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The Future of Shopper Marketing


CHICAGO — The Path to Purchase Institute produces the Shopper Marketing Summit. In a preshow interview with SN, Peter Hoyt, the institute’s executive director and chief executive officer, discusses some of today’s shopper marketing trends.

Peter Hoyt
Peter Hoyt

: What has changed in today’s retail environment that makes shopper marketing more important than ever?

Hoyt: Today's shoppers are better-informed and less brand loyal than their predecessors. They have greater access to, and more control over, the information they need to make purchase decisions, and this self-learning now extends into the shopping trip itself via mobile devices. Marketers can no longer be content that their mass media advertising has done the job of effectively building brand awareness, so it has become more important than ever to 'close the sale' in the retail environment.

Of course, the steady rise of e-commerce means that shopper marketing isn't confined to the physical retail space, which is why we've seen an explosion of collaborative activity between retailers and manufacturers in the digital realm. The vast majority of purchases still takes place inside a brick-and-mortar store, but the need to speak to consumers as "shoppers" before they get there has increased dramatically.

The news that Google will soon be piloting a grocery home delivery service in San Francisco is just the latest sign that shopper marketing is an "anytime, anyplace" endeavor. Consumers have so many more options these days, and retailers and manufacturers have to adjust accordingly. That's why leading retailers such as Ahold USA, who you'll be hearing speak here at the Summit, are adopting channel-agnostic strategies that let their shoppers buy online or in stores, then pick them up at the store or get them delivered to their homes.


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As the marketplace continues to expand, the need for existing retailers to differentiate their product offerings has become even greater as well. Today's shopper can buy an Air Wick air freshener through hundreds of outlets. But she can only buy the Air Wick Blush Collection at Walmart, and last holiday season she could only get the "Fresh Snow & Sleigh Bells" scent at Target. Exclusive products can help build loyal shoppers and pre-empt the price-comparison game — the "showrooming" phenomenon — that has crept into the shopper journey. I think we're going to see more of this kind of collaborative product development.

SN: What are some of the most common missteps marketers take when attempting to implement an effective shopper-marketing campaign?

Hoyt: Not to get too cute about it, but I think one of the most common mistakes is to leave out the shopper, to believe that a brand can align its business goals with those of a key retailer, adjust some tactical elements accordingly and, just like that, magically turn its trade activity into 'shopper marketing.'

Similarly, we see a lot of companies dressing up national consumer promotion as shopper marketing, identifying an "insight" in a long-existing practice or adding some more bells and whistles to account-specific execution and treating it as something different when it's really what they've been doing all along.

I'm not saying these kinds of programs are obsolete, because they aren't. But the goal of shopper marketing is to go deeper, to find the insights that will allow manufacturers and retailers to align their business objectives in ways that truly benefit the shopper beyond a simple price deal or a standard promotional incentive. The idea is to influence behavior, not just purchase, and that requires marketers to work a little bit harder.

Effective shopper marketing is never as easy as it looks.

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