The Evolution of Shopper Marketing

Todd Hudgens

How did the term ‘shopper marketing’ originate?

The term "Shopper Marketing" was first introduced by consultant Herb Sorensen in his book "Inside the Mind of the Shopper: The Science of Retailing." This marked a significant turning point in the recognition of consumer behavior within a retail environment.

At the time, brands were looking for ways to increase sales through marketing efforts that reinforced brand equity and delivered messages that resonated with a particular channel or retailer's audience. However, the consolidation of retailers fueled the development of the Shopper Marketing discipline. As retailers merged or faded away, a company's top 10 retailers could control 80% or more of their overall sales. With this increased retailer clout, brands needed to consider their customers' impact on sales, new product launches, and competition.

Moreover, there was a financial component to this as well. Trade budgets and product discounts were negatively affecting above-the-line costs, which, in turn, affected sales. Shopper Marketing was a below-the-line activity and, therefore, focused on activities beyond price, thus protecting sales and profit.

As a result, the Shopper Marketing discipline took root, with brands investing in specific departments that would serve as a conduit to marketing with retailers and bridge the gap between the brand and sales teams. This created a more focused approach to retail marketing, ensuring that the right message was being delivered to the right audience at the right time.

Shopper Marketing has since evolved into a crucial component of retail marketing strategies, with brands investing heavily in understanding the shopping habits of their customers. The discipline seeks to understand what drives consumer behavior, how to optimize the in-store experience, and how to drive sales through effective promotional tactics.

How has it evolved in meaning from 1983 to 2023?

Shopper Marketing has come a long way from its early days of in-store promotions. Today, it encompasses a seamless omnichannel experience that drives customers to both the digital and physical shelves. The rise of viable eCommerce shopping has given shoppers the ability to start their journey anywhere, and it is up to brands to meet them where they are.

The Moment of Truth (MOT) in marketing has become the industry's compass, representing the moment when a customer interacts with a brand, product, or service to form or change an impression about it. First introduced by P&G's A.G. Lafley, MOTs have evolved to address how the Internet has changed the way shoppers interact with brands, products, and services.

With the advent of digital technologies, shopper behavior has shifted dramatically, and the traditional path to purchase is no longer the norm. Shoppers are no longer restricted to visiting a brick-and-mortar store to make a purchase. Instead, they have the ability to research, compare, and purchase products online from anywhere, at any time. This has created a need for brands to provide a seamless omnichannel experience that meets shoppers where they are in their journey.

To achieve this, brands must understand the different touch-points along the shopper's journey and create personalized experiences that are tailored to each stage. This requires a deep understanding of the shopper's behavior, preferences, and motivations. Brands must also be able to track and analyze the shopper's journey to identify pain points and areas for improvement.

Shopper Marketing has become an integral part of retail marketing strategies, with brands investing heavily in understanding shopper behavior and creating seamless omnichannel experiences. By leveraging data and technology, brands can deliver personalized experiences that meet shoppers where they are in their journey. The evolution of Shopper Marketing continues, with new technologies and channels constantly emerging, but the focus remains the same: to create meaningful connections with shoppers that drive sales and build loyalty.

How do you create a strategy for every aspect of brand interaction?

To effectively connect with shoppers, it is important to have a deep understanding of who they are, the cultural context surrounding them, and their unmet needs. This shopper-centric approach, coupled with knowledge of the omnichannel landscape, can help create experiences that resonate with shoppers and drive results.

To achieve this, it is important to fully understand the context and current state of the brand, business, and targeted audience. By partnering with key stakeholders, opportunities and challenges can be unlocked, and insights can inspire strategic vision.

This vision should seek to not only address the ask, but go beyond it by identifying and solving for gaps between today's customer experience and desired future state. The result should be a holistic vision, strategic roadmaps, and tactical recommendations for the brand.

Building shopper solutions grounded in a big idea and activated through planned moments informed by data and insights can help determine where best to engage shoppers and create holistic plans based on budgets and retailer priorities.

Effective execution of these plans requires comprehensive management of activation details across retailers and vendor partners, along with thoughtful monitoring of metrics and applied optimizations to maximize conversion with shoppers.

How can brands best utilize their creative and technology partners for shopper success?

Creative and technology partners are essential for a brand's success. They have the expertise to help companies develop innovative and unique strategies that are both functional and inspirational. By working together, brands and their partners can create an environment that fosters collaboration and inspiration, resulting in a more successful outcome for the shopper.

Trust is at the core of a brand's success and crucial to connecting with shoppers. To establish trust, it's requisite to create an approach that brings together viewpoints from all essential stakeholders - brand, shopper, sales, and technology - to develop a strategy that resonates with the target audience.

Wunderman Thompson Commerce & Technology recognizes the significance of collaboration. To establish meaningful connections with shoppers, a brand must leverage the collective effort of its partners to build trust and confidence. Trust is what leads to better business outcomes. That is what we are built to deliver.

For more information about Shopper Marketing, please reach out to Todd Hudgens: [email protected]