NEW YORK: Shopper marketing is gaining ground among many major brand owners, with ConAgra Foods, Colgate-Palmolive and Coca-Cola some of the firms leveraging this strategy.

Industry body The Grocery Manufacturers' Association and consultancy Booz & Co surveyed 34 leading consumer goods groups, specialist agencies and retailers.

It found that a net 83% of companies planned to place greater emphasis on this area during the coming three years.

Such a total compared with 73% emphasising digital platforms, rising to 92% for social media, 86% for online brand advertising and 80% for mobile.

A further 18% agreed in-store promotions were likely to enhance their position, while traditional media registered a score of –6% and trade promotions recorded –21%.

Currently, 83% of shopper marketing initiatives incorporate display and other in-store activations, and 79% employ special offers.

Relationship marketing – such as direct mail, newsletters and personalised email – posted 71%, beating social media's 63% and search's 57%.

Thematic content, encompassing blogs, microsites, QR Codes, digital magazines and similar tools, generated 53%, and mobile apps delivered 52%.

In all, the GMA/Booz research revealed more than 40% of businesses believed search and thematic content were among the best ways to drive awareness and consideration.

Deals, in-store and apps enjoyed a parallel status for prompting trial and action, with social media and relationship marketing constituting two mediums thought to stimulate loyalty and advocacy.

Elsewhere, in-store, promotions, personalised marketing messages, search and online WOM were perceived as boasting the highest levels of effectiveness.

Looking forward, the GMA/Booz study suggested developing innovative traditional and digital coupon formats should be an investment priority, alongside in-store events, displays and samples.

New packaging and merchandising, experimental mobile and location-based schemes, handheld scanners, digital kiosks and in-store video made up the next rung of vehicles deserving attention.

Interviews with 2,000 consumers showed 62% now access digital channels to “hunt” for offers before at least half of their shopping trips.

This pastime was especially popular for the 29% of participants regularly using social media and who either own or hope to buy a smartphone.

A 71% majority checked store circulars in newspapers and 59% clipped coupons from this source, measured against 42% logging on to retailer websites and printing online coupons.

Over a quarter used dedicated websites and official brand portals to find vouchers, and 5% acquired these materials via wireless handsets.

ConAgra foods is one corporation which has strengthened its shopper marketing capabilities, and Gary Rodkin, its ceo, argued this was really "making a difference".

"Shopper marketing insights are very important in triggering demand for consumer purchases," he said in February.

"These insights help retailers determine how and when items within a category are promoted, their placement on the shelves, and product and category adjacencies that drive greater product visibility and usage."

Last month, Ian Cook, Colgate-Palmolive's chief executive, stated it was taking a targeted approach, in recognition of the fact such techniques were specifically relevant in certain countries.

"When we think about marketing and building trial and awareness, we prefer to use what you might call traditional advertising," he said.

"That said, we have been building in-store shopper marketing activity … particularly in those parts of the world that are responsive to that from a consumer point of view. That would be more of the developed world."

Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola's chief executive, also reported shopper marketing and in-store were essential elements of the organisation's plans in both Europe and North America.

"We believe these strategies represent value creating ways to engage and win consumers within the four walls of the customer outlets," he said in late 2009.

Data sourced from GMA; additional content by Warc staff