The future of Shopper Marketing is bright…if the US is anything to go by

Topics: E-Bulletins / Newsletters, Featured, FMCG, Point of Purchase, Shopper, Shopper marketing

A wrap up of the recent Shopper Marketing Summit in Chicago, by ShopAbility’s Alison Sinclair.

Hosted by the US Path to Purchase Institute, the 2012 Shopper Marketing Summit was held in Chicago on the 16-18 April 2012. The summit boasted “a boat load of critical insights, information and solutions to help better connect with shoppers”. I attended the conference to gain a greater understanding of the level of sophistication of the US market in the discipline of Shopper Marketing, to uncover examples of best practice and evaluate how the Australian market compares. While I came back confident in the level of skill, thinking and leadership within the Australian market I do think there are things we can learn from our American counterparts especially in the areas of integration, execution and measurement of Shopper Marketing initiatives.

The Shift from Trade to Shopper


To set the scene for the three days the first session of the conference, a panel based discussion, explored the key differences between traditional Trade Marketing and Shopper Marketing. The panel included representatives of thought-leading manufacturers and agencies such as Nestle USA, Kimberly-Clark, Millward Brown and JWT. They outlined the key differences as per the following table.








Objectives based on sales measures

Strategic sales, marketing and retailer objectives

Narrow approach

Broad approach

Sales mindset

Marketing mindset

Short term

Long term


The panel acknowledged that the increased complexity associated with a shopper-centric activities meant that campaigns involved a greater number of stakeholders, required longer lead times, required a new approach to budget allocation and in many cases were more difficult to measure. They did however also acknowledge that, if executed well, shopper-led campaigns had the ability to deliver more than just increased sales (e.g. improved retailer relationships, new occasions for a particular category or brand, increased household penetration, increased incidence of trip types, increased foot traffic, etc.).


The first day of the conference focused on two key elements of Shopper Marketing: Insights and Measurement, which are the bookends of any good Shopper Marketing campaign. Yet, these two elements are often those that are glossed over in the race to bring an activity to market. The truth is these elements are vital and can make the difference in elevating a basic trade marketing initiative to a true shopper marketing campaign, delivering exceptional results for a brand, category and/or retailer.


Throughout the conference the importance of quality insights was highlighted through the case studies presented by market leading organisations, including The Coca Cola Co, Pepsi Beverages Co., Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark Corp. These companies demonstrated how insights into shopper attitudes and behaviours helped them to develop new products and campaigns that had been highly successful meeting, and in many cases, exceeding their campaign objectives.



The Path to Integration


While Shopper Marketing has existed in the US longer than it has here in Australia it is encouraging to know that we are keeping up with the level of thinking the US is demonstrating. That said, the head start the US market had in the field of Shopper Marketing has meant forward-thinking organisations have had the time to experience initial success of activating against shopper-related insights and have now set about fully integrating shopper into their business. Some have progressed further down the path of integration than others but all of the organisations presenting at the summit indicated that full integration was their end goal. Many spoke of the challenges in making such a fundamental change within their business but all recognised the benefit that would result once it had been achieved.


It is important to note that those organisations who have integrated shopper have not walked away from traditional consumer marketing, and nor will they. Rather, they have built shopper into the strategic business, category, brand and channel plans alongside consumer marketing, understanding that there is a place and need for both to sit side by side.


The more sophisticated have realised that their budgets are through-the-line rather than above and/or below. They believe that funds should be allocated to the points along the path to purchase where they will have maximum effect, driving business efficiencies. For many businesses this requires a fundamental shift in thinking which must take place from the top-down with cultural change led by a determined senior management team. Those who have made it work are singing the praises of a fully integrated strategy that elevates the shopper to the same status consumers have long held in the hearts and minds of marketers.


The Impact of Technology on the Path to Purchase


The two subsequent days split sessions into four streams:

  • Digital Path to Purchase
  • Big Picture
  • Insights into Activation
  • Mobile Solutions


It will be no surprise, given that two of the four streams relate to technology, that the impact of digital and mobile on the path to purchase was a hot topic with many manufacturers and retailers seeking to understand the impact that technology is having on the way shoppers interact with their stores and brands. It was encouraging though to hear repeatedly that the shopper path to purchase is not isolated to the four walls of the store with universal acknowledgement that the shopper exists pre, in and post store.


The idea that technology has meant that active search (otherwise defined as ZMOT or Zero Moment of Truth by Google) is crashing with the FMOT (First Moment of Truth, a phrase coined by Proctor & Gamble) is being embraced by some who are working on ways to encourage the use of technology at the shelf.


Piers Fawkes, President of PSFK, who spoke on the topic ‘The Future of Retail’ gave the example of retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Mercedes Benz and Burberry who have digitally enabled their staff to enhance the shopping experience making them better equipped to address any questions their customers may have regarding product availability, technical specifications, etc. as well as to help them customize the shopping experience of their regular customers.


Aligning Manufacturer and Retailer Objectives


Often it is easy for manufacturers to concern themselves wholly and solely with their driving growth and sales of their brand, creating activations that deliver on their internal objectives with limited consideration for the retailer, their objectives and how this activity may fit into the retail environment.


A number of speakers at the conference spoke about the importance of aligning the manufacturer and retailer goals. April Carlisle, a Leader of Shopper Marketing at Proctor & Gamble said, “it has to work for everyone, or it works for no one”. She gave the example of Tide laundry detergent within mass merchants.


P&G recognised that laundry detergent category was a low priority for these retailers who were much more concerned with achieving growth in higher margin categories such as apparel. With this retailer objective in mind, they developed a campaign which supported the positioning of their brand, based on a shopper insight relating to the shoppers desire to get longevity out of their clothes.


They created a campaign for Walmart, in conjunction with Levis jeans, which communicated to shoppers that Tide was the washing detergent they should buy to protect their new jeans. They achieved off-location displays in the apparel section of the store and saw a dramatic increase in the sales and trial of Tide laundry liquid. This campaign was initially executed in Walmart but was extended to Target, linked with an alternative brand of jeans, once the results of the Walmart activation proved so successful. This campaign has been repeated a further three times in Target based on the success and the link to a retailer-critical category.


Another session presented by Kellogg, Proctor & Gamble and Ubisoft emphasized the huge opportunity that exists in cross-category promotions. They identified six key principles for a successful partnership:

  1. Start early and be transparent
  2. Align shopper targets
  3. Bring a valuable offer
  4. Leverage unique partner assets
  5. Activate around the path to purchase
  6. Execute with excellence


They gave examples of two campaigns that linked the release of gaming titles Madden NFL and Just Dance 3 with Gillette and Kellogg cereal brands respectively. Both campaigns were hugely successfully in driving awareness of the release of the game, which was the objective for Ubisoft, and achieving the brand objectives for Gillette and Kellogg.


The Future of Shopper Marketing


When asked what the future held for Shopper Marketing, speakers observed a number of trends and challenges they thought have an impact in the next few years. Amongst these were the rise of digital technology, the emergence of a multichannel shopper, shoppers who expect access and engagement wherever they might be, further embedding shopper into the DNA of business, retail-tainment, price transparency and a more holistic approach to the path to purchase. If this short but diverse list is anything to go by, the world of shopper is only going to get more interesting and the one thing that was made abundantly clear at the summit was that those who are along for the ride and are taking shopper seriously are those who will reap the rewards in the future.


Until next time!