Shopper insights – often overlooked in favor of brand insights, have once again become the focus of attention at the annual ‘Executing Shopper Insights Conference’. As you can imagine the shopper & category managers (along with other stakeholders) are again focusing on the shopping experience and how that directly leads into increased sales. But unlike other years where the main topics have been either segmenting the shopper or categorizing the type of trip, this year focused on the growing divide between the brand and the experience in-store. With this gap becoming more apparent, the main questions being raised by shopper insight managers are; does the in-store experience take away from the carefully nurtured brand feel? Does the brand become counter-intuitive to the store experience? Then above all, what on earth do we do about it…
There are several concerns that the shopper/category manager has on these fronts. The internal challenge is with their brand team who often see shopper insights as the last point of call when making the marketing decisions. They’re also the first to jump into the fray when decisions are made that align any product on the shelf to Point of Sale Materials (POSM). This is of course a battle that every organization needs to fight and then hopefully decide that a ceasefire and reconciliation is the best way forward.
The main external challenge is with the retailers; without them on side your brand is facing a near herculean task of staying relevant and competitive. And once on side, when you want to do any in-store POSM or category re-shuffle, it’s paramount to have a clear vision and above all, proof that this is in the retailers’ interest. This is of course just a blue print and market leaders can have just as much trouble making any meaningful change as the smaller brands.
So what did we learn from discussing these issues over two days with managers from different sectors all sharing challenges and victories from their categories?
Get your house in order: This may seem like a no-brainer, but having an internal battle with brand and other stakeholders whilst simultaneously trying to get the retailer to buy into your vision is nigh impossible. Having a executable plan where all aspects of the purchase journey are aligned and working towards the same goal is crucial in getting that pilot plan off the ground.
Know the benefits for the retailer: The retailer has a large amount of power (cue all the shopper managers nodding their heads in unison) to either launch your plan with full gusto or laugh you out the door. In order to make sure it is the former, you must have a clear idea as to how and why they should back your plan. Will it grow the category? How will it do that? Will it increase footfall? Will it be an anchor product or an impulse buy? Why is that beneficial? All these questions and more will be thrown at the shopper manager by the retailer way before any decision making process starts.
Know your retailer: This again seems like an easy one, but retailers are increasingly trying to segment the types of customers they attract. Wal Mart and Whole Foods have very different clientele and the POSM used for products in their stores differs wildly. Retailers are increasingly trying to create a unique shopping experience in line with their brand. Knowing how your brand & product is going to fit in with theirs is crucial to any further success.
Jumping in: This one seems like the easiest, you have the vision, you have the permission and there you are in-store making it happen. This is the part where you have to stick to your guns. Perhaps the brand team now don’t think the in-store matches up with the overall vision; or the marketing team thinks the POSM aren’t uniform with other marketing materials. One brave example from the conference was that an in-store pilot project was launched under-the-radar during the summer when the brand & marketing executives were away on holiday. Come the end of summer all of these issues were then raised, but by that time the pilot had 3 months worth of data behind it. It had proved itself and the growth in sales due to the shopper insights and changes made.
Get your foundations right: In order to get to the point where you are generating that close relationship and vision with your brand team, then a multi-channel journey should be on your agenda. Combining both the brand and shopper/category specific insights across the entire purchase journey will turn the brand team into advocates. From that you can lay a base from which both are aligned and working toward the same end – growth in sales. To get all this right – it is more important than ever to know your brand, your retailer, your consumer and your shopper.