Talking shop

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An industry survey from the US recently revealed Amazon to be outpacing retail peers on measures of brand experience including emotional ‘excitement’ and ‘satisfaction’.

What makes it interesting is that the study pitted Amazon against bricks and mortar retailers and was conducted from the vantage point of the shopper.

Whilst a variety of conclusions could be drawn, perhaps the most pertinent shift it points to is the significant and ongoing change in shopper expectation and behaviour.

Put simply, shoppers want more.

It is against this new and changing retail context that the annual Chicago Shopper Summit kicked off.

Converging on the Schaumburg Convention Centre were hundreds of attendees – including some of America’s largest retailers: Walmart, Ahold USA and Target to name a few. Together with brand manufacturers such as Campbell’s, P&G, Kimberly-Clark and Coca-Cola, a number of topics were presented across areas including New Media, Omnichannel Strategy and Mobile Marketing.

It was evident that retailers and CPG brands share one common question: how do you keep driving growth in a rapidly evolving retail environment?

The answer to this challenge came down to one very obvious answer: the shopper.

Shoppers provide the critical point of unity – rather than division – between retailers and brand manufacturers.

That ‘shopper centricity’ matters was a theme highlighted across a number of presentations. 

The rapid development and adoption of technology, driven largely by mobile, has shifted power from brands and retailers toward shoppers. The ease, efficiency, access and personalisation enjoyed online is reshaping expectations and evaluations of ‘offline’ retail experiences.

The impact of this ‘Amazon effect’ is a more ‘choiceful’ and expectant Shopper mindset seeking value beyond price.

To thrive in such a changing environment, it became clear that best practice was focussed on adopting and implementing four key behaviours.

1. Closer integration between retailers and brands

Shopper marketing presents retailers and brands with an opportunity to drive mutual growth and deliver shoppers with new forms of value. It also carves out competitive difference – a reason to choose you over your competitors. The importance of strategic collaboration and alignment was emphasised by both retailer and brand presenters alike.

For Walmart, developing digital ‘liquid content’ solutions has become a key point of focus. With 140 million weekly customer visits, Walmart is partnering with brands to provide customers with inspiring, entertaining and educational content throughout their shopping trips. One of the new ways they will be doing this is through the launch of Print Plus, a mobile app that will layer static media (such as catalogues) with value-added digital content (recipes, how-to videos and more).

Collaboration was similarly the cornerstone of Kimberly-Clark’s ‘Spice Up Your Family Fun’ program. Launched in 2012, the case study highlighted how integration – from the internal business process through to agency, retailer and multi-vendor collaboration, could result in a winning shopper-centric program.

2. Investing in actionable insights

Putting shoppers at the centre through clear and actionable insight was a key point of discussion at the summit. Different approaches to gathering insights were shared – proving that there is no single ‘right’ way to obtain them.

The use of mobile as a tool within the arsenal of shopper research was highlighted as a way to capture actual rather than claimed behaviours – as well as the emotional triggers, barriers and shopping contexts that accompany them.

As personalisation frames new competitive advantage, the push to effectively translate big proprietary and social data into meaningful insight was emphasised. Ahold USA proved a topical example of how retailers are activating data insight and in so doing, shifting engagement with their shoppers from ‘mass’ to ‘mass niche’.

3. Innovative business culture and practices

From Walmart to Coca-Cola, innovation as a core competency is driving business agility and ‘beta’ thinking.

Coca-Cola’s Shopper Experience Innovation Centre (SEIC) proved a stand-out example. Described as an ‘incubation space’, it offers the brand and its retail partners a place to develop and test ideas with shoppers across five realistic retail environments. Less than a year old, the SEIC has already produced innovations such as the ‘Beverage Aisle Reinvention’ system currently being piloted in regional US supermarkets. Not only is the SEIC a way for Coca-Cola to drive mutual value and competitive edge, it is helping the brand transform shopping from uninspired tasks to game-changing retail experiences.

4. Inspired creative thinking

The ultimate goal of any shopper marketing program is to drive commercial value through customer participation. To what extent this occurs depends on how well imagination, creativity and executional excellence are fused with well-formed objectives and insight. A great example at the summit came from Keystone Light who showed how leveraging shopper understanding could inform a winning commercial initiative.

The idea? ‘Canhole’, a concept that transformed beer packaging into a social game which was then amplified across digital and traditional touch-points. Sales accordingly increased along with retail execution and distribution support.

To drive growth in a changing retail context, we need to focus on what unites rather than divides us: the shoppers. Best practice is moving shoppers to purchase through integration, insight, innovation and inspiration. The result? Solutions and experiences that offer new and unique forms of value and drive collective wins for brands and retailers alike.

Caroline Ghatt is planning director for brand and retail at Leo Burnett Sydney.

The latest issue of B&T magazine, out this week, includes an in-depth feature on the state of shopper marketing in Australia and predictions for the sector’s future. 

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