Comment: Branwell Johnson of Propeller on the growing relevance of shopper marketing

Shopper marketing is taking its place as a top tier marketing discipline that brands need to understand and embed in their strategies for growth - and the debut of a Shopper Marketing Conference strand at Retail Design World this year is part of the proof.

The conference will be packed with panels, presentations and case studies with contributions from brands including William Grant, Camelot and Tesco.

Advertising networks have also taken note of Shopper Marketing and some of the world’s most creative companies, such as Grey, Publicis and AMV BDDO, are now investing in dedicated divisions. The opening keynote on the Shopper Marketing stage will come from Grey Shopper MD Rob Sellers.

Experts will be delving into the big issues effecting Shopper Marketing at the event. These include shopper trends, the omnichannel challenge and how technology can help conversion at the point of purchase.

Marketers are wrestling with all three of these issues so  any solutions that can help integrate online/offline channels, enhance the in-store experience and influence shoppers at the moment of decision will be welcome.

Here are two concepts I think worth exploring.

First the investment in turning billboards into digital has potential. Once screens are digitised then ads can be changed in an instant and this ability, combined with the vast amounts of shopper and contextual data brands can gather, is a game changer. Ads can be served based on the weather, for instance a soft drinks brand could have its ad shown when the temperature goes above 30 degrees.

Screens can be sited very near or in stores and used for quick bursts of promotional activity, or to introduce new lines at the entrance to a store. This isn’t just wishful thinking – Asda has just signed a deal with outdoor specialist Clear Channel to digitise its billboard and poster sites and the outdoor specialist will use sales and customer insight data to help advertisers develop hyperlocal advertising.

User Generated Content (UGC) is another tool that marketers can use to strengthen and integrate a brand’s offline and online presence. The power of peer reviews in helping move consumers through the purchase funnel has long been acknowledged – a Reevoo commissioned study shows 62% of those surveyed would trust reviews about a product over a company’s own information. 

There is a hunger to share review content – look at the success on YouTube of ‘haul videos’ (very popular among teenagers) and ‘unboxing videos’, in which new goods are taken out of their packaging and examined. 

But reading reviews is moving from advance research into the aisles. People are looking at reviews while a product sits in front of them on the shelf. I have done it myself when buying a television recently.

If shoppers want the easiest path to come to a purchase decision, then surely retailers should be serving reviews and encouraging feedback in-store.  Why not have sales assistants on hand with tablets to show the customer the relevant content? Customers will be looking at reviews on their own devices, so it is an opportunity for the retailer to earn goodwill, make further recommendations and strengthen their partnership with suppliers.

Bold retailers, or suppliers with in-store presence, could install screens featuring live reviews. These would help immensely with providing the ‘social proof’ that a potential customer is making a wise purchase decision.

These ideas require some forward-thinking and ‘tyre-kicking’ but it is a marketer’s job to be curious and look for where they can build a competitive advantage. There will be many more ideas that can make a difference to be discussed at the Shopper Marketing Conference.

Branwell Johnson is Director of Content at Propeller PR and former Deputy Editor of Marketing Week. He will be hosting the Shopper Marketing stage at Retail Design Expo at Olympia London on March 9/10