Shopper intelligence shapes, drives successful shopper marketing strategies

CHICAGO — In looking at the data and insights that are shaping today’s path to purchase one thing is clear — the consumer is in the driver’s seat.

To get a better handle of how to leverage key shopper insights and the multiple channels that influence purchase behavior today, a panel of shopper marketing experts examined how the best in the business are turning information into action at a special breakout session at the Shopper Marketing Expo last week.

Moderated by Curtis Tingle, SVP strategic demand and development for Valassis, “How Shopper Marketing Intelligence Drives Action” shared real-life examples of integrated marketing strategies, the constant need to act on shopper data to drive results and helped provide a view into the future of shopper marketing.

Setting the framework for the discussion, Tingle told attendees that an impactful shopper marketing strategy really starts with understanding the consumer. This is no small feat.

“It’s ‘who’ is your consumer? How do you identify that profile of your core shopper, the trial user you are trying to stimulate and understand their media behaviors? It then goes into when and where you can reach that consumer,” Tingle said. “… Identifying when and where to reach that consumer is a much more complicated task than it has ever been before.”

Joining Tingle on the panel were Roger Saunders, global managing director for Prosper Insights and Analytics; Bob Schweinsberg, VP media services for Creative Alliance; and Ami Shah, who leads Unilever’s Shopper Marketing efforts at Safeway.


(L-R): Roger Saunders, Ami Shah, Bob Schweinsberg and Curtis Tingle.

One thing is certain: The world of shopper marketing, and what it takes to engage the customer, is constantly evolving.
“When we look at our data and then turn to look at what is happening in the marketplace, the first thing that comes to mind is that the consumer is absolutely the center of the equation. They are in charge,” Saunders told attendees. Moreover, according to a recent study conducted by Prosper in September, “there are very few exclusive offline customers that are left — 87% of adults say they regularly or occasionally shop online before going out and making that purchase.”

There’s no doubt that technology is altering the path to purchase and is presenting new challenges for marketers in delivering effective messaging to consumers. However, Schweinsberg argues that one must remain true to their game plan — the end game is still the end game, he insisted.

“From an overarching media strategy perspective, I don’t think the [goal] has changed so much,” Schweinsberg said. “Our ultimate strategy and objective is to intersect with our consumer. It has become a lot more challenging and a lot more complicated. But I think it is about staying true to your game plan. Ultimately, we are still trying to intersect with [consumers].”

Because the media mix has changed so much, and there are so many touchpoints for consumers to engage with marketers, it is absolutely critical that engagements are relevant to the consumer to ensure they do not opt out of such communications. The key word here is relevance.

“At Unilever we used to do one TV creative, and that’s what we would push out to everyone,” Shah shared. “We are not doing that anymore. We are doing a lot more to understand how she is engaging with that medium, what she wants to see, and how do we get her engaged deeper and developing the right content.”

Bringing it all to life, Shah shared some real-life examples of integrated marketing strategies, including one that centered on providing moms with convenient dinner solutions via local radio buys and targeted digital banner ads.

“The insight here … is that at 4 p.m. everyday, 75% of moms don’t know what they are making for dinner,” she explained. “So what we did is, we [asked] at 4 p.m. where is the shopper? She could be in the car driving her kids home from soccer practice or she could be online looking for recipes,” Shah said. Leveraging these insights, the company embarked on local media buys at 4 p.m. to target her in the car and targeted digital banner ads for moms browsing the web.

To help provide some framework, Saunders outlined three basic rules marketers should apply to gathering shopper intelligence:

  • Listen and observe the behavior of that particular customer and understand what they are doing both inside and outside of the store;
  • Understand consumer attitudes and mindsets to learn what makes them happy, confident, cautious, etc.; and
  • Look outside of your own industry and at what others are doing.

Shah added: “To me what has really resonated [is] … the brand insights and retailer insights are great, but we have to understand the consumer. We have to understand that everything has shifted to the consumer. … She’s smart, she’s savvy and she has the tools to go online and research, and we have to be more transparent. While that can be scary, I think the upside to that is she is giving us access to so much data about herself. Whether she is online searching or [engaging] through social media, she is opting in and providing all of this attitudinal data that we can look at.”