If you're a Marketer, you're likely to be obsessed by the consumer or customer. Assuming you're a B2C Marketer targeting consumers, you will focus on them incessantly – on your Twitter feed, all over your power point slides and even on your personal Facebook. The consumer, no matter what your business, has found its way into the hearts and minds of most marketers in organisations positioning themselves for growth.

Behold the Shopper

But putting consumers aside for a minute – what about shoppers? If you're not a shopper marketer, how comfortable are you with the concept of shopper marketing? It is, after all, fraught with perplexing questions for Marketers:

  • Is shopper marketing part of consumer marketing, or is it something separate?
  • Is it part of my job, or does someone else obsess the shopper?
  • Does shopper marketing build my brand, or dilute it? (After all, I'd rather not be distracted by discounts, displays, or deals)
  • Isn't shopper marketing something for our sales team to handle?

With so many questions unanswered, it's been easy to ignore the topic and remain blissfully only consumer-focused.

But when your brand hits a rough patch, you soon come to appreciate the importance of shopper marketing. I was a marketer at a large, global FMCG brand with fantastic consumer branding and equally fantastic consumer satisfaction. But despite this, sales were flagging. For some reason, people simply weren't purchasing our brand. Then, after a period of fact-finding (and soul-searching), we had our "aha" realization:

The drivers of liking are not the same as the drivers of buying

We had two goals:

  1. Our consumer goal: get people to know us and like us.
  2. Our shopper goal: get people to know our name, our logo, our package, our variants, the location of our store or website, our location in the store or website, and our location on the shelf. Also, get them to know when a purchase is needed, get them to plan a trip to our store or to our website, and then get them to actually visit our store or website. Once there, get them to find the product, select or put it in the shopping basket, pay for it, and bring it home or have it delivered.

Yes, our shopper goal was a long string of tactical, not very sexy bits. But for our billion-dollar brand, one of those mundane mechanical steps – finding the product – was misfiring. Shoppers were confused and simply couldn't find us. How did this happen? For our major brand of men's personal care products, some competitors had begun – slowly – to revise their packaging to mimic ours. Then, retailers began to do the same with their store brands. The mimicry involved package colour, package shape, and even similarity of shopper-targeted advertising messaging. In a category with several hundred SKUs, the mimicry caused enough confusion to drain a significant 2.5 per cent of the volume.

Once we identified the issue, we were able to address it. Luckily, some familiar consumer marketing tools easily could be applied to shopper marketing (e.g. segmentation and targeting). In the end, we didn't simply hand over the problem to our sales organisation; our final solution instead included new packaging and advertising.

For our organisation, the biggest benefit was our collective realisation that we needed to become better at considering the shopper. In essence, we needed everyone to be a shopper marketer. This was difficult for some colleagues; those with a classical marketing upbringing were unaccustomed to including shopper dynamics in their thinking. Some colleagues viewed it as a "consumer vs. shopper" situation, and their viewpoint was that the consumer must prevail. It took considerable time to adopt a new mindset of "consumer and shopper." The key was taking a holistic view of shopper marketing, recognising that every element of the marketing mix can be optimised for online and offline shoppers, and will therefore help to trigger a purchase. We took a lot of learning from this experience, which helped me assemble these top 10 tips on how to consider the shopper:

  1. Build a shopper culture: It can be quite sexy to close the sale.
  2. Have shopper empathy: Shop a mile in their shoes – both on and offline.
  3. Measure shopper metrics: Monitor the drivers of buying.
  4. Consider shopping holistically: It's more than the store.
  5. Get on the list: Find ways to be part of trip planning.
  6. Make it easy: Remember that stores and websites are dauntingly confusing.
  7. Packaging is a priority: The label is a critical medium.
  8. Close the loop: Help shoppers advocate for your brand, after they shop.
  9. Skill-build: Develop shopper savvy among the marketing team.
  10. Team-build: Add team members with shopper experience.

How well does your organisation consider the shopper? Try this: bring your team together and review the 10 tips. For each tip, discuss how well you consider the shopper, and challenge yourselves to identify ways to improve. You may be surprised by the result! Thanks to these tips, my team and I embarked on our healthy obsession with shoppers. And it's been a fascinating, productive obsession ever since.

After all, I'm a shopper marketer.

This post is by Andy Shen, Marketing Capability Consultant at Brand Learning.