Shopper Marketing is the latest buzzword. Everyone is jumping on this latest craze.
It’s like all of a sudden, all these ‘consumers’ have woken up in a recession and found
that they are now ‘shoppers’.

The truth is that they have always been there – and shoppers have always been the focus of attention for Below the Line agencies. The age-old debate of ATL versus BTL still rages. However I have always made the distinction between the two by the effect they each have. Above the Line affects perceptual change and Below the Line affects behavioural change. The same logic applies to the difference between consumers and shoppers:
consumers think or feel, shoppers buy.

I am a firm believer in integrated communications.
However, for communications to be truly integrated, it is crucial that all agencies really understand the difference between a consumer and a shopper.

One could argue that in the past, BTL communications were always functional: buy this and you’ll get that. Always a conditional arrangement. This does not work anymore – real innovation and creativity are required to bring a brand’s promise alive in store. There are twice as many grocery products on sale in 2011 than there were in 2001. Despite all this choice, we are not buying a greater number of products. In fact, it could be argued that, in a recession, shoppers don’t want choice: they want what they want, at competitive prices.

Chart showing we have double the choice of grocery products

The retail environment is busy, challenging and highly competitive and requires real creativity to get your brand noticed. To really stand out in store, your communications need to be inspired. But by whom? Your consumer or your shopper? We are all consumers and can easily be categorised according to factors such as our age, where we live, what we do, what media we consume. But is not so easy to define us as shoppers. 

During one trip to a store, I am a multitude of shopper types. Standing in the Health & Beauty aisle, I am a browser, preferring to read labels, consider my options and make an informed decision. On the next aisle, I pick up a milk carton without even looking at the options. I just always buy what I always buy. And then at the beer fixture, I am just the shopper, never the consumer. I buy what is on offer, for himself: ‘Sure he’ll drink what’s in the fridge’. So within the space of five minutes I am a considered shopper, a habitual shopper and a deal junkie – and I am not alone.

The Many Personas of the Shopper

How can we target ‘me’ in store without really understanding my motivations as I conduct my shop around the store? How can I be targeted if we cannot readily fit ‘me’ into a shopper type? The answer is that we can’t, and to really win in Shopper Marketing, we need to get a lot more sophisticated in our thinking. Has the shopper made the decision to purchase pre-shop or are they more likely to decide in store?

Interestingly, this raises a question about the role of digital in Shopper Marketing. Some people assume that Shopper Marketing equals in-store marketing. But if 50% of shoppers consult a mobile device when shopping, does this not make digital marketing a key component in Shopper Marketing? A recent survey from B&A showed that 70% of usage of supermarket websites is checking prices, seeing what’s on offer. Shouldn’t your Shopper Marketing strategy include all touchpoints that inform people’s decision to purchase? At what stage of their shop will they come into contact with your brand? If you are lucky enough to be at the first half of the shop, your display or offer is more likely to have an effect where shoppers are more likely to take up an offer – empty trolley and full wallet. Towards the end of the shop, as a full trolley and an empty wallet loom, shoppers are more likely to stick to their list and not be open to any offers or communications. 

Sounds complicated, but the size of the prize is huge, with over 50% of purchase decisions being made in store, whether people had not decided to buy into a particular category (Impulse decision), or had planned to buy into that category, but had not yet decided which brand (Brand decision). It’s always a good idea to understand where your shoppers are likely to come in contact with your brand and what their mindset is likely to be.


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