Shopper marketing is a process that has been around since the advent of retail, but has only recently been more defined, understood, and emphasized within the industry.
Evidence of that includes the various, nebulous definitions of shopper marketing, with language such as “understanding consumer behavior,” or “using shopper insights to affect purchasing decisions.” Sure, these phrases relate to shopper marketing, but they are also broad concepts that every retailer and brand addresses in many components of their businesses.
So, is shopper marketing just any strategy that moves customers closer to the point of sale? Not exactly. A stronger shopper marketing definition is “the process of analyzing shopper behavior and preferences and using that knowledge to create marketing strategies to influence that shopper behavior.”
This is the definition that Retail Consultant Mike Anthony shared on LinkedIn, summing up the process as a way “to positively impact consumption of the brand and/or category.”
In summary, shopper marketing:
- Is an ongoing process, not a one-off strategy or concept
- Is based on accurate, actionable shopper marketing research
- Is used to positively influence shopper behavior
- Is helpful in driving sales for a specific brand, product, or retailer
Okay. With the definition out of the way, let’s take a look at some trends in shopper marketing, including what you can do to improve your marketing efforts.
Where Shopper Marketing Has Been
As mentioned above, shopper marketing has had multiple definitions and interpretations over the years. The process is also closely tied to the general concept of retail in general: to sell products to consumers.
As a result, the past of shopper marketing has been broad and unscientific, especially before the introduction of eCommerce. For example, shopper marketing was once very different for online and brick-and-mortar stores. How products were displayed, promoted, and priced varied greatly between channel. Many products were marketed more based on their outcome than their value-adds: This razor cuts hair vs. this razor has an adjustable head, multiple blades, and a no-slip grip.
Shopper marketing of the past didn’t need to get that specific. Shoppers may not have been as informed or interested in the how of a product.
Where Shopper Marketing is Today
That brings us to today. Consumers now want to know that how. They want to know exactly how a product or service is valuable compared to competitors. They want consistency across all digital and physical channels, from design and style to inventory and customer service.
That means shopper marketing now:
- Promotes a consistent omnichannel user experience
- Highlights the value-adds of products and services
- Connects with shoppers on mobile and desktop platforms
- Evolves on a consistent basis to adapt to changing shopper preferences
For example, we recently polled our mystery shoppers about their back-to-school shopping preference. The majority will begin buying in early August, with 68 percent using an online channel—either for researching or purchasing. The reasons why included price comparison, ease of shopping, wider selection, and free shipping.
With this in mind, marketers today can craft their approaches to promote these consumer values and demonstrate how seamless and easy the user experience is across multiple channels.
Brands and retailers also use shopper insights to influence their decisions, tracking everything from psychological pricing ($1.99 instead of $2.00) to promotions and product perception.
Where Shopper Marketing is Going
So, what does the future of shopper marketing hold? The Magic 8-Ball says, “Outlook Good.” More companies are dedicating resources to shopper marketing teams, as job titles like Director of Shopper Marketing gain popularity.
The use of data to influence shopper marketing decisions should also grow. It is easier than ever to gather and analyze billions of retail data points, including market intelligence that can shed some light on shopper behavior.
For example, one method employed by our clients is in-store crowdsourced data collection, as mystery shoppers are sent in-store to provide feedback on products, displays, planograms, and other on-shelf indicators. This allows brands and retailers to gain more insight into a larger sample of stores than possible with just on-the-ground employees.
Shopper marketing will also get more personalized over time. Tactics such as targeted advertisements, shopper loyalty programs, mobile devices, and more make it easier to create marketing initiatives that are custom to an individual shopper level. For many, this personalized retail experience is not just preferred but expected. As a result, marketing will get more personal as well.
How to Leverage Shopper Marketing
By now, you may be asking just how you can take advantage of shopper marketing for your business.
The answer begins with accurate, actionable data. As the definition of shopper marketing noted, it is the “process of analyzing shopper behavior and preferences.” That means data. So, get the data related to your products and services and use that information to help craft the ideal shopper experience for your customers.
Second is making sure you have the resources needed to acquire that data and implement solutions. For many, this is a dedicated shopper marketing team or employee who can own this process. Shopper marketing departments will also closely work with other teams to ensure that their strategies align with how consumers are interacting with the brand—mobile, in-store, online—and how technology can be used to shopper marketers’ advantage.
Above all, maximize the efficiency of your shopper marketing by basing it on the up-to-date, accurate shopper insights. Or, at the very least, make sure you’ve got the definition down.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2018 and has since been updated and refreshed for readability and accuracy.