NEW YORK: Kraft, the food group, is developing its approach to shopper marketing, in recognition of the fact consumers now often choose the brand they want before entering a store.

"The path to purchase is changing as more consumers are looking for savings and making decisions prior to going shopping," Mary Sagripanti, Kraft's director of integrated shopper marketing, told eMarketer.

"Shopper marketing is becoming a critical tool to drive sales with investment by many companies growing into the double-digits."

Among the factors contributing to this trend are the rise of e-commerce, price comparison websites and social networks.

"Shoppers are identifying in advance what they're going to buy, when they're going to buy it and where they'll buy it," said Sagripanti.

"It becomes important to reach shoppers with impactful communication before they even enter a store."

While the recession has yielded numerous new habits, Kraft first embarked on digital shopper marketing programmes several years ago, including the addition of microsites, to ensure a "robust 360-degree" strategy.

Subsequent initiatives have incorporated email shots, downloadable shopping lists, online and mobile coupons, recipes and food ideas, alongside more complex formats such as geo-targeted banner ads.

"These efforts have resulted in a substantial number of impressions and have generated significant word-of-mouth impact with interest and postings by target-relevant bloggers," said Sagripanti.

She also mentioned two emerging mediums holding considerable promise, firstly in the form of vouchers that can be redeemed via wireless handsets.

The second was QR codes, which, when scanned by devices like the iPhone, direct people to pre-selected websites or other information.

"These in-store opportunities are slowly evolving in size and impact," she argued.

"As the prevalence of smartphones grows, more tools will become available to connect with the shopper in the pre-trip, in-store and post-purchase phases.

"The future opportunities to market in the moment through digital will be transformational."

Data sourced from eMarketer; additional content by Warc staff