Shopper marketing as a term has now been around for some time: and one could be forgiven for thinking that every business was well and truly on the shopper marketing bandwagon. But in reality that simply isn’t true. Many organizations still don’t have anyone with ‘shopper’ in their title. Other companies have re-branded their Trade Marketing team as Shopper Marketing, yet most of the activities of the team haven’t changed much. And even in big companies, many in-market teams are still struggling to bring shopper marketing into their business. As someone at our recent Shopper Marketing Experts webinar asked: ‘how do you get focus on shopper marketing, when the business is still obsessed by consumers’. Shopper marketing struggles in organizations for several reasons: but at its heart there is often one fundamental problem. What is shopper marketing? The industry is yet to adopt a common shopper marketing definition. So in this post we’re going to propose a way to build a high value shopper marketing definition for your business
What is shopper marketing? The most common shopper marketing definition
A cursory glance at the top hits on Google for “shopper marketing definition” or “What is shopper marketing” yield a rather depressing haul. Wikipedia gets top billing, with the (quite frankly) awful shopper marketing definition:
“understanding how one’s target consumers behave as shoppers, in different channels and formats, and leveraging this intelligence to the benefit of all stakeholders, defined as brands, consumers, retailers and shoppers”. I’m not sure where this came from, but the IGD do claim it as their own (though I’ve heard of others who also do).
There are (at least) two fundamental problems with this shopper marketing definition.
Firstly: ‘understanding how one’s target consumers behave as shoppers’ completely negates the very common situation where the shopper isn’t the consumer (and no, I still haven’t found a single category where the shopper is always the consumer).
Secondly: “leveraging this intelligence to the benefit of all stakeholders, defined as brands, consumers, retailers and shoppers”. The inference is that unless all parties benefit, it isn’t shopper marketing. Really? So if Coca Cola run a campaign designed to get shoppers to switch to Coke from Pepsi, does the retailer benefit? Maybe not. So is that not shopper marketing? And what if a retailer runs a campaign which reduces sales to one brand or other? Is that not shopper marketing?
What is shopper marketing? A better shopper marketing definition
Let’s take a look at another widely quoted shopper marketing definition. POPAI’s Shopper Marketing Industry Council in 2011 suggests that shopper marketing is:
“The application of shopper insights along the path to purchase, to affect purchase behaviour in order to increase sales for both retailers and manufacturers”
This feels a lot better to me. However, I find the use of the word insights a little troubling (as we seem to find it difficult to agree what is and isn’t an insight). Surely just an understanding of shoppers would do? Does everything have to be an ‘insight’ (whatever that is!) And again we have the idea that shopper marketing has to benefit both retailers and manufacturers, which is rather dis-empowering to both parties, I feel.
What is shopper marketing? Building a shopper marketing definition which works
In answering the question ‘what is shopper marketing’, the fact that there isn’t a single clear shopper marketing definition is both good and bad news . That’s bad because you can’t necessarily pick up a definition ‘off the shelf’, but good in that you can shape the definition to what you want it to be for your business. But – well – where to start?
What is shopper marketing? An alternative shopper marketing definition
“Shopper marketing is the process of understanding shoppers and using that understanding to develop a marketing mix which influences shopper behavior in such a way as to positively impact consumption of the brand and or category’”
You can adapt this, but this is a great start. Let’s break it down.
What is shopper marketing?A process
First things first – it’s a process. It isn’t a team. It isn’t a philosophy. It’s a process: a series of actions that the business does. Adopting this shopper marketing definition helps a fledgling team wriggle free of the politics of who does what. Get the business bought into the fact that the process adds value, and you are well on your way to getting the business to buy into the value of shopper marketing.
What is shopper marketing? Understanding shoppers
I’ve thought long and hard about this bit. If our activities aren’t based on an understanding of shoppers, is it still marketing? One could easily open up a lengthy philosophical debate over this, but actually there isn’t a need. If we are to do anything other than throw random activities at the world, then it must be based on some amount of understanding. Period. So, it isn’t marketing if there isn’t some understanding at its heart. And it isn’t shopper marketing, unless it is based on an understanding of shoppers. Note I’m not saying that shopper marketing must be based on an in-depth, heavily researched understanding of shoppers. Nor am I saying it must be ‘an insight’. Just looking at the situation from a shopper’s point of view is a start. We are then, at least, putting the shopper at the heart of our thoughts and actions.
What is shopper marketing? Changing shopper behavior
In all your businesses (at least, almost all!) – you are looking for growth. For this to happen, there is a need for shoppers to change behavior. Your brand will need new shoppers, or will need existing shoppers to buy more, or more often. Each of these is a change in shopping behavior. Without these changes, growth simply won’t happen.
What is shopper marketing? Creating positive change in consumption behavior
This bit is critical for a number of reasons, but there are two key ones. It is this part that really demonstrates the added value of shopper marketing. It is also the part of the equation which helps consumer marketers understand the value that shopper marketing brings.
The value created by changing shopping behavior depends on the impact it has on consumption. Let’s explore this by way of an example. If I buy an extra tube of toothpaste, because of a promotion in-store, but it is of a brand I usually buy, and I don’t brush my teeth any more frequently, then the value of that promotion is low (arguably negative, as in the long term I won’t buy any more paste, but I’ve bought this one on deal). However, if I see something in-store that encourages me to buy, let’s say, a pack of chips when I hadn’t planned on buying them: and then I go on to consume them: then consumption has been expanded.
A shopper marketing definition which also creates value
So real shopper marketing value only comes if shopper marketing impacts both consumption and shopping behavior.
Yes, I am completely aware that including this opens the definition to criticism (much in the same way as I criticized the IGD definition). If it doesn’t drive consumption, is it not shopper marketing? One could easily argue that an activity that drives purchase, but not consumption is still shopper marketing. It would be true.
But it wouldn’t be as valuable
This part of the shopper marketing definition also helps consumer marketers understand why shopper marketing helps. If consumer marketers see shopper marketing as something that will help drive brand consumption, they are more likely to support it. This part of the definition hard-wires the connection between shopper marketing and consumer marketing in your business.
This shopper marketing definition has been proven to work with countless organizations. It creates clarity and purpose for shopper marketing activities. To learn more about shopper marketing, and for more help in getting started in shopper marketing, check out Shopper Marketing Experts, a new online community for anyone interested in shoppers and shopper marketing. If you’d like more direct help in getting your business to be more shopper focused, please get in touch.
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Image: Mike Anthony