2017 is looking like a watershed year for FMCG brands. Supermarket price wars are squeezing margins, inflation-led price rises are pushing consumers away from brands and towards own-brands and e-commerce is still a relentless juggernaut. Added to that, the fact that we’re witnessing unprecedented levels of NPD, and you can see why brands are looking for long-term solutions that drive value.

Enter shopper marketing, a practice that offers relief to hard-up brands in trying times. Shopper marketing might be a huge industry worth around £1.5bn[1] a year, but it’s still seen in some parts as a straightforward – even basic – form of marketing.

Jon Southcombe
Jon Southcombe

Which is of course, categorically untrue. Shopper marketing has come an incredibly long way since the days of the fabled “pyramid of tins”. Bluntly, the digitisation of in-store media is imminent…and brands who don’t react fast enough stand to lose out.

Seamlessly merging the digital and the tangible is easier said than done, so we wanted to draw on our years of experience to give you the inside track on capitalising on the latest trends in shopper marketing.

  1. Take note: digital innovation will soon revolutionise in store engagement. Just this week Waitrose announced a digital signage trial live in-store for the next 12 weeks. This will offer retailers – and brands – unprecedented flexibility to launch engaging and reactive promotions at a moment’s notice. The possibilities for this are endless. And while AR and VR may be a while a way from being mainstream in the retail space, the first green shoots of these technologies are coming into play in the form of smartphone apps that bring products and promotions to life.
  1. Make your brand indispensable to consumers by building a strong story. Decision-making can happen anywhere, so you should first and foremost ensure shopper marketing is fully integrated within your wider sales and marketing strategies. In a new economic chapter for the UK, non-essentials are likely to be hit the hardest, so ensure your brand delivers value, making it indispensable for consumers. Price is undoubtedly a major driver of consumer choice, however it is not the only one, and customers are often likely to choose a more expensive brand because they love it, even it if it slightly more expensive.
  1. Make sure your campaigns operate in harmony, not isolation. Shopper marketing should tie into wider marketing campaigns to amplify cut-through. Choosing a single simple core message will eliminate any potential confusion, creating a strong association with the brand in a matter of seconds. It may be helpful to create a ‘campaign moodboard’ to ensure visual consistency across all marketing channels and across different campaigns.
  1. Use data-driven insights to deliver the perfect message at the perfect time. Five or six years ago people didn’t use mobiles in the same way, however nowadays there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained through digital analysis.  By understanding shopper habits through big data, you can deliver the perfect message at the perfect time.

Ensure you are effectively analysing the so-called “heat maps”, where the densest concentration of paths reveal where shoppers have dwelled longest to ensure promotional displays are located in the best possible areas. This will also help you track where customers fall out of those journeys and resolve any potential pain points.

  1. Bring the mobile/digital experience to the physical one. There is a big opportunity for brands to think about blending the in-store experience with the online experience. Retailers are already jumping on the bandwagon, with innovations ranging from Burberry’s Snapcodes, which let in-store customers unlock Snapchat content, to Adidas’ chips in some of their jerseys and shoes, which allow Adidas to retarget shoppers following a store visit.
  1. Take advantage of predictive planning to optimise ROI. Going forward, customers will increasingly expect organisations to anticipate their needs and solve problems before they arise, without having to ask. Therefore, something which is already gaining momentum is the use of predictive analytics. Improving outcomes is much easier with predictive planning showing accurate ROI on previous campaigns.

With Brexit on the horizon and discounters gaining momentum, larger brands should prepare now to ensure their presence in physical stores is as effective as possible, and their investment is used wisely. By focusing on the above, we hope brand managers will be able to create stronger bonds and eventually turn shoppers into brand advocates.

Jon Southcombe is Co-Founder and MD of BASE™ Technologies – the industry-leading shopper marketing and retail media technology agency.

[1]  Retail Week, 2010

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