Shopper and retail marketing makes up a core set of tactics and practices that are integral to include in a comprehensive marketing strategy. Although we’re well into the digital era, shopper and retail marketing are still very relevant and offer a lot of viable value in today’s economy when used strategically.
We spoke with Impact’s Kevin Meyer, Executive Director of Marketing Strategy and Operations, and Allison Jones, Executive Creative Director, to get their insights on shopper and retail marketing and the role it plays in today’s economy.
Some of the questions and their insights are shared below:
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What is Shopper and Retail Marketing?
“Yeah, I think it’s interesting, shopper and retail marketing has a lot of different uses within the marketing ecosystem.
It’s an important point where consumers are actually engaging physically with products in store.
Traditionally, that’s kind of what we think of when we think of like retail marketing, shopper marketing. It’s kind of a spatial environment, navigating all of the queues and signals that brands are telling you to engage with and taking those signals in and basically acting on them.
And that’s what good kind of shopper and retail marketing does, is it connects all those signals in store and connects you with that exact moment, that exact purpose that you’re trying to drive for that product exploration or product information at that point of sale or at that point of education or exploration. It is also commonly referred to as CX, right?
Like thinking about consumer experience is a big part of shopper marketing and I think that the words CX are really kind of important words to deploy in this environment. Because CX starts to touch even beyond the physical store location and starts going into how that interaction at the point of product introduction happens in a digital space.
You know, how does that shopper experience connect with the virtual experience?
So, a lot of times you’ll hear brands kind of referred to their retail experience as CX because it is considering more than just that truly retail and shopper physical space.
It’s going outwards into that digital space and bolstering that connection.”
– Allison Jones
“Shopper marketing deals with everything through the entire funnel. So, from the point of conversion all the way out to awareness. It deals with shoppers, y’know? Technically – it goes back to the moment of the inciting incident. Where the consumer feels a pang of discomfort, or they become aware of a need in a way that is compelling enough for them to seek out a solution.
So, from the moment they become a shopper – they transition from a general consumer to an actual shopper; and that’s maybe even be up at the awareness level, and now you have to move them through the shopper’s journey. So, shopper marketing deals with a much larger journey that a consumer is on to move from a point of discomfort to a point where they believe they’ve identified a solution.
Retail marketing is how do we ensure that we are easy to find and easy to buy at retail. To zoom out again, the lens you look at marketing through is also going to have an impact. So, do you take a non-channel-neutral view? So again, do you look at channels as siloed areas in which we activate a brand? Or, like we do at Impact, do you take an omnichannel, a channel-neutral approach?
Like if you want to sell meat, a retail strategy makes a lot of sense because when people buy meat, they do it in the store.
Retail marketing is very focused in on that moment of the shoppers’ experience in the retail environment, within those four doors. ”
– Kevin Meyer
What Markets Rely on Shopper and Retail Marketing the Heaviest?
“When I think about specific spaces that are deploying this kind of strategy as a part of their marketing plan, it’s definitely CPG like Consumer-Packaged Goods that comes to mind.
That’s a huge part of their consideration for their marketing plan. A lot of CPG falls into things like health, wellness, and beauty.
Other categories obviously include food and packaged goods. But even things like the produce section has been really fantastic. We’ve seen great retail strategies applied to produce promotions that have helped sell things like bananas and pineapples and strategic partnerships that cross into that aisle space.
Those brands are the ones that I think as consumers we kind of see most heavily, but another powerful category is the consumer electronics space. I think that as the market shifts more towards online purchasing, we need to ask how retail locations that sell consumer electronics like Best Buy, Walmart, and Big box stores like that, how are they gonna start to compete, right?
What is a part of the in-store experience that they can offer that online shopping can’t?
And how do you really tap into smart strategies that drive consumers in store to maybe get more educated on a product, touch it, feel it, explore it?
I mean it’s tactile – you can hold it.
And I think that’s why there’s still really important strategies rolling out in consumer electronics regarding retail shopping and even the consumer experience as a whole.
Other categories that deploy really smart retail and shopper marketing are, well fashion is a huge one, we’ve all engaged with something like shoe-shopping. And what’s interesting is I think you can take it to a varied level of experience based on the brand.
So having a shopping experience at a store like DSW is very different than going into a store like Hermès or another high-end brand.
But it’s really interesting that while the ideas of marketing and how they come to play in those different physical spaces may differ, the principles of navigating a space, directing consumers to the product that they want to touch, hold, feel, and consider is really a holistic strategy that could be applied to any industry that needs to bring goods to market.”
– Allison Jones
“From the omnichannel view, you can look at it like this: is the website just a form of digital retail? And I’d say: isn’t it? Ecommerce, to me, even though we use a different word to talk about it, is really just digital, virtual retail. The same rules apply – you’re worried about mental and physical availability – sort of the core of marketing in general. So really, all markets rely on shopper and retail marketing to a certain extent.
Develop and maintain mental and physical availability.
Mental availability is people know you exist and easily remember you in relevant buying situations. It’s about recall, and more specifically, the direction of recall. This also plays into the shopper side of things, because the first place that a consumer in the entry point of a shopper journey is going to shop is their memory. So mental availability is really a long-term strategy that helps build brand awareness and shopper marketing is more about actively converting consumers who are already looking for a solution you provide.”
– Kevin Meyer
At What Stage Should Businesses Consider Implementing Shopper and Retail Marketing Strategies?
“Well, it kind of varies for every business.
Some businesses start out with a really firm foundation in ecom or ecommerce. Those kind of early go to market strategies include ecommerce because it is a lower overhead, and less operational expenditure for the company.
So, you know, those are ways that brands really start to cut their teeth within the space and figure out if they have market fit.
It is a really kind of agile and effective way to kind of bring a product to market and test it out, run promotional activities on social, engage with influencers, engage even in just building a brand and launching it in the ecosystem for consideration against other brands that your target audience might be considering.
So when you start to kind of see that you’re getting traction in that space, then it all comes down to things like sales volumes, obviously product market fit, and the output that those companies can produce – like if they’re actually able to produce what they’re selling – and then there might be conversations where you can hit a certain cap and say, well now let’s start to create a flagship location, let’s actually start to create a footprint, and that footprint decision really is an important part of expanding your strategy.
However, it might not necessarily be a true flagship location owned by the company. In that case, you might consider what retail channels you need to think about bringing your product into to start creating that channel strategy. Or looking at strategic channel partnerships with an established brand, like I brought up Best Buy earlier. Building a strong relationship with stores that might carry your product and be an initial distributor to your consumers through that retail channel is a part of considering the next phase of going to market with a product or brand.
But again, it’s very different for every business and industry.”
– Allison Jones
“Really, to me, if you’re working on brand awareness, if you’re working on creating consumer conversions, and you’re engaged with consumers during their decision-making process, all of that is shopper and retail marketing already.
So, in other words, I think basically every brand engages with shopper and retail marketing as soon as they start actively marketing in general.”
– Kevin Meyer
What Role Does a S&R Marketing Strategy Play in Today’s Digital-First Economy?
“What’s interesting is as we build this digital universe and we build the meta-verse, right?
The trackable moments, the personalization that we get from an app or a website or the brands that we know and love and trust that we engage with within a digital space; we like those apps because they’re personalized.
They know us enough now to create recommendations and what’s even scarier is they’re getting so good at making recommendations that we trust them. They’ve built a level of trust with us because they can recommend the things that we crave, desire, purchase often, and look at most frequently.
So how I think retail will evolve is figuring out how can we bring that in store space to life with that same level of intention and personal engagement.
So, can you walk up to a display and have it know you a little bit? And not in a creepy way, but in a way that’s like it’s driving your consumer experience. Maybe it knows some of your interests or it’s guiding you through the selection process so that it can offer you a better experience while considering the product that you’re exploring.
Now, will that happen for shampoo? I don’t know, but could it happen for consumer electronics: maybe! Like what is the right iPad for you based on the ways that you use it.
Are you an artist or are you a financial analyst? All of that consideration that makes you, you could change the way that a product might present itself to you.
So, tapping into that deeper insight and those deeper personal connections to consumers, I think is a real win. One where retail can start to really create what we love and have now enjoyed with the digital experience, but in that physical space.
Brands connecting that will have stronger, more meaningful connections with the consumers that are at that point of consideration in a retail environment.”
– Allison Jones
“Where I would like to see it head is that we start applying the same type of thinking and objectives to the physical retail environment that we are the virtual retail environment. Like the same rules about organization, and journey, and understanding the path a person takes. How do we organize products? How do we organize content?
There’s a ton of research out there on organizing a grocery store in order to maximize consumer spending in the store. So, in this example, we should also apply that same logic to the grocery store website.
For instance, is there a version of online grocery shopping one day where you’re actually exploring a physical environment through VR or AR like you would in a video game?
The way I think about it is that the internet is supposed to represent our real world, anyway, so I think we need to be able to understand our space, and we’re just going to see digital retail and physical retail blended together more and more as we move into the future.
In the digital world, I think the omnichannel view is better where we say, I don’t care where you are or how you’re shopping, my goal is to understand what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, what your pain points are, and how do I make it easier for you? How do I make it easier for you to buy me?”
– Kevin Meyer
How Does Storytelling and Creativity fit Into These Strategies?
“Oh well that’s the whole journey, right? Like, that’s the journey.
Y’know, maybe I’m out looking for a new refrigerator. I’ve done some intention and digging online to do some of my background right. I’m kind of in an awareness stage. I know of the brands; I know kind of what’s out there and have been doing some comparing.
I’m even doing a competitive audit in my own head of who’s the best based on these things that I want.
It’s knowledge gathering and really kind of the early stages of a story where you’re discovering what you might be interested in, what might best fit you.
And so, as you go down that customer journey path moving from research to practicality and going into the physical store to see if the unit will fit the space, and how it’s going to look.
Exploring the look, touch, feel, and getting a sense of the quality. Paying attention to the details of the handles and the finish – and the storytelling from the creative side has to get their attention in that early awareness phase, building the story with you and saying after looking at these products we know that this is kind of what you’re looking for.
Brands, in this example, have to understand the pain points that you have within your home.
Maybe your fridge isn’t big enough to hold 4 cakes a week and you’re a baker, or maybe you’re a busy mom and you’ve got snacks galore so all the little compartments are a big part of what you’re looking for.
How do you connect those consumer insights?
Those specific needs that they have within their story of being a mom looking for all the storage compartments or with the story of the baker who’s just looking for more space.
That audience insight should be weaved into every point of engagement until they get to that store, so that if they’ve looked at something online as a baker and they’ve looked at other integrated marketing efforts all telling that kind of baker’s needs story.
Then when they’re finally in store and you have something like “The Bakers Perfect Fridge,” – how beautiful is that to see who you are intwined in every single part of that solution.
And I think that’s where marketers can be really savvy and pointed with how they complete that storytelling, given that every dip down the funnel from awareness, to consideration, to actual conversion – getting that sale and point of purchase – needs to connect in that threaded tail of why this thing that you looked at 2 weeks ago is still the answer for you as you get to that in-store space.”
– Allison Jones
“I think without the ability to ground the consumers experience in story you reduce your ability to give their experience any meaning at all. Story is where meaning comes from. If our brains couldn’t craft story – nothing would mean anything.
So, to me, the shoppers’ journey is a story. It starts with an inciting incident. You have a hero who has a problem. Their problem is personal: I need this, I need that, or whatever it may be – and every shopper has the same primary challenges and fundamental fears.
One of the growing challenges today is how in the world do you figure out which product is actually best for you? Because everyone has a need, but not only that, they have specific needs.
The challenge is that we’re often overloaded with options, but have such few tools to sift through the noise. And we call it noise, but the problem isn’t that there’s a lack of communication, it’s that so much of the communication is just self-interested bullsh**.
If everyone is saying their product is the best for this or the best for that, how do consumers actually compare these different products to come to a true decision. The corresponding fear is that you waste valuable time and money on a product or service that fails you and lets you down. And the bigger the purchase, the worse it is if it fails.
When you look at any sales transaction as a human-to-human connection it’s really easy to see the correlation between storytelling, emotion, and the shopper’s journey.
Companies need to view themselves as the guide, not the hero – they aren’t Luke Skywalker, they’re Obi-Wan Kenobi, they aren’t Frodo, they’re Gandolf – and if they can remember that, they can remember their place, which is ultimately to help the hero find a suitable solution.”
– Kevin Meyer
A Quick Recap
Shopper and retail marketing tactics are present throughout the entire marketing funnel. With a role in every stage from brand awareness down to the point of conversion, shopper and retail marketing strategies are integral to creating an enhanced and comprehensive marketing strategy.
Additionally, strong shopper and retail marketing strategies can improve the consumer experience and reinforce a powerful brand reputation.
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