P2P: Science meets innovation

The future of shopper marketing is here and turning the path to purchase into a multi-lane highway.


Thanks to digital technology, retailers have the consumer information and tools they need to satisfy shopper demands for convenience, choice and value.

“The internet has undoubtedly had a great impact on the path to purchase and the same is true for mobile technology. They are making available an ever-increasing volume of information, a wealth of data that can be mined to understand consumer behaviour and develop strategic marketing initiatives,” says John Querques, vice-president of Quebecor Media Sales (QMI). “Competent analysis of big data will ultimately drive winning strategies for marketers.”

Retailers are integrating their online and offline activities to provide consumers with a variety of innovative shopping experiences ranging from customized offers and promotions to virtual stores and augmented reality. In November, Walmart and Mattel teamed up to make holiday shopping easier with pop-up Virtual Toy Stores where commuters could scan QR codes and do their shopping on the go. Big name retailers like Bloomingdale’s are introducing 3-D virtual change rooms that allow shoppers to try on clothes without actually trying them on.

Augmented in-store reality includes mobile apps that give shoppers the ability to test out products, navigate the store, or to receive promotions and deals relating to their last purchases such as décor and accessories to match a recently painted room. Bluetooth triggers augmented reality for grocery shoppers to help personalize the in-store experience by showcasing everything that is either gluten-free or specially geared to other food allergies.
Consumers not only have more options in the way they shop, digital technology has put more channels along the path to purchase that can influence their ultimate buying decisions.

Kelly McCarten, CEO of Toronto-based brand and experiential marketing agency LAUNCH!, says that the effectiveness of those channels to influence purchase behaviour varies widely depending on consumer need and, most particularly, the product category.

“Consumer behaviour is quite different for the home improvement category where people are very digitally driven for research, product comparison and pricing versus other sources,” says McCarten. “Grocery has been less reliant on digital. Consumers take in many influences such as flyers, TV, out of home, coupons, and word of mouth – although that has begun to shift due to new loyalty and reward programs such as the Loblaw PC Plus rewards program.”

McCarten says while digital does have an impact on all aspects of the path to purchase and shopper marketing, brands should not neglect the traditional media and bricks and mortar components of their business.

“The latest StatsCan figures say Canadians spent $19 million online in 2012. That is only 4% of the country’s total retail sales and although that figure will continue to increase, brands need to keep working to improve the in-store experience, to shorten the path to purchase, increase their share of basket and get shoppers out of retail stores faster. Time is a critical factor for consumers.”

As for media influences, she points to a recent BrandSpark survey that shows that flyers still play a big part in consumer decision making with 80% of Canadians reading flyers and 20% of that group saying they read the digital versions.

“Though many would suggest that new media touchpoints are front and centre, my experience shows that traditional media still accounts for the bulk of a retail marketing budget,” says Querques of QMI. “We also can’t discount touchpoints found at point of sale such as store displays, in-store signage and, of course, the customer service experience. Nevertheless, today new technologies are bringing new touchpoint opportunities that are growing at an unprecedented rate. E-commerce, mobile, social networks, videos, blogs, near field communication and sixth sense technology will challenge the marketer to incorporate these into their touchpoint strategies.”

Chris Osborne, vice-president Data and Analytics for the TC Media Interactive Marketing Solutions group, says the company’s 2013 ‘The Shopper Journey’ study discovered insights that are helping the company’s retail clients better communicate with their consumers. TC Media worked with IMI International to explore the influence of 50 different touchpoints on consumer shopping behaviour within six retail categories as well as research into the effectiveness of different content and creative approaches.

“What we wanted to find out from consumers with our research was what specifically within the different channel influences their shopper journey. What gets them into a store, what they do in that store, and when they leave the store,” says Osborne.

“For grocery, we found that convenience is still the number one factor. Whichever one is most convenient to get to is the store they shop at. In the home improvement category, shoppers aren’t using mobile devices to showroom, they’re using it to navigate the store. They’ve already decided on the purchase, now they want to find it in-store.”

Osborne says that interestingly, different media vehicles influence purchase behaviour differently across product categories so there can be no one-size fits all.

“For example, P&G is in a general merchandise store as it is in pharmacy and grocery stores. Typically a brand program is the same across all those categories but because consumers shop those stores very differently, we now know more accurately how marketing programs should be structured for each type of retail store.”

As for what’s next for shopper marketing, Osborne says, “One of our clients just launched pay online, pick up in-store. It’s becoming a fairly common thing to do. The connection of information to price and promotion and then to ecommerce, it’s moving very quickly. I think in the next 12 to 24 months we’re going to see that rise rapidly in Canada.”

McCarten expects we’ll be seeing a lot more in-store innovation that will improve the shopper experience, “Consumers are looking for three major things – value, a faster path to purchase and an enhanced shopper experience. Technology is going to play a huge role in all three as we move forward. We’ll see an increase in customized and personalized offers, mobile payments, self check-out, and purchase at home and deliver where it is convenient – home, office or retail.”

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