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Introduction to Shopper Marketing: What Is It All About?

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This chapter introduces the book Shopper Marketing, which discusses key shopper marketing concepts as well as a process for developing shopper marketing programs.
This chapter is from the book

This book is about doing shopper marketing, with an emphasis on “doing.” In it, we provide an overview of key shopper marketing concepts as well as specifics on a formal process for developing shopper marketing programs. But what is this thing called “shopper marketing” anyway? There sure seems to be a lot of attention being paid to it despite everyone you speak with seemingly having a slightly different definition. Is it merely the latest fad in brand management? Is it merely marketing to shoppers while they are in the store, something retailers have been doing all along? Is it simply what merchandisers and manufacturer account managers decide to do in each store? No, it is not any of these. Shopper marketing is a new way of looking at business relationships between brand manufacturers, retailers, and the agencies with whom they work. Although, as you will read, shopper marketing as it is referenced today has only been around since the early 2000s, it is a discipline that has evolved from and emerged out of previous brand management, account management, and retailing practices.

Shopper marketing has exploded recently having a major influence on brand manufacturers and retailers alike. Associations such as POPAI (Point of Purchasing Advertising International), P2PI (Path-to-Purchase Institute), IIR USA (US division of the Institute for International Research), and others host large annual conferences dedicated to shopper marketing. There now exists an entire industry of shopper insights research companies, shopper and retail data analytics companies, and shopper marketing program ROI (return on investment) measurement companies. As of this writing, the LinkedIn Shopper Insights and Marketing Professionals discussion group has 34,700 members. And several books have been written on the topic. However, whereas previous books provide insights to various aspects of shopper marketing, none has offered a comprehensive set of processes for actually doing shopper marketing. That is where we come in. This book does not replace others that have preceded it nor does it replace the exponentially expanding volume of industry reports. It complements them.

We prepared this book to help you build a firm foundation in exactly what shopper marketing is and how to leverage your firm’s assets to create the best shopper marketing organization, strategies, initiatives, and plans possible that have meaningful returns on their investments. Because many firms are learning very quickly, you must learn at a faster rate to stay ahead. So hold on, there’s a lot to cover that’s both exciting and challenging.

We are a unique group of three authors—two consultants who have been working with the best of the best in shopper marketing since its beginning, as well as running several agencies within this space over the last 30 years, and a marketing professor who has been teaching and researching customers and marketing strategies for more than 18 years. We bring a blend of both practice and scholastic research. Collectively, drawing on our expertise and that of others with whom we interact daily, we think we present to you the most critical aspects and latest thinking on state of the art shopper marketing. You will see the shopper marketing world through the eyes of those who have lived it—what works, why, and what doesn’t. The scholastic view keeps us honest, objective, and rigorous. Let’s face it, a great deal of research has been done over the years on retailing, shopper behavior, consumer behavior, branding, business-to-business relationships, selling, advertising, merchandising, and so forth. We rely on this research to support our recommendations in this book—we recommend what we know works.

So you may be asking, if people like us have been working with firms on shopper marketing for years and academics have been researching aspects of what we now call shopper marketing for years, why do we need this book? Quite simply—and in this case “simply” does apply—there are two reasons. First, no one has ever pulled it all together in a systematic way sufficient enough to lay a solid foundation for shopper marketing managers. Due to this problematic situation, shopper marketing positions are being created within organizations and filled by competent people, but people who may not have the tools and process knowledge necessary to be as successful as they could be. Second, there are still only a few companies, relatively speaking, that can be classified as advanced in shopper marketing management. Our aim is to increase that number significantly. The best of the best are manufacturing companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and, specifically, the Frito-Lay division, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Unilever, Campbell’s Soup Company, and ConAgra working with retailers like Target, Kroger, Safeway, The Home Depot, and Walmart, and agencies like Mars, TracyLocke, Integer, Saatchi & Saatchi X, and brokers like CROSSMARK. They draw on data from firms like Nielsen and dunnhumby. We have worked with these firms and many more like them across a variety of consumer goods companies. We can’t reveal their secrets, but the foundational processes they all rely on are sharable. Even if you work for one of these outstanding firms, you may have only recently even heard of the term “shopper marketing” and now you’ve been thrown into a job where you are responsible for part of it. Or maybe you work in part of the organization that is affected by shopper marketing, supply chain management for example, and you desperately need to know what’s going on. For all these reasons, this book should serve as your pillow for a while. Read it, think about it, apply it, and read it again. Soon you will find that you have a solid foundation and will begin to develop your own advanced slant on aspects of shopper marketing. This foundation may do more than help you create initiatives with high ROI for your firm, but may very well save your brands from complete demise.

We adopt a strategic view of shopper marketing. It is far more than merchandising tactics. Not that the tactics are unimportant. They are important, but only if they emerge from a strategic orientation. Our objectives for this book are to help you

  • Understand what shopper marketing is and is not from both the manufacturer’s and retailer’s point of view.
  • Understand why shopper marketing is here to stay and why both retailers and manufacturers have been quick to embrace it.
  • Be able to develop, manage, and motivate a best-in-class shopper marketing organization.
  • Be able to develop and implement a best-in-class shopper marketing strategic plan and initiatives.
  • Be able to understand the challenges and opportunities for collaboration for (a) shopper insights, (b) strategic planning, and (c) program execution, including supply chain management support for shopper marketing.
  • Be able to understand measurement and ROI trade-offs involved in strategic shopper marketing.

How Is This Book Structured?

We begin with an overview of shopper marketing and lay out the basic process through which we take you. We move the discussion to focus on who the shopper really is and how we study the shopper to understand opportunities and develop insights. We then provide an overview of how retailers operate followed by a review of how consumer goods companies operate. Many people with whom we work really don’t know how leadership at these two kinds of companies think and how often differences in their thinking creates tension for everyone involved. The next key topics focus on strategic planning, organizing for shopper marketing, execution issues that involve interfunctional and interorganizational coordination and collaboration, and measurement approaches.

We also present scholastic research in a unique way. At the end of most chapters, we present “Interesting Findings from Research” that provide some insights to specific, individual research studies conducted by marketing scholars that could be relevant to shopper marketing. You may not know it, but business academics at research universities around the globe spend at least 40% of their time and sometimes more conducting original research that ought to be helpful to industry. The best of this research draws upon sound theory, relies on rigorous research methods, and presents poignant findings. For more than half a century researchers have been conducting experiments, attitudinal surveys, ethnographies, interviews, and mathematical modeling to determine what works and why in all aspects of the marketing world. Not all the findings from research we offer will be relevant to you. In some cases, we present findings that are dated by business standards. We do this for a few reasons. In some cases, the findings are still valid. In other cases, we use a finding to demonstrate that a particular topic has been explored for a long time. Finally, some of the older research demonstrates how much things have changed and as such reinforces the point to conduct new research when it is warranted. However, most of what we present are merely examples from the last 10 to 15 years. There is a lot of research on shopper behavior, environmental and social cues, private label brands and brand equity, product assortments, segmentation, promotions, in-store advertising, mobile marketing, supply chain management, and so forth. Aside from the specific research findings, if you take away one key idea from the findings from research we will have been successful. That one key idea is to find a way to connect with academics conducting research relevant to your business and use them to remain abreast of current scholastic knowledge in the field. Shopper marketing is moving at too great a speed for you to waste time trying to answer questions to which we already know part or all of the answers.

Before we get started, let’s remind ourselves of the environment we marketers operate within today.

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