Anyone involved in FMCG or consumer goods in general: Whether you are in marketing, trade marketing, shopper marketing or sales; whether you work for a retailer or a supplier; one thing is true. If you don’t win with shoppers, you don’t win. Great marketing campaigns count for nothing if the shopper doesn’t buy. Great companies know this: I met a supply chain director from one consumer goods company recently who had just spent three days on a market visit trip. But that, alas, appears to be a rarity. The store is where shopping happens, but apparently many managers are “too busy” to visit. Yet there is so much value that can be gleaned from just a small investment in this activity, it’s worth finding ways to make it happen (and there are a few tips on this towards the end of the blog). Today a marketer who doesn’t know Facebook or Twitter intimately would be rightfully scorned – a shopper marketer who doesn’t understand stores should be too.
When I started in consumer goods, working for United Biscuits in the UK, I spent the first six months or so as a field sales rep before being transferred into the head office key accounts team.
On my first day in the office I had fifteen minutes of precious time with the head of sales – three levels above me. He didn’t talk about strategy, ground rules, or even my future: He gave me one simple piece of advice: go to stores as often as possible.
If you’re in consumer goods, you’ll never spend too much time in stores
That was in the pre-shopper marketing age. Two decades on, I’ve worked across three continents, led sales and marketing teams, set up a company working with countless consumer goods clients, and I still remember and quote that line.
And yet it seems the message, so obvious and true, didn’t get through to many people. Too many marketers and sales people I meet are apparently too busy to go to stores (though often not too busy to complain that they don’t have a budget for shopper research). When I start a project or coaching assignment, I take the team to a store. They typically go straight to their own category (and it is scary how many don’t know where to find it) and they ignore everything else.
The store (be it virtual or physical) is where it happens. Whatever the path to purchase, it ends up in a store (and yes, you can do online store visits!) If it doesn’t happen there it doesn’t happen.
“I don’t have time to go to stores”
Not enough time? We’re all busy – but if we’re creative, there are lots of ways to save time AND spend time in stores. Have a team meeting in a store. Meet a key account manager in a store. Sneak off for five minutes whilst doing the family shop. Rotate responsibility across your team to go to a store once a week and share pictures and thoughts in your weekly team meeting (we do this at engage and it is awesome – everyone, including the secretaries and admin team go – and it’s amazing what different people see!).
If you work in consumer goods, or its a big part of your job, go to a store today. Check out one other category (not one you work in). Check out other brands. Observe shoppers. Maybe ask them a question. Data from a store visit isn’t necessarily accurate. But it’s a great place to build hypotheses, to use to explore data further.
However often you go, it’s probably not enough.
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