It’s all about the shoppers, duh

Welcome to our retail issue. From our Word from the Corner Office instalment with Wal-Mart prez Mario Pilozzi, to Brand of the Year features on SDM, Home Depot and Canadian Tire, we've covered off a fair chunk of the big box/ubiquitous chain landscape. I could claim we planned it that way, but I'd be lying. A fair chunk of it was serendipitous.

Welcome to our retail issue. From our Word from the Corner Office instalment with Wal-Mart prez Mario Pilozzi, to Brand of the Year features on SDM, Home Depot and Canadian Tire, we’ve covered off a fair chunk of the big box/ubiquitous chain landscape. I could claim we planned it that way, but I’d be lying. A fair chunk of it was serendipitous.

Each year when we do our Brand of the Year industry poll and follow-up pundit survey, we’re looking for the best of breed across all categories. This year, while a few stood out in areas such as CPG or financial, the majority of kickass performance kudos went to retailers.

So we bowed to the will of the people, revised our formula for Brand of the Year accordingly, and this year it’s a retail sweep.

We also decided to try something new. Since even the most massive of marketers are jumping into the social media fray, recognizing that the niches are influencing the fragmented masses (see ’15 megs of fame,’ page 26), we figured it was time to see what brands get the Best of Year nod from individuals, rather than just industry consensus. So, we asked two marketers from different demos and markets to put their consumer hats on and share their personal Best Brand picks. We discovered fervent disciples, bordering on obsesson in one case, and after reading Jennifer Shah’s vote, we suddenly all craved Starbucks, proving the power of WOM once again.

Now that I’m back with my latte – and a quick trek through Shoppers for the 10X Life brand point promo – I can’t help but ponder the challenge Wal-Mart and the rest of the gang have before them. As everyone from Loblaws to Shoppers dips into each other’s baskets, expanding soft goods or pantry respectively, increasingly the experience will be the differentiating factor. My well-worn Optimum card, or my habit of intently reading about new PC products, will typically trump over price. While a lot of that falls into the retail marketers remit, it’s also a great opportunity for CPG folks to step up with solutions and exclusives – and to thereby increase their retail leverage.

Commoditization is also why genuine shopper insight is so crucial right now. Frito-Lay Canada is one company that successfully translated GPS cart data into a winning retail promo strategy (see ‘Cosying up to shoppers,’ page 32). And why initiatives like HP’s company-wide foray into Best Buy stores to share the buying experience first hand, are going to pay off.

And while Big Retail has been in the catbird seat lately, the superstocking seismic shift will have an impact on all retail partners, regardless of weight, as there’s always someone faster or bigger (Tesco), around the corner. For the cover shoot at Wal-Mart HQ we were in the midst of a warren of wee offices reserved for meetings with buyers. The décor was reminiscent of an eastern European airport circa the ’60s, replete with a waiting room straight out of an ER; however, the otherwise barren Vendor Rooms had signage that encouraged a deeper – or at least more symbiotic – relationship. While some posters queried whether or not I purchased my supplies at Wal-Mart, another told me that Wal-Mart considers me a partner, rather than a mere Vendor. Encouraging, that.

Meanwhile, I’m about to embark on a new sideline thanks to a suggestion from the lads at Dentsu. Read all about Cart Stalking on our Deviant Media-themed Back Page, and watch out for me in Loblaws, where I’ll be doing a consumer-generated sampling program for brands I like.

cheer,mm

Mary Maddever, exec editor strategy/MiC