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Shopper Marketing Best Practices: What’s on Your Grocery List?

Of all the various forms of engagement marketing undergoing sweeping transformations, the one that appears destined for an immediate facelift is shopper marketing.  Once a haven for generic product sampling storefront activations to drive traffic and short-lived incremental sales lifts, the grocery channel has quickly become an influential part of a consumer packaged goods marketer mix. Need proof?  Consider a recent Booz & Co./Grocery Manufacturers Association joint analysis study. In it, findings revealed a whopping 83% of CPG companies expect a spend increase in their shopper marketing allocations through 2014.  What’s more, 55% of these same respondents indicated these investments will exceed direct outlays to both digital and social media channels.   A significant, if not telling, trend given combined spending between web and social networking mediums has accounted for more than 62% of budget placement the last two years. Experiential Marketing shopper marketingIt’s easy to understand the interest in dollar shifting.  Long have product manufacturers, brand managers, agency partners and retailers sought to understand the ever-evolving path-to-purchase continuum.  When leveraged properly, the end result is a model of tireless precision: consumer purchasing behavior demystified! The Problem is that this purchasing behavior changes all too frequently.  Wave upon wave of new media technology ensures consumers keep the incentive scale tipped in their favor.  As a result, agencies are left scrambling on the look-out for innovative ways to stay ahead of at-the-shelf behavior. Since shopper marketing represents a critical core service offering within our experiential marketing stable, wedu works vigorously towards identifying the emotional cues that trigger a consumer purchase at the point of sale.  How? Well, like any marketing campaign, the strategies vary in accordance to client objective, target audience, market condition and specific account. Over the years, however, our work has managed to produce a number of subtle, consistent findings.  Some may appear a bit self-evident while others may actually surprise you.  So here they are.  Regard them as a road map to plotting out your next store-level marketing strategy. Know Thy Retailer: How is the retailer structured internally and externally?  What are their strategies, objectives and needs?  Do they have shopper segmentation data to share?  What about in-store advertising platforms?  Traditional (eg: end caps, shelf talkers) and/or nontraditional (eg:  digital displays?) Understanding the footprint in which you’ll participate prior to implementation will make the difference between affecting a sale or not. experienital marketingIntegrate: By all means make certain to look at all forms of marketing extensions to enhance your shopper marketing strategy before its launch.  Geo-location based targeting (foursquare) or social network couponing (Groupon or Facebook Deals) immediately come to mind. Today’s most effective Shopper Marketing campaigns are no longer a collection of in-store or online one-offs.  They’re purposefully designed and expertly measured to reach the shopper before they enter the store and reward them after the transaction.  Remember… when you initiate, be certain to integrate. Analyze Your Target Consumer and Then Analyze Again: Make no mistake about it.  Your consumer and your ‘shopper’ consumer are no longer distinctly different audiences.  Treat them accordingly.  This means demonstrating the functional benefit of how your product is used or consumed against the utilitarian benefit of illustrating how your product will enriches their life. There is a ‘Path’ to Purchase: But Bring Along a GPS for Safe-Keeping:  Technology has changed the Shopper Marketing game dramatically so plan your path to purchase trip accordingly.  Come to grips with the reality that a bricks and mortar strategy Point A (eg: sample product) to Point B (eg: converted lifetime consumer) is a fallacy.  Multiple touch points now exist (digital, mobile, live, viral, social) that influence customer behavior anywhere at anytime on the path to purchase lifecycle.  Use your navigation instruments wisely. Build Consensus: Ensure all your constituencies (Brand, Retailer, Agency, Consumer/Shopper) are aligned prior to deploying strategy.  Any disconnect between these parties will determine a program’s success or failure.  Consistent communication and realistic assignment of expectations will inevitably breed achievement. Differentiate: For the retailer that is.  Leverage the powerful benefits of your shopper marketing strategy to reveal performance impact to a store location or trade account.  Will it increase sales?  How about traffic influence?  Will you support with in-store promotional spend on end cap displays?  Perhaps a social media extension?  Ever think about tying in Facebook likes (i.e.: traffic) to a retail partner’s page? Show the retailer value and it’s likely you’ve created a compelling value proposition and forged a valuable relationship in the process. Respect the Timeline: In grocery channels, lead time retail planning and buying is long.  Leverage your brokers for key information to understand when best to implement strategy.  Often times, your ideal window for activation will not align with retailer cycles.  Be flexible and anticipate changes. Measure Outcomes: Without a doubt, one of the critical evaluators for success.  Metrics within the channel are improving buoyed by a wealth of research mechanisms.  Take the time to create your performance benchmarks.  Don’t be swayed by your own educated guesses.  If ever there is a step to over-spend against, this is it. Understanding shopper behavior is a lifelong endeavor.  Treat is as such.  What’s on your customer’s grocery list today will no doubt change tomorrow.  So buckle up the kids, turn on the radio and head on over to your local supermarket.  Before departing, though, be sure to clear out a little extra cargo space in that minivan.  After all, you’ll need the leg room to accommodate that infinite supply of lifetime consumers. I’ll see you at the store!
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