Shopper Marketing explained

An Introduction to Shopper Marketing

As a digital Shopper Marketing agency we spend our time discussing the extensive topic of Shopper Marketing from all angles.

In summary below and in our Blog in more depth you will find some of our observations, views and learnings on the broad subject of Shopper Marketing.

If you would like to know more about how we deliver smart digital shopper marketing campaigns for FMCG brands across the UK and Europe please contact us.

Table of Contents

What is Shopper Marketing?

Shoppers vs consumers

Shopper Marketing is a relatively new concept (probably first coined around 2004/5), although the idea of "in-store marketing" was around for some years before. What seems to have kicked off the new was Procter & Gamble concept of the First Moment Of Truth (FMOT), this is the idea that shopper make up their minds about products in the first 3-7 seconds of seeing the on shelf.

Shopper Marketing is therefore the art and science of getting products seen and bought from shelves (whether real or virtual). As a subject it began with advertising and communication in-store such as product displays or shelf barkers and then branched out to front of store such as security shrouds and even near store items such as 6 Sheet Posters sited outside or even near the store.

One important idea to understand about Shopper Marketing is the distinction between the Shopper and Consumer. Traditional marketing and advertising has always occupied itself solely with the consumer. That is, the person who uses the product be that a food, a perfume or a hairdresser. The Shopper on the other hand, is the person who makes the actual purchase, in the case of FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods or "CPG" Consumer Packaged Goods in the US) the person pushing trolley (or sat in front of the internet connected device for online shopping).

To make the distinction obvious, if the person pushing the trolley round the store is buying deodorant for their partner, they are the shopper and their partner is the consumer. The decision of what to pick up may be solely dictated by the consumer "Get me Brand A deodorant Fresh smell in 100ml roll-on" but often it is placed in the hands of the shopper within a set of boundaries. "Get me some deodorant, roll-on but not X brand" for example. Which brand actually comes home, will be driven by how the shopper is influenced on what is called the "Path to Purchase". Their journey from first thinking about buying deodorant until the moment they buy it. That might be influenced by advertising outside store, displays in-store or Geo fenced digital communications received on their phone. 

Not surprisingly there has been a proliferation of shopper marketing options available FMCG suppliers. We discuss the pros and cons of the main ones here.

Traditional Shopper Marketing

The time before smartphones

 When In-store Shopper Marketing began to flourish in the early part of the 21st Century, the internet was well established in the western world. However, smart (internet connected) mobile phones were not introduced until 2007 in the form of the iPhone, and they did not really take off until 2010 onwards with the launch of the 4G (see below for more on the development of Digital / Mobile Shopper Marketing). In its development, Shopper Marketing was definitely about physical advertising and kit being place in and around stores.

The range of options created for Shopper Marketers by Shopper Marketing Agencies grew steadily to include:

  • In-store promotions
  • FSDUs (Free Standing Display Units)
  • Branded Shelf Barkers or Hanging displays
  • Trolley or basket advertising
  • Security shrouds advertising or similar
  • 6 Sheets advertising posters around store
  • Paper coupon or vouchers
  • Sampling or Tastings around store
  • Loyalty card activity such as competitions or extra points
  • Coupon at till - targeting based on the basket just bought

Each of these options came with it's own pros and cons which are discussed in more depth here. What was important though was not only the design and sourcing of the chosen option but more importantly the actual in-store execution. This is where much of Traditional Shopper Marketing fell down. Partly due to communication or prioritisation failures at store level partly due to over complication or a lack of detailed knowledge of retail on behalf of suppliers, much of the money spent on Traditional Shopper Marketing is wasted. It is possible through good planning and a strong field team to deliver great execution in-store but often this reduces the ROI (due to extra costs) and increases the lead time required. 

Traditional Shopper Marketing can make a strong positive impact for brands in supermarkets but it should never be considered as either a cheap or fast option if you want to deliver it right. It also lacks the ability to be flexible and adapt once started Digital and is always at the under the (rightful) control and ever changing needs of the retailer. 

Shopper Marketing online

the smartphone changes everything

Where Traditional Shopper Marketing was forced to focus on the physical store (for proximity to the FMOT - see What is Shopper Marketing above) Digital Shopper Marketing does not have those restrictions. It is important to note that whilst it is possible to delivery Shopper Marketing Messages via laptops and tablets, especially when the Shopper is doing an online grocery shop, the main route will be Mobile via their Smartphone.

The reasons for focussing on smartphones for Digital Shopper Marketing are are both obvious and compelling. Smartphones are universally owned, personal devices that everyone including "Shoppers" carry with them and spend increasing amount of time paying attention to. If you want to communicate to a Shopper just before the FOTM, then a smartphone is the answer. The only question then is How best to communicate to grocery shoppers via their smartphones when  shopping?

The answer to this clearly depends on what you are looking to achieve but whatever it is you have to actually get their attention. That is, you either have to interrupt their shopping or have something compelling enough for them to consciously seek you out. Notifications such as Geo targeting are an obvious way to get the attention of grocery shoppers just as they are about to shop. At CheckoutSmart we send messages to our members as they go into a virtual area (a "Geo Fence") marked around all the major supermarkets in the UK. This way we both remind them to use CheckoutSmart in a timely fashion but also offer brands the chance to be the most recent message a shopper receives before they start filling the basket or trolley.

Our research shows that around a third of our members open our app before their shop in the actual store. The remaining two thirds look at our app before they go shopping (in the previous 24 hours) as the plan their shop. This pre shop planning phase is the perfect moment to get any brand placed on the shopping list. Research from Field Agency in the US corresponds to this showing that about 56% of grocery shoppers over there write a list but only about a third use actual brands names rather than the category eg Pasta not Barilla. 

Mobile led Shopper Marketing puts you in the hands of grocery shoppers at just the right time to influence as the plan and execute their shop. No other solution can deliver this in a cost effective and flexible way.

To read a case study of our powerful NPD launch approach click here.

Shopper Marketing Tactics

fixing the basics

The subject of "Fixing the basics" has been a recurring theme across grocery online shopper marketing conferences for the last few years. This is partly due to the fact that the technology is developing and retailers keep progressing their approaches and brands are always playing catch up. It is also due to the fact that some organisations are just late to the party and really do need to catch up.

What does "Fixing the Basics" in Digital shopper marketing cover? Think about what every product listed in every online grocery retailer should have and you would come up with a list something like this:

  • Images - Ensure your images are up to date and mobile friendly
  • Descriptions - Is your text right, up to date and shopper friendly. Covering allergies, nutrition, ingredients, environmental as a minimum.
  • Meta variables - Vegan? Low Fat? Make sure your products get the credit they deserve
  • Search - Where to do you come when searched by name, category, misspelled?
  • Navigation - Is your product where it should be in the decision tree / shopping hierarchy. Should you be in the main fixture or a specialty area (or both?)
  • Ratings & Reviews - Our case study with Kellogg Coco Pops shows the beneficial impact of improving ratings & reviews by 30, increased rate of sale by 25%. For more on ratings and reviews please see our Blog and our article on why reviews need to be fresh.

If you have a lot of skus, there are specialist agencies that can help you manage the monitoring of the above an of course BrandBank are your first port of call for updating.

At CheckoutSmart we have an easy to implement and fast solution for delivering Ratings and Reviews under our RRP program.

Choosing your Shopper Marketing Agency

leading means mobile first

There are hundreds of Shopper Marketing agencies out there. Some do everything, others focus on specific niche areas such as POS development or on-pack competition creation (which we do as well). The most important questions for me when choosing a Shopper Marketing Agency are:

  • What do I want Shoppers to do? eg Try my NPD (New Product Development, ie a new item) or Increase their AWP (Average Weight of Purchase, ie buy more in the same period of time)
  • Which Shopper Marketing Agencies are Experts at getting this done? Which Shopper Marketing Agencies have built their core business on doing the specific task I am after and can they prove it works?
  • Are they easy to do business with? They understand my industry having worked in it, they have loads of relevant experience and they are totally flexible in their approach and execution.
  • Can they get it done Fast, ideally today? Nobody has a boss drop by their desk on a Friday morning saying "We need to get our NPD rolling, see what you can do for 6 months time can you?"

At CheckoutSmart we can confidently say "Yes" to all of the above. We use our experience of thousands of activities and hundreds of clients in multiple countries to guide clients to the best approach to their objective. We only work on mobile led Shopper Marketing challenges and have years of clients side experience meaning we are easy to brief and light touch to manage. And yes, we can start today and often do. 

If we sound like your kind of Shopper Marketing Agency then contact us.

Our Shopper Marketing Insights

The magic of receipt data

Unlike other Shopper Marketing agencies, at CheckoutSmart we have access to Millions of grocery receipts to do our own campaign performance and shopper insight analysis. Initially we use them  to provide proof of purchase for our cashback campaigns but we don't stop there. We take all the relevant basket data off the receipt plus the retailer, its location and the date time of the shop.

This shopping basket data is incredibly useful not only to measure the performance of our campaigns but also to provide us with fresh insights into grocery shopper behaviour that helps shape our approach and provides clients with additional beneficial understanding. 

Some examples of insights we have delivered:

The Importance of Heavy Category Buyers - there has been much discussion about this area going back to the very early days of FMCG analysis. It is believed that many brands build their market share by focussing on this group. More recently Byron Sharp in his book The Laws of Growth took a swipe at this thinking. It is his view that about 20% of buyers only represent 50% of the category. Our analysis (supported subsequently by Dunnhumby) says that it is much nearer to an average of 75%.

To read more and download our report on Heavy Category Buyers click here.

When do shoppers shop for groceries? - This report looked at the day and the time of day that our members went shopping. If you want to know when the highest footfall is in a supermarket because you want to activate and in-store program or if you want to know when to send  in your field teams then you should know the answer to this question to maximise your ROI. Our report gives you this and illustrates the remarkable difference between shopping patterns on weekday vs a weekend.

The full report on When do shoppers shop for groceries is available here.


See our Shopper Marketing Blog for more about what we do