Winning at the Final Frontier

Winning at the Final Frontier teaser

Date published 09 Feb 2017

Developing Effective Shopper Marketing

The store is our most important media channel

The media landscape continues to be more fragmented, but the reach of the retail environment remains constant. Over 12 million people in Australia have shopped at a supermarket in the last 7 days ( That’s significant reach and all in close proximity to making a buying decision.

In 2009, P&G introduced their “store back” marketing concept. Summarised as “If it doesn’t work at the store, it’s no longer a good marketing idea for Procter & Gamble Co” in an Ad Age article ( It forced its ad agencies to think more explicitly about how a creative concept will play out at the store level and connect with above the line media. P&G was the most publicised move towards a shopper focus, but the movement was not isolated to them. In fact, many companies view packaging as their most important touch point with shoppers. Since then, we have seen significant growth in shopper insights and marketing teams with budgets aimed at more effectively engaging with shoppers’ in-store.

However, the store environment is still often an afterthought when developing and testing creative campaign concepts

The retail medium and the shopper mindset provide significant challenges

The way people process information in a retail environment is very different to traditional media. On average shoppers spend very little time evaluating alternatives in any category and rely on their non-rational system 1 (auto-pilot, as described in the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman) to help them navigate the tens of thousands of SKUs in a given supermarket. Shoppers subconsciously process information in a retail environment and utilise heuristics (aka shortcuts) to make decisions. For example, shoppers use the “Colgate” red as a visual cue for finding the toothpaste category and then use the pack symbols (e.g. the Colgate Total imprint) to find their brand.

The other challenge for shopper marketers is the lack of control they have on the channel. Unlike other traditional media channels, in which you buy the space and you can dictate the content, shopper marketing necessitates getting the retailer on-board with the creative execution and motivated to ensure compliance.

In a nutshell, the retail environment is an increasingly important channel, but it comes with unique challenges.

Tips for developing effective in-store communications

In order to be successful, shopper marketing creative needs to a) bust through the clutter b) connect with the shopper and c) ultimately, positively affect purchase behaviour. Below are some tips for developing more effective in-store marketing. This is by no means an exhaustive guidebook, but hopefully the points below provide some ideas for your next in-store activation.

  1. Win-Win-Win

    The ol’ ‘win-win’ has become a bit of a cliché in business, but there is no way around it when it comes to shopper marketing and in fact we need to add an additional ‘win’. At the 2016 POPAI Conference, Troy Apperley, Shopper Marketing Manager, Savoury at Campbell Arnott’s talked about three key stakeholders to consider when planning any in-store activation; people (shopper), brand and place (retailer).

    Troy and Taby Taylor-Ziane, Strategy Director, 31st Second used the recent ‘Switch the Sandwich’ ( campaign to illustrate how you can deliver clear benefits for all three stakeholders. The objective of the campaign was to encourage shoppers to use Crispbreads for lunch as a healthy alternative to traditional bread. The campaign included off location displays in the fresh section of the supermarket with complementary products (tuna, avocado, tomatoes, etc), POS displays and recipe cards. The campaign delivered clear benefits for all three stakeholders:
    • People (shopper): delivered a healthy and easy lunch solution
    • Brand: enabled off location to grow penetration
    • Place (retailer): category growth and drove fresh (tuna, avocado and tomato)

    So what? When planning your next shopper marketing campaign clearly articulate how the activation will benefit PEOPLE (shopper), BRAND and PLACE (retailer).

  2. Don’t give away the house

    Great shopper marketing campaigns drive significant volume without eroding margin. Let’s take the Chivas Regal Christmas Personalisation Campaign. Shoppers are on the look-out for novel and easy gift solutions at Christmas. Chivas Regal were able to increase participation in premium spirits by enabling shoppers to print personalised labels (see image below) for gifting.

    According to Richard Dumas, Head of Shopper Marketing at Pernod Ricard “the campaign delivered a return way above projections. The campaign was successful because it provided a simple solution that was relevant to the shopping mindset at that time of year. Commercially we kept costs low because we only incurred costs for those shoppers that redeemed the personalised labels online without discounting the product.”

    Deep discounts are often a key element in shopper marketing campaigns, but they impact significantly on the bottom line. Discounts attract shoppers that are loyal to the discount (e.g. they will buy whatever is on special) and also reward shoppers that would have purchased your brand anyway; both play to the short-term rather than create long term value for the brand.

    So what? Consider the dollar impact of a price promotion and look for ways to be relevant without giving away the house.

  3. Play to shopper heuristics (aka shortcuts)

    Heuristics are essentially decision making shortcuts that guide our everyday actions without consuming a massive amount of brainpower. In a retail environment, these heuristics enable us to find and decide on a products without weighing up all the pros and cons of the options available in a deliberate manner.

    Shopper marketing can be more effective if it identifies the heuristics that impact decision making for their product and play to them. There are numerous decision making heuristics, way too many to cover in this article. An example of a heuristic is the anchoring bias: the first bit of information we’re exposed too becomes the comparison point for all future information. Tip: display your WAS price in a comparatively large font to the NOW price.

    Revlon recently won the POPAI pinnacle award – for best temporary display ( The award submission states “The new product shape is glorified and creates a beacon in-store from 5 meters, or from across the store”. The activation is a good examples of tapping into the “visual preference heuristic” creating a clear visual shortcut for the category, which is also distinctive to the brand. It also provides an off-location space for Revlon and the new product launch to cut through an extremely cluttered cosmetics aisle.

    So what? Create a list of all the heuristics that play a significant role in your category and consider how your shopper marketing activations can tap into this.

Final thoughts on the final frontier

To conclude, the retail environment is an increasingly important communication channel, but it comes with significant challenges. We can learn a lot from how brands have successfully communicated in-store and this article highlights three tips to consider:

  • Win-Win-Win: clearly outline how your activation will benefit PEOPLE (shopper), BRANDS AND PLACE (retailer);
  • Don’t give away the house: consider ways to be relevant beyond purely price promotions (put that money to better use); and
  • Play to shopper heuristics (aka shortcuts): understand and leverage the decision making heuristics that impact your category.
Written by Asher Hunter, Managing Director, Melbourne

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