In this evolving market, with more competition and more channels for reaching shoppers than ever before, shopper marketing is increasingly becoming a more efficient and measurable way to drive sales.
Shopper marketers hold a lot of power. In an age when retailer media groups are controlling more and more of the CPG brand budget, they already understand the ins and outs of retailers. They’re familiar in such an intimate way that they’re often literally located in the retailer’s hometown. They walk the walk of the retailer’s customer, and they talk the talk of the retailer itself.
Shopper marketers are different from brand marketers, who focus on the macro. They’re constantly thinking about how shoppers move through stores, are concerned with merchandising and now thinking about digital tactics just as much. It’s not enough to get broad impressions across a national audience to meet a target number.
As such, shopper marketers must continue to identify and integrate the following fundamental pillars into their marketing strategies and KPIs.
1. Drive Sales
When it comes down to it, shopper marketing teams are measured on sales driven through a specific retailer. They have the closest connection to the end purchase. Compared to other marketing efforts, shopper’s value is measurable, quantifiable and highly visible to both the manufacturer and the retailer. Yes, brand awareness is invaluable, but it’s also more difficult to nail down the impact. A major Super Bowl ad for Oreo? It has people talking the next day. But how does it directly drive sales? It takes an incredible number of resources, measurement and intelligence to nail down direct ROAS from brand campaigns.
Fundamentally, shopper teams are tasked with driving sales of promoted brands at targeted retailers online and offline, which makes it one of the most nuanced marketing disciplines. Shopper insights ultimately need to be the basis for a holistic marketing plan, which integrates ecommerce, brand and shopper to connect with consumers and drive them down the funnel.
2. Drive New Item Trial
In the increasingly competitive CPG space, where new brands pop up left and right and many consumers are becoming more mindful of where they shop, it’s more important than ever to ensure success for a new launch.
Driving trial is an inherently proactive and aggressive goal, and one that has traditionally been accomplished using in-store sampling along with couponing programs. While those are certainly tried and true methods, in-store sampling — at least for the time being — is largely a no-go.
One alternative? Recipes. A Chicory survey conducted in July 2020 found that recipes are the No. 1 reason that shoppers decide to try new products. In the digital age of infinite content, digital recipes in various forms, such as Pinterest posts, food blogs or cooking videos, are a reliable way to ensure that consumers try new products.
3. Obtain Incremental Retailer Support
Obtaining buy-in from the retailer for a proposed campaign is one of the most crucial shopper tasks. It’s also one that’s not easily quantifiable. Part of the shopper marketer’s responsibility is to nurture healthy relationships with retailer partners to obtain needed support for a particular execution.
To do so, shopper marketers have to first understand the retailer’s goals to develop effective campaigns that, eventually, lead to meaningful relationships and additional support. They then must present the value proposition: how will the product meet the needs of the retailer’s shoppers, how will shopper behavior change as a result of the program, how will it affect sales?
While shopper marketers are concerned with things like category share and new users, retailers think about total category growth and foot traffic — different metrics. By fostering successful relationships with their retailer partners and creating campaigns that benefit the retail customer, shopper marketers may be granted greater flexibility and the ability to experiment with creative options.
4. Increase Category Share
Shopper marketers are continuously challenged to grab more category share, thereby competing not only with national brands but challenger brands and private label, too. Retailers often boost their “own brands” to the top in search results on their e-commerce sites and give them priority placement on store shelves (unless a national brand pays for the preferred placement). That makes gaining category share an even bigger challenge.
To drive more sales, shopper marketers must win a bigger share of shopper selections. And to do this, they must work together with brand and e-commerce teams to develop holistic, 360-degree plans that position brand products as essential to shoppers.
One of the biggest challenger brands, Impossible Foods, saw national recognition and a huge spike in sales this year due to COVID-19 and limitations in meat production. Taking advantage of this, the company’s e-commerce team developed a direct-to-consumer website to sell bulk packs, the brand team started a successful weekly live chat initiative and the shopper and retail marketing teams conducted versions of A/B testing in-store at Kroger locations.
While Impossible Foods may still not appeal to many households, no one can deny that they’ve carved out market share in the plant-based category, one that’s meteorically rising among a plethora of competitors. (Impossible’s market share reportedly increased from 3% to 4.3% from July to October while their main competitor, Beyond Meat, saw market share fall from 24.5% to 21.4% during the same time period.
5. Acquire New Users
Lovers of “The Office” might remember a scene with Michael, the manager, and Ryan, the temp going to business school at night, discussing sales and marketing concepts. Testing Michael’s knowledge, Ryan reveals that it is 10 times more expensive to sign a new customer than to keep an existing one.
This rings true for real life shopper teams, too. Building brand loyalty is important, but so is gaining new shoppers, and this is one thing that is most effectively accomplished through shopper marketing. Shopper teams need to remain in the local mindset. They need to think about how a suburban mom will get her groceries: to what extent will she use “click and collect” in the coming year rather than head back into brick-and-mortar aisles, and how should she be reached as she moves from the online checkout experience to a curbside pickup?
Even further back, they need to think about where she’ll turn for meal inspiration: Is she using digital recipes to plan her next grocery trip? When is she thinking about ideas for this week’s dinners? It’s this level of insights that makes shopper marketing so effective at acquiring new customers compared to other marketing disciplines.
These five pillars differentiate shopper marketing from other marketing disciplines and are essential not only for the success of shopper programs, but also of brands. Because they’re goal is reaching shoppers as close to the purchase point as possible, shopper tactics are must-win areas of the business.
While shopper marketing may be brimming with new players these days, it is imperative that these five goals remain at the forefront of the discipline, guiding the strategies and tactics that will drive success.
About the Author
Meghan Howard is vice president of sales at Chicory, a leading digital shopper marketing platform. A proven sales leader and digital media expert, Howard strategically leverages industry insights to drive ideas, recommendations, and solutions for shopper marketers at CPG and grocery brands.