The path to purchase is evolving. Digital is empowering and informing shoppers as they make their purchasing decisions. The key to success is enhancing the customer experience by satisfying shopper needs for convenience, choice, service and value for money.

The path to purchase isn’t always a direct route. Technology advances are changing shopping behaviour and the purchase cycle. Omni Channel retailing is an imperative. Shoppers demand multiple ways of dealing with retailers. The impact of technology is fragmenting and complicating the path to purchase.

While some customers are comparison shopping in store before purchasing online there are others for whom the path to purchase runs in the opposite direction.

Some customers do their comparison shopping online before heading to a store to purchase from a retailer they trust to be there tomorrow. These consumers value service and support.

It is critical to connect with shoppers in key consideration moments. Shoppers face countless options along their journey, and each one forces them to make a decision before they can move forward. Sometimes they zig for something healthy or convenient. Other times they zag for something inexpensive and tasty. Was it the packaging that caught their eye? The placement on the shelf? Or perhaps their mission was driven by a quest for nutrition.

Technology is also providing shoppers a means to broadcast their satisfaction – or otherwise – with their shopping experience and product purchase via social media.

At the heart of all this is an informed, resourceful and connected consumer. From a retail lens today’s shopper is potentially the smartest in our consumerised history.

There’s growing recognition that retail is the center of gravity in marketing. In all its manifestations, whether online, e-commerce, in-store or mobile, retail is in the center of everything a brand touches. There’s also greater recognition of its potential as a marketing platform, not just a distribution channel. Retail is unique. It’s the one place where both sales and marketing happen at the same time.

According to the Point of Purchase Advertising International, 76% of shopping decisions are made in store. This gives retailers and brands a fantastic opportunity to influence this decision-making process in store, at the final moment of truth.

So what is Shopper Marketing?

Shopper marketing is not a new discipline; it’s an evolution of the shopper and retail functions that already exist. It’s complex and strategic, and it has to see the alignment of sales, marketing and retail objectives.

A shopper marketing mindset is insights led and holistic in approach pre, in store and post store engagement.

The key thing about shopper marketing is connecting with people at those key purchase consideration moments. Identify touch points and how you can achieve and engage your messaging strategy to increase sales. The more touch points the more detailed the customer journey becomes.

A customer journey can be viewed as a cohesive strategy illustrating the steps customers go through in engaging with the retail environment. A useful approach to maximize sales potential.

According to POPAI (Point of Purchase Advertising International), “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.”

Although Shopper Marketing has only really permeated the marketing mainstream over the last few years, its proponents argue that it is an important move away from the short term and adversarial past of trade marketing and sales promotion tactics to a more strategic marketing discipline that has a key role to play in an integrated marketing approach.

So if Shopper Marketing really is a key strategy for driving sales and a different approach to the past, what principles can we draw upon to deliver greater returns?

Here are some key principles to leverage Shopper Marketing to improve sales

  • Sell to the shopper, not the consumer
  • Utilising insight into shopper behaviours and motivations is a key principle of Shopper Marketing and the main differentiator over traditional ‘brand push’ strategies.
  • Consumers use, shoppers buy. Shopper Marketing complements the ‘passive’ awareness and preference building role of consumer marketing by focusing on the ‘active’ purchase decision making process of the shopper.
  • Know your product/service offer
  • Every marketer commits significant resource to understanding how their offers are perceived by consumers, but do they have the same understanding of the assets and equities that influence shopper choices?
  • How can you re-frame value? Consider how you can ‘Up’ the benefit and ‘Down’ the price to remove or minimise the inevitable trade-offs shoppers make.
  • Offer solutions
  • Keep in mind that the final purchase decision is made in favour of the product or selection of products that provides the shopper with the most convenient response to her or his shopping motivation.

Think about themes, co-locations and adjacencies that address shoppers’ needs for value – for example healthy meal options for the whole family, fun nights in that won’t break the bank, pamper yourself and be kind to your purse, save money and save the planet.

  • All shoppers are not the same – Just like the general population, shoppers are not one homogenous mass. Demographic changes present segmentation opportunities for focusing tailored offerings and messages whether that is based on ethnicity, age, families or singles. All have distinct needs.
  • Think about the path to purchase – Whilst the ‘first moment of truth’ is when a shopper selects one retail store over another, the decision making process in store has just begun, prior to any decision taking place at the shelf.

If shoppers are planning or combining their trips more or looking for value, is on-line a channel for raising awareness, do retailers loyalty programs influence planning decisions, can radio talk to your shoppers while they drive to the store?

  • Use technology to assist shopper decision making
  • Kiosks enhance the customer experience
  • Digital signage can provide relevant, real time messaging to convert pre store
  • Interactive media such as Augmented Reality, QR Codes can engage and excite the shopper
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is game-changing technology. With BLE, your phone can announce its presence to other devices in range in an extremely power-efficient way. Now a store could tell if you’ve walked in, alert you to what’s on sale and if you said, “That shirt looks great I love that it’s 30% off. Where is that item?” that store’s app, with an assist from BLE, could guide you right to it. With stored credit-card information on your phone, payment could made via BLE. Your phone wouldn’t even have to leave your pocket for the transaction to take place.
  • Align your offer and sales staff. Those retailers that see winning with shoppers as the sole remit of the sales and customer teams will not be as successful as those that realize shoppers’ changing habits need to be addressed by the entire organisation.

This will require an integrated planning process with management and sales teams working in unison.

  • Keep it simple Clarity is key. Value messages, especially in-store should be simple and to the point. If things get too complex, shoppers will resort to the lowest price. Shoppers will also look for familiar cues of trust and re-assurance. Combine relevant value messages with these valuable equities. Be proud and confident and not apologetic. Shoppers are looking for re-assurance that they are making the right choices. Be transparent and don’t sell people what they don’t need – you will lose their trust and loyalty.
  • Innovate wisely. New segments will emerge from changes in consumption and shopping behaviors while digital technologies in and out of store present new engagement opportunities. Whilst all expenditure should be carefully considered, an insight led and integrated planning approach can reveal opportunities for competitive advantage.
  • Evaluate constantly. It’s important to stay close to the consumer and your business partners ensuring products and messages are relevant to consumer needs and remain flexible as these needs change.

A final word…

When it comes to the future of shopper marketing, as with the future of almost everything, technology is set to shape it. The challenge ahead includes understanding and embracing shopper behaviour and new technologies. Develop deep knowledge (insights) of the purchase cycle for new and existing customers. Target shoppers not just consumers. Include Shopper in strategic planning. Establish clear objectives including shopper satisfaction, Average Weight of Purchase (AWOP), and measure ROI based on inputs/execution.