Simplifying shopper marketing


Shopper, supermarket, aisle,Most Australian retailers and brands will have by now heard the new industry buzzword, shopper marketing.

First emerging in the US around 2009, the discipline is today practiced internationally by retail superpowers Tesco and Walmart.

So, what is it? Finding a clear definition of this growing retail consideration is admittedly a little difficult.

Put very simply, shopper marketing is the practice of finding out how humans behave in a retail environment.

“It is a dark art in a way,” says Jon Bird, CEO of Ideaworks and a self confessed shopper marketing fanatic.

Bird says shopper marketing newbies should start by appreciating the difference between a consumer and a shopper.

“The shopper is the one with the wallet. Shopper marketing is about understanding and influencing that shopper.”

For example, if we think about toy retail, we would look at the behaviour and desires of the shopper (mum or dad) rather than the consumer (children).

Learning about this shopper throws up a whole new realm of considerations for everything from store design to traditional advertising.

This means shopper marketing is both about gathering insights and implementing real world changes in response to this knowledge, such as packaging, visual merchandising, or promotions.

As Tesco and Walmart are discovering, correctly implementing these changes and shopper solutions can come with a nice pay off – sales increases.

The path to purchaseThe path to purchase

If there’s one area that the newbie shopper marketing disciple needs to know about, it is probably the path to purchase (P2P).

The P2P is essentially the shopper’s journey as they go from not knowing about a product to hopefully buying it and taking it home to enjoy.

This journey starts before a shopper is even inside a store and may be affected by things like TV advertising, word of mouth, or social media.

Once the shopper actually enters a retail environment, their mindset may change entirely depending on what cues they receive.

These overwhelming and often conflicting cues might include everything from the layout of a grocery aisle to the music that’s playing instore that day.

Empirically finding out what special mix of cues will best increase sales in a specific store is at the heart of shopper marketing.

“Retail traditionally has been based on the intuition of the merchant,” says Bird.

“People are now understanding more about the importance of data and the importance of taking a scientific approach.

“That doesn’t mean that intuition needs to be replaced, but [it is useful if it is] supplemented with a deeper understanding.”

The P2P also importantly encompasses the post-store mindset, which is when a person leaves a store and consumes a product or recommends it to a friend.

Norrelle Goldring, head of shopper insights and retail strategy at research datahouse, GfK, says it’s important to know how humans behave at each stage of this journey.

“Shopper marketing is about activating the right touchpoints with the right messages and calls to action for pre-store, instore, and post-store,” she says.

The P2P can also be broken down into different shopper mindsets: need, search and compare, decide and buy, and use and tell.

It is important to remember that the Australian shoppers’ journey is being increasingly blurred by the onset of e-commerce.

While the bricks and mortar P2P was once a primarily straight line, today it has become a haphazard zig zag due to online shopping.

IRM_FEBMAR14_AMENDS_Page_12_2Different types of shoppers

Figuring out how people behave at different points of the purchasing journey ultimately involves identifying different types of shoppers.

We’re obviously not all the same, and we definitely don’t always visit a bricks and mortar or online store in the same mindset.

For example, sometimes we may head to a supermarket after work in a frenzy with the aim of finding just enough ingredients for dinner that night.

At other times we may be in the supermarket with an hour to spare and a very long list of all the things we want to buy for that week.

“Good shopper marketing is all about using insights to provide shoppers with something relevant for them based on their occasion, trip type, and category needs,” says Goldring. Real world examples of this include a widely referenced case study featuring one of the biggest US food producers, Con-Agra.

Con-Agra’s ‘Shopper Seasons’ identified six different types of mindsets experienced by its shoppers: post-holiday, spring, summer, back to school, October fling, and holiday.

Locally, liquor retailer Dan Murphy’s has also been busy identifying its different shoppers, which include ‘corporate buyers’ through to ‘price sensitive’ individuals.
Identifying these different types of liquor shoppers was central to Dan Murphy’s overhaul of its e-commerce presence in 2012.

For example, the retailer’s updated e-commerce platform now uses the words “Buy Now” instead of “Add To Cart”, because the former works better for its shoppers.

Hurol Inan, MD of Bienalto, which designed Dan Murphy’s platform, says the retailer has markedly changed its sale patterns by improving website’s capabilities.

“Commercially, we were able to get some incredible improvements in the shopping cart, from the shopper’s moment of choosing a product to the checkout, just with closer monitoring,” he says.

Offering targeted solutions

One of the biggest advantages of shopper research and insight is learning more about the sorts of things that will work well for your shoppers.

Goldring says this is all about offering people “solutions” that make their shopping journey easier, faster or more enjoyable.

The good news is that doing this is about being tactical, rather than just offering people another boring discount.

“Good shopper marketing actually deflects the need for often unprofitable price-off promotions by pulling levers based on shopper needs,” says Goldring.

“Many price-off promotions only rotate shoppers around products, particularly staples [like milk or bread] that they would have bought anyway.”

Shopper markting, woolworthsOne big shopper solution catching on in Australia is implementing anything that responds to time poor shoppers or quick trips.

IGA is one local retailer on top of this trend, with its Xpress stores offering meal solutions for time poor Sydney shoppers.

Coles and Woolworths are also ramping up their homebrand meal bases and packaged produce based on this trend, including pre-sliced stir fry vegetable packs.

This was an idea executed by Arnott’s in Woolworths last year, as part of a Vita Wheat and Cruskitt’s campaign around busy mum’s healthy lunches.

Coca-Cola is another big brand that uses shopper insights to produce entirely different packaging or offers specific to different environments.

“Coke has done some smashing summer entertaining campaigns and has a deep understanding of which packs for which channels for which occasions,” says Goldring.

Other fun shopper marketing campaign in the last few years include an instore promotion by a New Zealand alcohol company, DB Breweries.

DB Breweries started with the insight that its male target market didn’t really like wine, but they sometimes drank it because of social pressures at special events, like weddings.

The solution? They gave shoppers what they really wanted – beer – but dressed it up as a bottle of wine with the tag line “you don’t have to do this”.

“I really loved this. It demonstrated a really deep insight of both consumer and shopper behaviour,” says Bird.

“They understood what was going on from a consumer perspective and it spun out into a lot of fun advertising. It was a really cool idea.

“You can’t bore people into buying. And knowing that is fundamentally what shopper marketing is all about.”

This article first appeared in Inside Retail Magazine’s February/March 2014 edition. To subscribe, click here.

You have 7 articles remaining. Unlock 15 free articles a month, it’s free.