Eight reasons why consumer marketing teams should support shopper marketing

16 November 2018
One of the biggest challenges facing shopper marketing teams, especially as they are trying to get established, is getting consumer marketing teams to take them seriously. While not universal, shopper marketers speak of disdain, or being ignored, of not getting the data, information and support they need. Some consumer marketing teams are brilliantly supportive, others are far less so. Yet consumer marketing teams stand to gain significant benefits from effective shopper marketing. So how should this be handled? How should shopper marketing teams effectively engage with their consumer marketing colleagues? Why should consumer marketing teams listen and support the growth of shopper marketing in their business?
Consumer marketing teams don’t always like the idea of ‘another type of marketing’
Consumer marketing teams have been used to setting the strategic agenda in many organizations, so perhaps some of them feel defensive that there is another marketing ‘pretender’ vying for the attention (and budgets!) But effective shopper marketing supports consumer marketing. It doesn’t threaten to usurp. This is still the consumer marketing industry, after all – winning with consumers is essential for brand success. Really effective shopper marketing actually starts with understanding consumers. But is we can’t win with shoppers too, then brand success will be limited or curtailed. 
Consumer marketing teams see shopper marketing as tactical, and therefore of lower importance
But beyond ego, there is usually a bigger issue. The main reason that we see for consumer marketing disdain is that there is a misunderstanding as to what shopper marketing is. ‘Shopper Marketing’ has a branding problem, perhaps! To many consumer marketers, consumers are ‘where it is at’. To some consumer marketers, shopper equals shops, equals retail equals sales. It’s a sales thing. Ergo, it is tactical. Ergo, it is less important, less strategic, than consumer marketing.
Much of what goes by the name of shopper marketing, isn’t
And sadly, too much of what is called ‘shopper marketing’ fulfils this image. Too many ‘shopper marketing’ agencies are little more than rebadged activation companies. Too many shopper marketing teams are rebranded trade marketing teams. Too much of what they do is tactical and lacks any real ‘marketing’. It is activity. It is tactical!
Getting consumer marketing on board depends on the definition of shopper marketing
So if shopper marketers want to be taken seriously as strategic partners with consumer marketers, then success will depend on what type of shopper marketing is being practiced. So let’s start with a definition that really adds value to brands. The definition of shopper marketing has been debated in these pages and elsewhere, so I’m not proposing that we re-open that debate at this stage. Neither am I proposing that this definition is the only one. But I will contend that this definition encompasses and explains many of the key benefits of shopper marketing from a consumer marketing point of view. Whichever definition of shopper marketing you decide to adopt, I would strongly recommend one that makes it clear how and why your shopper marketing will drive brands, as this is what consumer marketers (and the company!) wants to hear.
We see shopper marketing as : ” Shopper marketing is the process of understanding shoppers and using that understanding to develop a marketing mix which influences shopper behavior in such a way as to positively impact consumption of the brand and or category”.
Why should consumer marketing teams actively support the development of shopper marketing?
So with this in mind, let’s now explore the key benefits of effective shopper marketing from a consumer marketing point of view.
Effective shopper marketing helps drive consumption
Shopper marketing should be about changing shopping behavior. But really effective shopper marketing doesn’t just drive changes in shopper behavior, it changes consumption behavior too. Some might see this as a very high benchmark, but I don’t have a problem with that. If consumption doesn’t change, then any change in shopping behavior isn’t sustainable. If the product stays in the pantry, then growth is short-lived. If the change in shopping behavior drives changes in consumption behavior however, then more sustainable growth is possible. Assuming the consumption experience delivers (that’s the job of consumer marketers of course!) then there is a great chance that future purchase (and consumption!) will follow. And isn’t that what all consumer marketers want?
Effective shopper marketing helps drive the right consumption
Hidden in that definition is another important marketing word. Target! Real shopper marketing isn’t about changing the behavior of any shopper. It is about changing the behavior of a specific shopper: the target shopper who can unlock future consumption growth. Through effective shopper marketing, consumer marketers see their plans and strategies supported by activity that will encourage purchase among a specific cohort of shoppers: the shoppers that are key to our consumer marketing growth plans. Of course, without a close and cooperative relationship between consumer and shopper marketers, this is almost impossible: how can shopper marketers target the right shoppers, if consumer marketers don’t tell them which consumers they are targeting!? This for us is the single biggest benefit of shopper marketing, and of effective collaboration between consumer marketing and shopper marketing teams.
Effective shopper marketing makes your brand more meaningful in the store
This targeting leads to a softer, but still important benefit for consumer marketers. Targeting means that the messages that shopper marketing takes to the market can be more focused. If shopper marketers are aiming for all shoppers, then messages will likely be generic. With focus comes the opportunity for specificity. In this way shopper marketing communication can magnify and enhance consumer messaging, rather than just parroting it.
Effective shopper marketing helps improve brand economics by improving trade spend effectiveness
Yes, I know that in many (if not most!) cases, trade spend sits in another budget, but it would be naïve to think that ineffective trade spend didn’t negatively impact your brand profitability. Arguably, growth in trade spend requirements has been one of the key factors to put pressure on consumer marketing budgets. True shopper marketing improves trade spend effectiveness by encouraging spend to be focused on the most effective activities. This improves brand economics, and in the longer term will relieve pressure on brand budgets.
Effective shopper marketing improves brand image
How many impressions do your ad campaigns create? And how about the store? Everything that happens in the store impacts brand image, positively and negatively. Effective shopper marketing allows for the opportunity for clear, focused and targeted messaging. The alternative is a lack of focus and a reliance on deals, or activities which are designed to promote the retailer’s brand, not yours. I know which I’d prefer!
Effective shopper marketing improves alignment across marketing, trade marketing and sales
An effective shopper marketing process brings alignment across the commercial functions. The business still needs to reflect the reality that it serves numerous customers (consumers, shoppers and retailers) but by developing open communication, it is possible for much closer alignment. This improves efficiency, and speeds up decision making. Now that is something that surely every consumer marketer would want?
Effective shopper marketing helps garner meaningful support from retailers 
Lastly, effective shopper marketing is much more likely to bring support from retailers. By this, I DON’T mean that somehow, magically, shopper marketing teams can make retailers agree to everything you want! Life isn’t that simple. But effective shopper marketing is a gateway to more meaningful conversations, and that leads to a more balanced relationship with retailers – and that leads to better retail support.
Consumer marketing and shopper marketing, working together, is powerful
Great shopper marketing needs consumer marketing support. But consumer marketing only gets the real benefits if you do shopper marketing well. Catch 22? Not at all. Shopper marketing teams need to engage consumer marketing. They need to explain the benefits clearly. Then they need to deliver. Don’t over promise, and make it clear that there is a need for consumer marketing team to deliver too. But with work, effort and cooperation, it is possible for consumer marketers to engage fully with shopper marketing teams and receive all of the benefits listed above. But remember. If you want consumer marketing to engage, then choose your definition of shopper marketing carefully!
If you’d like to learn more about establishing a shopper marketing team that engages effectively with consumer marketing and sales, or just want to bring th epower of ‘shopper’ to your existing consumer marketing, trade marketing and sales team, contact us now for a free consultation.
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