Shopper Marketing rises to the top of the marketing vocabulary globally and is now widely accepted as a profitable marketing practice growing 21% annually (Deloitte & Grocery Manufactures Association, 2013). Especially with retail brands, whether online or brick-and-mortar.
P&G is spending more than $500M annually on Shopper Marketing and is widely considered the pioneer in the industry with its first project in 1997 on how American moms actually shopped diapers and formulas. Now, P&G have surpassed Unilever as the top spot among brands (Adweek, 2013).
In Denmark the, awareness of the term Shopper Marketing is still very low and my experience is that marketers are yet to embrace the principles of Shopper Marketing as a part of their marketing paradigm. Here I see the increase in data and easy accessibility of monitoring tools as an answer to getting Shopper Marketing back on the company agenda gaining the attention it deserves to solve present brand challenges.
First understand, then you can be understood
Shopper Marketing can be defined as the following:
The employment of any marketing stimuli, developed on the basis of deep understanding of shopper behavior, designed to build brand equity, engage the shopper (i.e. an individual in “shopping mode”), and lead him/her to make a purchase. (Deloitte Shopper Marketing Study)
The most important aspect of the definition is the deep understanding of shopper behavior, in which I experience companies often fail to understand the range of motivators behind customers shopping their brand and how customers actually prefer to shop their products across channels – both offline and online.
The shopper studies carried out by research institutes often fall short due to limited scoping (also limited by company resources) thus failing to undercover multiple motivation and touch points of actual brand preference – even more important; how they are interlinked to form the Customer Decision Journey (McKinsey, 2009) of their target segment(s).
Enter digital as a component in the Shopper Marketing equation and you have the ability to start tracking behavior based on actual touch-point data; thus better understanding the behavior of customers across channels from the first trigger point (brand awareness) to the last; the sharing of brand preference to other customers (brand advocacy).
To do this, you must have at your disposal:
- Social media data, derived from listening tools, which can provide you with insights on brand stimuli, characteristics and associations etc.. I consider this to be “the world’s largest data-driven focus group” combined with online search data on popularity, patterns and strength within various target groups and categories.
- Digital assets, such as websites, e-mail programs, CRM databases, ERP systems and third party databases, which offer the ability to provide data-driven profiles on the customers presently engaging with your brand, often by both demographic and behavioral data combined.
- New and improved tracking tools which have the ability to link offline behavior to online data and equally track across multiple touch points, including retail store interactions. The application of these data tracking tools in combination with the increase in mobile behavior data from smartphones, iBeacon/NFC and applications leaves practically no corner of the CDJ without a data trace.
Focus on real relationships, not just transactions
The second most important aspect of the Shopper Marketing definition is not the ability to provide the marketing stimuli that will cause a customer-in-shopping-mode to purchase a brand’s product, but the ability to build brand equity by shopper marketing, which often requires one to restrain from exploiting data for short term profit gains and focus on the longer term business objectives.
Marketers that only settle for utilizing data to push new product offers to customers or push people into stores based on discounted offers, the so-called “front-basket principle” of retailer’s business, often do it at the expense of building long-term brand relationship. Target’s well-known “Pregnant Teen Girl story”, where Target used big data to target pregnancy products to a girl’s house, without considering the context of the family’s father, best illustrates the brand hazards of such transactional focused practice.
Many membership clubs exist on a transaction principle of relating demographic data and purchase history to pushing additional product offers, most likely by e-mail. Studies show that people are increasingly leaving membership clubs that offer no real relationship building, with 56% of the clubs in the US having more than 40% inactive members (KPMG/NFR – Customer Insights 2011).
At Atcore we operate by a data-driven framework consisting of three phases; attract, convert and retain. By applying data to our marketing practice in each phase and tracking their ability to support the Consumer Decision Journey, we seek to create a coherent brand experience for each customer segment.
Attract: Trigger the customer expectation
With attract, we deploy a range of media tactics to attract the potential customers. Media networks and Marketing Automation technology provide us with the ability to target accurately, but equally important other data sources, such as social media, can provide us with the ability to present the right messaging, vocabulary, content type etc., which in return triggers the customer’s expectation towards the following engagement with the brand.
Attract example: A content banner placed on a celebrity social media blog post, showing a high-priced jewelry piece and messaging to experience the jewelry on the brand’s homepage by video. We know from tracking dialogue on celebrity social blog pages that their visitors are first and foremost looking to be inspired before making any purchase.
Convert: Deliver on expectations to receive the sale
With convert we seek to increase the overall conversion rate of potential customers entering from the deployed media tactics in Attract. The faulty here is to treat all customers equal, and not being able to mimic the shopper experience of any good quality customer service. By tracking the channels the customers arrived from and being able to backtrack their journey across the specific media they engaged with, enable us to determine which shopping mode they are most likely in and subsequent which funnel they are most likely to follow from here into an actual purchase mode.
Convert example: The customer’s entry from a video banner on a social celebrity blog post, indicate that they are most likely not in purchase mode, but more likely in a discover mode, looking to receive an video experience. After having viewed the video in +20 seconds, they receive the URL to go the product pages, where jewelry content is sorted by price from high to low and/or by same type.
Here the ability to understand and correlate data to the Consumer Decision Journey becomes important, since jewelry for instance is often viewed in branded stores (Google Insights, 2013) before making a actual purchase, so we would most likely also need to link to a map (next to the jewelry video) showing the closest stores, combined with the ability to email a barcode of the jewelry piece to an email address. Upon entering the physical store, equal measures can be setup to track the customers journey here, for instance, utilizing the link on the smartphone the clerk can scan it to make the potential customer a discounted offer and close the sale.
Retain: Build real customer relationships over time
This is the phase, which holds the highest potential for building valuable customer relationships, where we seek to increase the customer lifetime value and ultimately get customers to share their brand experience with others. With retain, the touch-points include product delivery, company service, customer dialogue and social interaction with other brand customers, which are and should be the focus points of effective shopper marketing tactics aiming to build sustainable brand equity in today’s consumer controlled social media world.
Retain example: After a purchase the customer receive an email from his earlier permission, asking him to rate the satisfaction with the purchase on TrustPilot and is at the same time offered to login on the brand website by clicking on a link. On the brand website, profile information can be entered, if the customer wishes to receive future communication from the brand, which is correlated with the purchase history and previous media engagement.
After all, we are humans and relationships take time. And so is also the case of building a real customer relationship with your brand; it takes time, effort and continuous relevancy to gain the trust of others, but also holds rewards far greater than any short-term profit gain.
Build data warehouse solutions to win
I realize that ambition never matches reality, and as such the ambition of practicing Digital Shopper Marketing is always troubled by both internal and external execution obstacles. The important aspect here is to keep a clear vision of gathering sufficient data to be able to better predict shopper behavior, act on it faster than the competitor and over time build a data warehouse solution, which enables real brand equity development over time.
By continuously profiling shoppers based on data and correlate these data with independent category shopper data, we develop a clear picture of who our brand loyal customers are, plus determine who the new potential customers might be – thus also the possibility to increase market share by new products or increased digital shopper marketing tactics.
Kim Plesner-Jacobsen is CCO at Atcore. Atcore creates great effect at a minimum risc across multiple digital channels and platforms through data, insight and technology. Atcore helps businesses such as Babysam, Telia, Coloplast, Schneider Electric, Simcorp, to name a few.