Shopper marketing

September 27, 2018

There is a small revolution happening in retail.

A realisation that the shopper is not necessarily the consumer, and that the experience of buying something is as important as the act of consuming it. After all, if the shopper doesn’t buy it, it cannot be consumed.

According to Fast Company, “shopper marketing is one of the hottest trends in marketing today, at least in the eyes of major consumer packaged goods companies such as P&G, Unilever, Coke, Kraft etc.” What shopper marketing is, is ill defined, because everyone still has their own way of looking at it. In its simplest form, it is a discipline designed to drive growth by improving the shopping experience for the shopper.

If this echoes the principles of service design, of putting the customer experience at the centre of the process, then that is not a coincidence. As products and services get more and more alike, the user / customer / shopper experience becomes the main point of differentiation. The most critical observation is the focus on the shopping experience as a separate activity from consumption, be it a Coke or a pair of pants.

The shopper experience is, for obvious reasons, today much more convoluted than it used to be. And it is likely to get even more fragmented, as the path from looking at something to buying it hops between different physical and virtual locations, virtual and real conversations between different stakeholders, to the process of choosing, paying and receiving the product to its ultimate use.

Depending on the product and brand, the need for which it is being purchased, the shopping experience may trump the brand value while in other cases the concrete product and brand are more important than the shopping experience. Where does the shopper and or consumer compromise and why?

Answering the why question requires a deeper understanding of shopper behaviour, than tracking quantitative big-data from all the various information sources available today. It requires conversations to understand motivation, which are deeply personal. Uncovering insight allows you to tailor the shopping experience in much more effective ways, because streamlining isn’t the only way of improving the experience. Ultimately, the shopper experience is contextual and personal and what is a good experience on Monday isn’t good enough on Saturday.

Shopper marketing therefore can benefit from many of the same tools and process that are used in the design of services to improve the user / customer / stakeholder experience. From our work with both large and small retailers, it is quite obvious, that a refocusing on user / shopper needs from the need to sell more, pays dividends quite quickly. Furthermore, it will also lead to the realisation, that often it is not the retail experience as such, which needs an improvement. But peripheral services such as better parking access for families with small children to complementary services, that make up an integral part of the shopping experience (think coffee and cake), that have nothing to do directly with what you are selling.