The Path to Shopper Marketing

In bygone days, working in advertising for grocery stores meant figuring out the print ad. Sure, there were other forms of marketing and advertising, but that single channel dominated. In many companies it still does. Yet, at the Shopper Marketing Conference & Expo presented by Path to Purchase Institute, the message was clear, marketing and advertising in the grocery world has changed. For three days, presenters from consumer product goods brands, technology solutions providers and retailers presented the opportunities they have both taken advantage of in the near past and the opportunities they see coming in the future. Here’s a recap of the biggest takeaways.

Shopper-Centric is imperative. Whether in keynote addresses to hundreds of conference goers or smaller breakout sessions, everyone was talking about how to make their marketing and advertising revolve around the changing demands of the shopper. Shoppers are picking the channels, the content, and the products they love and leaving behind hordes of data while doing so. Historically, that has left marketers to determine where and when those shoppers need to be reached. But as the shopper-centric model evolves, companies are finding out it isn’t just marketers who need to care; it is everyone within an organization. Shoppers are changing all facets of business and companies must respond. As Path to Purchase Institute CEO Peter Hoyt mentioned in his opening remarks, “Don’t think of Shopper Marketing as a department, but Marketing to Shoppers as a discipline”. Kristi Argylin, Marketing SVP at Target implored companies to re-discover their human side and become guest-obsessed during her keynote. This obsession with the guest leads to the use of data though. Shoppers expect organizations to know them and they are responding to companies that do. Multiple sessions focused on studies that were done to find out how these shoppers think, from their habits on social media, to their use of mobile technology, to their thought process for online grocery shopping. This data helps organizations inform their tactics designed to capture those shoppers and the sales that come with them.

OmniChannel is alive and well. All consumers are not alike. Some prefer social media, some prefer their smartphone, some prefer a print ad and some prefer the online circular. To play in the marketing world of today, organizations must look to all channels to gather information. They start shopping on one device, and finish on another. They make lists on their computer, but then want them on their smartphone when shopping. Coupons come in the form of push notifications, text messages, emails & loyalty card surprises. General Mills & Rockfish presented MCommerce Strategies for OmniChannel Consumer Engagement, giving best in class examples of how companies are touching shoppers in the mobile space alone, highlighting mobile not as a channel, but simply an extension of the shopper. Mobile encompasses in-store tactics, information discovery, shopper planning, actual shopping via web or app, coupon acquisition and is turning into the wallet. Content is evolving too to meet those tactical differences. Coca Cola & Walgreens presented a session called Getting to Digital Prominence Through Supplier & Retailer Collaboration. What was the message? It’s a given that all channels will be involved, the real keys are getting the strategy together to make them all work together seamlessly. The significance of that content isn’t dominated by price though, as MillerCoors showed in their session on Delivering a Dynamic Food & Beer Solution. Their content had to deliver culinary credibility, be flexible enough to be easily customizable and change as time went on and consumers got used to the idea of food and beer paired together. Organizations are getting the hang of the omnichannel experience, but alone, the cycle is not complete.

Measurement is key. It’s an age-old question and one that still demands asking today: What is the return on investment for money spent on marketing & advertising activities? This question is constantly on the minds of organizations, marketing teams and retailers, yet it is increasingly becoming easier to answer due to the wealth of data and metrics surrounding new technology. Now we can know how many shoppers actually saw an advertisement, clicked on the link to the website and purchased the product. We can know shopper profile information to target activities to those shoppers with the highest likelihood to perform as we want. We can use shopper purchase data to change product assortments, alter branding messages on the fly and revise pricing strategies. The biggest hindrance to answering the ROI question is understanding what the strategy is for the return. Is the activity branding related? Is it simply bottom line? Either way, the data is there to show us the results, but we have to take time to gather and analyze them. As the Mondelez team said in their session Power of ROI to Justify Programming and Spending “The past is there to look back at our mistakes, The future is there to make sure you don’t make the same ones”. The wealth of data only helps us if we use it.

More often than not, conferences are energizing. They provide insight into what others are doing and present opportunities to achieve even more success than already in sight. The Shopper Marketing Conference & Expo was no different. A floor full of solutions, three days full of knowledge and countless networking discussions amount to a successful conference experience.

Why do I work at AWG? “I value the opportunity to work with family businesses. My dad owned his own business for 35 years, so it is what I know and cherish. Plus, I love food, so thinking about it everyday is a huge plus.” -Kate