The growth of shopper marketing

by Carolyn White. Today, I believe we are revisiting some of the foundational principles with more intricacy around the shopper needs and retail environment.

by Carolyn White. Shopper marketing came alive 10 years ago with more strategic tactics to usual trade marketing efforts; shopper vs. consumer insights, delivery nodes and racetracks, or optimising the FMOT and ZMOT. Fast-forward to today. I believe we are revisiting some of the foundational principles with more intricacy around the shopper needs and retail environment.

While much debate exists around the value of shopper marketing, it’s role in integrated marketing communications and its ROI; the new ground for the discipline is more focused on the retail experience and value-driven economic pressure.

The efforts of the past were focused strongly on activated trade marketing strategies and channel mission planning. Coupled with some insights on how the shopper basket was changing on mission type and store formats, we were good to go.

The evolution of shopper marketing from effective trade marketing to the omni-channel connected shopper, has always had one thing in common; connect shopper behaviour with true consumption habit changing insights. Shopper marketing is fast adopting the data-driven and tech-fuelled transformation, which impacts the classic principles of retail marketing.

By connecting the retail environment with better shopper experiences, we see how brands can engage with retailers better, and how agencies can work with clients on creating stronger work that changes the way we want to shoppers to shop.

Disrupt category and channel norms

From illegal to a shopper must have

The explosion of CBD oils into retail is a demonstration of the power of intrigue when it goes mainstream. The extent of the engagement exists in challenging the status quo and finding dynamic spaces to bring new choices to shoppers in retail. Years ago, shoppers would never consider this product and now shop for it across multiple formats, usage, occasions and new retail destinations. As one retailer put it, “it’s now something that grocery retail can really get behind, not just in the wellness sets with vitamins and supplements, but also in the drink cooler.”

Uh-oh, my archetype doesn’t match my retailer

Retail classifications were a lot simpler a few years ago, including clear delineation on store formats, trip types and basket reporting. So, if you were a Checkers’ shopper, you had a clear Checkers ‘shopper profile’, and you must therefore be a loyalist for destination mission-based shops (cheese and wine anyone?). If you were a Pick ‘n Pay shopper, you must be a smart shopper. These archetypes made it easy for shopper marketers to assume that shoppers define these purchase value chain missions and trips. There’s a growing shift for consumers to consider who defines their lifestyle needs in an always-on mindset, and how shopping connects them to better sensory retail experiences.

Brand Camp demonstrates value from end to end; in understanding the shopper experiences that matter and creating new value for parents. Camp evokes memories of sleep-away and day camps. Visitors will first encounter a Camp Canteen general store and then are directed through a ‘magic door’ that leads to an interactive space for play and shopping. And a ‘Campitheatre’ features various activities and programming.

CRM is cementing digital to shopper commercial value stories

Understanding the digital shopper journey in category messaging, developing better consumer experience products at shelf space, and managing the product assortment mix, are key focus areas for all retailers. Brands can build on these by reviewing their strategies and leveraging products in baskets, through messaging and retail store placements to allow brand and retailer shopper missions to happen concurrently. IKEA bridges two models to engage better customer services experience through TaskRabbit, which connects you with a network of trusted taskers to help you with your everyday home projects. This will change the expectations shoppers have of their purchases. Rather than being seen as a value-add, it will become the norm across all purchases. The idea that shopper marketing can change behaviour simply by enabling quicker decision-making through speed, is already having an impact in the marketplace across digital and physical retail channels.


Fuel new retail solutions with brand purpose journeys

The sheer volume of choice at shelf across every category makes decision-making more challenging. Shoppers are looking for better reasons to engage brands with purpose-led stories.

Today, one-third of consumers will stop buying a product if they lose trust in the brand. According to an IBM survey, in 2019 a third of customers had already stopped buying their long-time favourite brands. Now consumers are prioritising sustainable products and transparent brands that are aligned to their core values. This is evident through a willingness to pay more and changing buying habits for brands that get it right.

What is the key purpose focus for shoppers now?

  • Reframe your value of purchase to educate/inspire to a better mission. Kind, founded in 2004, was one of the first snacks to forgo artificial flavours and preservatives. The simple proposition is about ingredients that consumers can ‘see and pronounce’. “Our vision is that Kind is going to become the foremost health and wellness platform,” said Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO of Kind.
  • Connect the story to a better usage and participation outcome. Corona and Parley committed to cleaning one square metre of a local beach by strategically placing recycling machines, from which consumers could get a beer in exchange for plastic bottles. Furthermore, these brands urged people to sign-up for beach clean-up activities during summer, which engaged a great retail thematic call-to-action.


  • Take risks and learn from unusual category ‘connected disruptors’. The explosion of collaborations in product usage and social memes changes the way people think about a product’s role and new partnerships served up with an experience. Take the product flavour innovation collab of Ben and Jerry’s with Netflix.

Doug Stevens, author of ‘Retail Revival’ says, “assume that no-one really needs what you sell, because they probably don’t. There’s very little you can sell that can’t be gotten elsewhere”. Focus instead on how you sell what you sell. Products come and go, but there will always be a market for truly remarkable experiences”.


Carolyn White is managing partner: retail, +One and is passionate about connecting great brands with innovative consumer-shopper solutions by understanding the value that brands present in shoppers’ lives. Carolyn has 14 years advertising agency through-the-line experience, specialising in shopper and retail marketing. She has headed up shopper marketing over the last eight years and her experience in the industry ranges from working on blue-chip clients such as Procter and Gamble, Nestle, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Cipla, Colgate-Palmolive Brands, MINI Cooper, PepsiCo Beverages, Kraft Heinz Brands, Steers, MTN, LG Electronics, Adcock Ingram, Aspen Brands, Galderma Laboratories.

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