There has recently been a huge amount of debate recently as to whether shopper marketing is strategic or tactical, especially following Mike Anthony’s post on whether shoppers are consumers or not. The major fact of the matter is that shopper marketing has been mis-defined for too long. Without a clear view of what shopper marketing is – the debate on what it does will rage. So just what is Shopper Marketing?
Shopper Marketing is marketing.
Marketing in its many classical definitions boiled down to a simple proposition: identify a target customer, define that target customer’s behavior and figure out a way to change the targets’ behavior to the benefit of your brand. As consumer goods marketing has evolved, the customer has come to mean different things and in its most common interpretation, the customer is generally seen to be the consumer – the person who uses the product. Over time a second definition of the customer has also arisen: the retailer. Most consumer marketers accept that unless they can secure distribution for a product, via a retail outlet, they can’t efficiently monetize consumer demand.
The Importance of the Shopper
So why all the fuss about the shopper? Mike’s recent blog explains this brilliantly. Consumers and shoppers behave differently (even when they are the same person). When we consume something we are responding to a need or a desire that arises on a certain occasion. Assuming that an appropriate product is available to us, our experience of consumption will re-affirm those needs and desires – driving a cycle of consumer behavior. This cycle of behavior explains why we brush our teeth at least twice a day and how we create a preference for a brand of toothpaste.
Shopping is different; we recognize a gap in the consumption cycle when a product is no longer available to meet our needs and desires on a specific occasion. So we set out to close that gap. At this point we start thinking about the constraints we have in time, money or attitude and we select an outlet that we believe might service our demand within those constraints. Inside the shop, we seek out a product within an outlet and we choose something that best meets our perceived requirements within our constraints. This explains why, even if we prefer a certain brand of toothpaste, we might often buy something else in a particular situation. Shoppers behave differently, and they should be treated as a different and additional customer.
To Change Behaviors, Think Of The Shopper
‘Clearly the consumer and the shopper represent different targets, so if we want to change these behaviors, we need a different approach: The things that influence a mom to buy a product for her kids are different to the things that make her kids want it in the first place.
Shopper Marketing embraces this and accepts that if you want to make a consumer use a product, you have to get someone to buy it. Shopper Marketing is the process of creating and executing a marketing mix to change purchase behavior in order to drive the consumption of a brand.
Is Shopper Marketing Strategic or Tactical?
Why the debate about whether this is strategic or tactical? Well most of the ‘shopper marketing’ we see is the marketing mix that gets implemented in shops. In fact there are a lot of misguided people out there who have decided that all Shopper Marketing is nothing more than stuff you implement in stores. This is daft. It’s like saying that an advert is great consumer marketing. The advert is the tactical expression of a marketing mix that has been designed to influence a target consumer’s behavior. The marketing process that got to the creation of the advert is recognized as being strategic. So is also the marketing process of establishing exactly the right target shopper whose behavior needs to change to drive consumption.
It’s fine to recognize great Shopper Marketing tactics when you see them in-store, but to presume that they are not playing a role in a strategic process is short-sighted. The fact is that marketing is changing. The boys and girls who are driving this change have recognized that a long-term strategy for growth needs to build consumer demand AND change shopper behavior to service this.
I think this is where the battle lines are drawn. Those businesses that think this is all terribly tactical will see an increase in the expenditure with little or no return in growth or market share. Those that recognize shopper marketing as a strategic pillar are already reaping the rewards of increased efficiency and better results. You have a choice in how you want to play this, for those seeking to build a strategy, feel free to contact us at engage!