The best way to define shopper marketing is to understand it in comparison to retail marketing.
The two terms are often used interchangeably, and for good reason. Both methodologies seek to motivate consumer purchase at store-level (i.e. generate sales). But by comparing them in the context of something familiar – a sales funnel – we will identify the fundamental difference between the two.
Retail marketing is the process of engaging consumers while they are in-store. It focuses on the final stage of the buyer’s journey.
Shopper marketing is the process of engaging consumers along their path-to-purchase. It focuses on the entire buyer’s journey, from awareness, to consideration, and conversion.
Within this guide, we explore shopper marketing through the lens of a B2C sales funnel, providing content primarily relevant for Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) operating in the grocery industry.
As you read, keep in mind that today’s dominant path-to-purchase is an online process. This reality was made clear by COVID-19, which has fundamentally shifted the way we shop for the foreseeable future.
How does shopper marketing enable growth? The short answer is competitive advantage. For you visual learners, consider this recent photo featuring the barbecue aisle at a local St. Louis grocery store.
A couple quick things to point out:
From a retail marketing standpoint, most of these brands lack a clear competitive advantage. In the eyes of the consumer, those bottles are basically all the same.
In other words, only two of the 20+ brands clearly stand apart at shelf-level. The remaining 18 look the same, are priced the same, run the same promotions, and occupy the same space.
Here’s the point: CPG brands must look beyond the four walls of retail to gain a competitive edge. This is especially true for smaller brands that cannot compete against private label pricing or national brand notoriety. And now more than ever, smaller brands must reassess their strategy as consumers increasingly shift to private label brands in the wake of COVID-19.
Gaining a competitive edge means understanding and engaging consumers at key points along their path-to-purchase.
While the approach may vary for different categories in retail, the focus should remain the same: create value that will resonate with your target customer.
In other words, what is the “heart and soul” of your brand? Does that messaging resonate with consumers beyond price or product features?
Your story matters. Storytelling encompasses more than referring to the features of your product, like how it is 100% all-natural or made without artificial sweeteners. Countless brands make similar claims. Traditional retail thinking will do little to set you apart.
Make these features become part of your story, not the crux of your message, to enhance your identity overall.
It is all too common for brands to create self-serving content or make boastful claims about their products. But do consumers care? The hard-to-swallow pill remains – consumers do not care unless they understand what is in it for them.
Aim your attention at creating value within your specific category. Recipes, tips and techniques, anything that positions you as a lifestyle resource within that space.
Lean into your analytics tools (i.e. Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, etc.) to reveal who interacts with your brand, where, and how often. That way, you can focus on engaging consumers with valuable content and helpful resources where it matters most.
If you strip away all the pomp and circumstance, the primary objective of any shopper marketing program is to drive more sales, whether in-store or online.
But in order to support a sustainable shopper marketing strategy, think beyond the transaction. Determine your goals for each phase of the sales funnel, not just conversion, and make it a priority to measure results along the way.
As you evaluate your efforts early on, website traffic is one valuable metric for success that allows you to:
Successful shopper marketing is, among other things, a product of consistency. Allocate dollars to provide ongoing support in the form of audience acquisition, digital ad creation, content production, and in some cases, agency services.
With all of this considered, how much should you spend? We subscribe to the traditional benchmark that 10% of your total revenue should be spent on marketing and advertising. Make a strong enough impact without adversely affecting your bottom line.
Keep in mind that shopper marketing is a long-term brand building strategy. Make sure to plan for a 6-12 month campaign before reassessing your efforts.
As much of shopper marketing takes place online, the process can feel cumbersome and overwhelming. Getting wrapped up in the fine-tuning of your online presence can easily distract you from your goals. We suggest distilling the process into 3 easy-to-understand touchpoints.
Ensure your target audience knows who you are and where your products are sold. Visibility today means strategic ad placement paired with compelling creative. And social media, your brand’s window to the world, acts as a useful tool for generating awareness, growing your audience, and funneling traffic to your website.
However, you do not own your fans and followers on these platforms, making it imperative to utilize social media as a means for building your own proprietary audience base. But keep in mind that organic growth on social media has become a thing of the past. You must pay to play; otherwise, you’re virtually invisible.
Build your audience in target markets and around target retailers. Create ads that support your physical footprint, actively grow your database, and drive website traffic.
While conversion is the goal, the consideration phase is where you identify your value proposition. This part of the process is arguably the most important as it gives your consumers a reason to keep coming back.
Authenticity matters. Across your entire footprint, focus on the consumer as a human being, not just a transaction. Otherwise, you risk missing sales opportunities with consumers who want to connect with something more.
Visuals matter. As the old adage goes, shoppers eat with their eyes. Would you buy a product off the shelf that was dented or had a torn label? The same principle applies with your content online.
The benefit matters. Remember, you’re selling to real people who want real solutions. Useful content resonates with consumer interests or provides answers to their questions. For CPGs, that can mean learning how to use the product in recipes or aligning with a charity.
Give them one more reason to buy. Imagine conducting your online efforts the same way you would if you owned a brick-and-mortar store. Conversion primarily means 3 things:
Whether you are creating a shopper marketing strategy for the first time or looking to refine the process, keep it simple, create an action plan, measure your results, and try again. Consider this an investment in the long-term success of your brand!