In-store marketing has always been popular, but shopper marketing is much more than just displays, packaging, and promotions. Brands can do significantly more to influence shopper behavior and create a start-to-finish buyer’s journey, all within the confines of the retail space.

Mom shopping in grocery store with child in cart.

Shopper marketing overlaps some with consumer marketing, but the shopper and the consumer are not always the same person. One person may do the grocery shopping for the entire family, for example. Shopper marketing addresses the person in the store, and it is increasingly emphasized by brands for several reasons:

  • Fragmented media experiences all culminate when the shopper picks up an item in a retailer
  • Every shopper wants to save money, and they are less loyal to retailers than they used to be
  • With retailers themselves developing strong brands, CPG manufacturers must learn how to work with them to reap shopper marketing benefits
  • Never has it been easier to collect and analyze massive quantities of consumer data to better predict shopper behavior

The frame of mind of the shopper is different from that of the consumer—even if they are one and the same! When a person is out shopping, their experience is by definition vastly different from being at home and seeing an ad during a television program or hearing one during a podcast. By focusing on shopper marketing, retailers and brands stand to benefit appreciably.

How Brands and Retailers Benefit from Personalizing the Shopping Experience

The benefits of shopper marketing have been well-known, even before the mobile revolution. In 2008, a GMA / Deloitte study remarked on the tremendous promise of shopper marketing for brands that do it with competence. Even back then, before everyone had smartphones, brands that participated in 360-degree integrated marketing grew significantly faster than brands that didn’t. 

Winners at shopper marketing can expect greater influence with partner brands and retailers, access to more and better consumer data, and additional opportunities to influence shoppers when they make their purchase decision in the retailer aisle.  

More recent research shows that nearly half of shoppers buy more from retailers that personalize the shopping experience, and the vast majority of consumers are willing to pay up to 25% more for better customer service, so the benefits of shopper marketing and personalizing the shopper experience are clearly evident. 

As online shopping took off in recent years, brands and online retailers strove to incorporate the “human touch” into online shopping as much as possible. It wasn’t easy, but with the help of tracking techniques, tools like chatbots, and analysis of the data collected from online purchases, they got better at it. Now, online brands create personalized shopping experiences across all digital channels. 

How can brands and retailers put the accumulated wisdom to work in a retail environment? There are several ways. Enter your information below for instant access to some valuable, actionable tips.

How Brick and Mortar Stores Stay Ahead of Online Competition

Brick and mortar stores have a handful of major advantages over online retailers. And in fact, even today, the overwhelming majority of retail sales happen in brick and mortar stores. Impulse purchases, too, take place more readily in the brick and mortar environment than online. After all, you don’t pass a tempting candy and snack aisle on the way to the online checkout page. 

And for many purchases, people simply prefer shopping in a store rather than online. The main reason? They like to touch, feel, hold, and otherwise experience products before making their decision. However accurate an online description of a bath towel is, it can’t deliver the same information as can be gathered from picking it up and feeling it in person. 

Another major reason people prefer shopping in stores is that they don’t want to wait for products to ship. When someone decides, for example, that they want steak for dinner, the online shopping experience is all but irrelevant. It just makes sense to go to a supermarket and see what’s in the meat case.

Why the Omnichannel Approach Is Effective

This is not to say that brick and mortar retailers don’t have to concern themselves with online marketing. Let’s be real: people look at screens all day long, and brands and retailers that don’t advertise there are seriously out of the loop. What they have to do is bridge the online and offline worlds effectively and seamlessly.

Person looking on mobile phone while in grocery store.

In fact, brands and retailers have to take an omnichannel approach to shopper marketing, priming them for the in-store experience even when they’re online at home. The omnichannel approach also makes sense because there’s no single online destination where shoppers go and where you can reach them all at the same time.

Personalization involves learning about the people doing the shopping. They’re unique individuals, but categorizing (and characterizing) the shoppers who are the targets of your shopper marketing helps with personalization. By using segmentation correctly, brands and retailers can do things like send personalized, precisely targeted emails. 

This is highly effective when shoppers opt into specific messages in which they’re interested, and when shoppers make their own decisions on which messages they want to receive, they’re more likely to engage with those messages. In short, the channel selection should be broad, but the messages to shoppers should be targeted.

Using Offline Channels Effectively

Retailers and brands have plenty of experience using offline channels in shopper marketing. Special displays, in-store coupons, demonstrations, and free samples have been part of the retail experience for a long time now. Effective offline shopper marketing considers product, pricing, placement, and promotion.

Brand developers can use product packaging to engage the shopper, through size, shape, material, graphics, and color. Pricing, too, can be an effective shopper marketing tool in stores. Discounts and coupons are effective, as are things like free samples and bundled offers. The store environment itself can be used to accentuate shopper marketing, through the placement of displays, lighting, display style, and the overall traffic pattern of the store aisles.

Promotion of brands to in-store shoppers can take place in several areas, and in several ways. It’s important, of course, that stores and brands communicate promotions, so shoppers know about them, but there is much more they can do, such as installing coupon dispensers, in-store video, and even advertising directly on shopping carts. 

Using Online Channels Effectively

Much of the work of shopper marketing actually takes place online, because that is where it’s easiest to gather maximum shopper information. Again, the key is knowing and understanding the various shopper segments you want to target. The better you understand your ideal customer, the easier it will be to know things like which social media channels to emphasize, which websites to advertise on, and which keywords to use in advertising and content marketing. 

Online channels can also be used for gathering shopper feedback. Simply asking your target audience members what they want, and actually listening to what they say can be remarkably empowering for marketers. This can be done through traditional channels like online surveys, and also through social media posts (many of which now allow polls), and content marketing. Once a discussion gets going on the comment thread for a social media post or blog post, people can share extensively, giving your online marketing team plenty of information on which to base future marketing choices. 

Get Your Mobile Act Together

Today, online marketing incorporates mobile marketing. Many of the screens people spend the most time looking at are on tablets and phones, and brands and retailers that don’t have their mobile strategy together can be left behind. When a potential or actual shopper tries to access a brand’s or a retailer’s website and finds that the site is not formatted for mobile, they can lose interest (or become frustrated) almost instantly. 

Many brands and retailers develop apps to cater to the mobile user, but even if you don’t do that, it's still essential to optimize your online presence for mobile audiences. Sure, people can pinch and zoom and swipe to get the information they need, but if they’re used to accessing information on mobile without having to do so, they’re probably not going to bother, and will conclude that the brand or retailer simply doesn’t care enough to address the needs of the mobile user. This can be a big mistake on the part of brands and retailers.

Woman looking at mobile phone making a disgusted face.

Be Personalized, Not Intrusive

The main danger to watch out for in developing an integrated online and offline shopper marketing strategy is crossing the line between personalized and intrusive. This line is present in every type of online interaction if you think about it. For example, in surveys, you have to be confident that the information you ask for is not seen as overly intrusive. A person may wonder why a supermarket wants to know whether they’re divorced, or their sexual orientation, and decide they’re not willing to part with that information.

And retailers and brands that use emails must determine exactly the frequency at which they can send targeted emails without turning into a pest. Stores or brands that use apps that push content to users must learn the best ways to notify consumers of new content, and the frequency with which that is an appropriate thing to do. It’s not easy being there when your shoppers need you and stepping back when they don’t, but there are tools and analytics you can use to help you know when the time is right, and how frequently you can figuratively tap the shopper on the shoulder without becoming an annoyance.

Create Continuity Between the Online and Offline Experience

Ultimately, effective shopper marketing must provide a holistic online and offline experience, because few people live their lives either completely online or offline. Excellence in weaving together the offline and online experiences depends on several factors, and perhaps the most important factor is who your ideal shopper is. When you know this person (or multiple “personas” you plan to target), you can select the right message, the right platforms, the right tone, and the right frequency to interact. 

People are better at mentally connecting the online and offline experience now that online and mobile marketing are a part of most people’s lives. Seeing an in-store display that is similar to an online advertisement causes both messages to reinforce each other, and this can be of tremendous benefit to the brand or retailer that wants to succeed at shopper marketing. 

People still overwhelmingly buy things in retail stores, though they spend significant time online every day. Retailers allow brands to reach consumers in ways that shopping apps and online retailers cannot. Shoppers still want to see actual products, pick them up, and compare them with the items near them on the store shelves, and it is in this environment that shopper marketing excels. 

At the same time, people want to see their offline lives reflected in the content they see online. A well-timed, well-placed online ad for a product they picked up and considered the last time they were in a store may be just the thing that turns an interested party into an actual customer. Shoppers today demand the best of both worlds, and they expect the brands and retailers they love to deliver. The most successful brands and retailers will be the ones that can adroitly tap both the online and offline versions of their shoppers, and use both online and offline tactics to boost their shopper marketing efforts.

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Topics shoppers, consumer marketing insights