Shopper Marketing: Delivering the Promise for Retailers, Brands and Shoppers
I have expectations of my favorite brands: I expect Nordstrom to have an anniversary sale each year, upon which I’ll build my fall wardrobe; I expect Target to have two or three surprise-and-delight items that will increase my basket size by about $100; and I expect Starbucks to prepare my grande soy green tea latte perfectly, every time.
My expectations of your brand are both learned and earned. I’ve learned your brand behavior, and you’ve learned my shopping behaviors. My expectation is that you’re using my data for good — i.e., earning me a better experience with your brand.
The promise of shopper marketing is to use data and insights to build programs and experiences that inspire shoppers to buy something, resulting in positive results for the retailer, the brand and the shopper.
It hasn’t always worked this way. Placing the shopper at the center of brand experiences is a relatively new idea made possible by the integration of first-party data into the shopper marketing mix.
In its early stages, brand marketing within retail was no more than co-op or trade marketing, and it did its job by providing benefits for retailers and brands interested in stretching their marketing dollars, building basket size and improving category sales.
Someone, however, was missing from the benefits equation — the shopper. As an industry, we spoke about shopper insights and the path to purchase, but for the most part, we were speaking in generalities. Briefs lumped together all “time-starved millennial moms” or “empty nesters with disposable incomes,” cutting the population into segments represented as real people by naming them “Jenny” or “Jack.”
The Barrier: Data
Purchase and shopper data have typically been held by the retailer at the point of purchase or, in some cases, by the brand through owned loyalty programs or CRM databases. By bringing these two powerful data sources together for a better shopping experience, shopper marketing can truly win for all three parties.
Marketers can now deliver on the promise of people-based shopper marketing. The question that remains: Can you reach real people, efficiently and at scale, across multiple online and offline channels and devices?
Fidelity Has Become the New Currency in Advertising
Shopper marketing programs require high-fidelity data. Fidelity is the level of exactness with which a specific shopper can be persistently identified and tracked across physical and digital interactions. Building fidelity and creating people-based shopper marketing strategies requires you to put your shoppers at the center of your plan and move outward from there. There are six strategies that can be used to enhance your shopper marketing initiatives:
- Put people first. Start with the person and ensure you’re working with high-fidelity data. Shopper insights built solely from panel data are inefficient and less effective.
- Leverage your brand’s first-party data … but don’t stop there. Work with your retail and brand partners to enhance that data. You may know the behaviors and motivators of your customers, but do you understand how these behaviors change based on where they buy?
- Define your audience. Segments should be based on the insights collected through your first-party data. You should assign value to these segments so you understand how each can influence your business and marketing goals.
- Create a framework. Used to prioritize your marketing investment, this framework will help you identify high-value segments so you can go to market with a greater level of precision.
- Make smarter marketing decisions. With this information in hand, you can make smarter media, channel, creative, content and technology decisions.
- Measure. Understanding the value of shopper experiences over time allows you to optimize your marketing spend. As a brand, you can see where your dollars provide the biggest return, and as a retailer you can provide competitive proof points.
To deliver on the promise of shopper marketing, brands and retailers must look for ways to use the data they’ve earned from customers for good and give them what they want in return: a better shopping experience.
Janine Flaccavento is vice president, client partner at Merkle, a global, data-driven, technology-enabled performance marketing agency.