What Does the Landscape Look Like Today?
Brand management does not look the same as it did 15 years ago. Brand managers now spend a great deal of time not only worried about creating brand awareness and building brand equity with consumers, but also worried about what happens along the path to purchase as consumers turn into shoppers. They worry more about what happens in the retail environment. Brand manufacturers now segment consumers, shoppers, and retailers in entirely new ways as they tease out shopper need states, modes, and profiles.
Account management for consumer brand manufacturers does not look the same as it did either. The sales side of the organization has always tried to connect with the strategies and priorities of specific strategic retailers, but today they coordinate with brand management in greater detail and spend funds on a wider variety of media choices, both inside and outside the store itself. Collaboration is at a higher strategic level than ever before.
Shopper marketing advertising agencies have come into their own. What were smaller, niche firms have now become stars of the show. Shopper marketing agencies find ways to leverage shopper insights and brand equity along the entire path to purchase to connect with precisely targeted shoppers and activate purchases at the point of sale.
Market research now involves a heavy dose of shopper insights work, which differs from consumer research. How people shop for products differs from how they consume them. Although both have always been examined, a far greater emphasis than in the past is now focused on shopper research. Some of the most interesting research is coming out of neurology and behavioral economics. Additionally, “big data,” the science of data mining within large datasets (such as transaction data from retailers and loyalty programs), and the firms focused on conducting research in this space, has emerged as an industry in itself. We can now understand and target individual shoppers by the millions, whereas not so long ago we were focused on gross market segmentation—if we segmented at all.
Shoppers and shopping have changed. We now have a plethora of media choices for accessing information about products, services, and other shoppers. Social media alone presents shoppers with hundreds of options for connecting with each other, brands, and retailers. We don’t need to list them all here; you know their names because you use them—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, LinkedIn, we could go on and on. Besides, by the time this book hits printing, there will be many more choices. Of particular note: Media space is highly fragmented, and shoppers trust no brand as much as they trust the opinions of others whom they see as “like them.” Shopper marketers must tap into this social network as well as leverage and integrate all the other tools they have available, such as websites, mobile device applications, print media, cable, radio, experiential events, and so on to help brands and retailers connect with and converse with target shoppers in relevant ways.
We have different cohorts of shoppers who we must understand and to whom we must pay attention, cohorts like Millennials, multiculturals (in the United States anyway), and the growing Latino market.
All this has created a shopping environment where thematic programs and the hundreds of initiatives they spawn, such as Boxtops for Education, Back-to-School, Family Night In, helping first-time moms learn, or Game Time during the Super Bowl, are the norm. Shopping is expected to be far more experiential and in some cases social. Many of these programs involve more and more technology that does everything from entertain and educate shoppers to assist them in making purchase decisions. Brands are often expected to customize these programs for retailers such that the retailer is differentiated from nearby competitors. These shorter run, customized programs can wreak havoc on supply chain management and sometimes be quite costly. Therefore, more agile supply chains have emerged. Execution of these programs at the store level is problematic to say the least. Efforts to improve on consistent execution are significant. And finally, as the discipline becomes established, many firms are paying careful attention to the measurement of the return on investments made in shopper marketing programs.
As you can see, the marketplace for consumer goods branding, retailing, and shopping is extremely dynamic. However, successful processes for consistently developing impactful and profitable shopper marketing programs exist, and we present them in this book. We hope you gain as much out of this material as we think you will.