by a wide range of communication mediums before, during and after purchase
  3. Real integration happens via common language, vision and meaningful process change
  4. Emotion is at the heart of all good shopper marketing.  Actually, at the heart of everything, really.