Shopper Marketing Forum: six takeaways from day one

From future food marketing to in-store tech, we break down the top ideas from this year's conference.

In a competitive retail world, innovative shopper marketing still has the power to sway consumers toward your brand, and maybe even make them more loyal in the process. Strategy looks at some of the top ideas and trends coming out of day one of the Shopper Marketing Forum in Toronto.

# 1 – Be part of the fantasy

During his keynote address, Graham Candy (pictured), cultural strategist at Fresh Squeezed Ideas, shared how marketers can tap into the cultural forces that underlie trends. For instance, an obsession with sanitation is a trend; the cultural force underlying it is the notion of a risk society emerging – people fearing risks everywhere.

Candy posited we’re living in an “era of disenchantment,” pointing out the information and consumption overload that people experience. The cultural reaction to this is a desire for fantasy to remove us from everyday life and the saturation of information – through things like movies, video games and desires for perfect experiences. The video game Minecraft is enchanting because it lets players be something they are not and craft things, he explained, and it’s something marketers can learn from.

From a retail perspective, Lego created a building station of sorts in store, providing consumers with disassembled parts to put something together, enabling them to be architects, he said.

And fantasies can be facilitated or disrupted. At the grocery level, consumers often want to imagine themselves as chefs. Consider a consumer entering a store perceiving themselves as a chef, but needing to go to different parts of the store for ingredients – each step disrupts this fantasy, he said.

However, he referenced the idea of offering consumers a meal combo, as done in the U.K., where they select options. And he notes how the notion of fantasy can be tied to Valentine’s Day and consumers wanting to be romantics, with the retailer guiding them in what to pick up, but still giving them some choice.

Another example offered of a fantasy disrupted related to a CPG co and retailer, which were testing a men’s aisle in store. A man was wearing eye-tracking goggles, and all of a sudden, he saw something pink and essentially panicked – as the male fantasy was interrupted.

# 2 – Future food marketing will get a facelift

There’s been a rise in the “younique” individual. Personalization (of almost everything) is just one facet of future marketing, said Simon Hay, CEO of Dunnhumby UK. It won’t simply be supercharged targeted communications – products too will become refined for each and every individual.

He paints a picture of a future world where a consumer can create individual meals using ingredients that are linked to their genetics, recommendations from doctors, weight loss plans, or even medication they’re taking, and then have it delivered to their home in whatever format they want. And all of this will be possible, he said, if marketers and retailers can figure out how to use data, with a purpose. “The art and science of data is knowing how to simplify and choose the right data to get you to the customer. Know what informs your decisions and what should you discard.”

# 3 – Take a hard look at your culture

Preparing to make a tactical change in your brand’s foundational strategy? Stop and think about the culture you’ve fostered in your organization first, Hay said. Change in thinking requires a hard look at the company’s cultural ways of thinking, acting, measuring and even how it rewards itself. He presents three steps to move cultural innovation along.

Executing today, with maximum efficiency – Things are done in an organization because that’s just how they’ve been done in the past. Ask questions about how history has shaped today’s functions, and how the business works.

Take steps to avoid traps to past success – What are the things that are done in your business by default because they always are and always have been? Pay attention to weak signals, don’t be contained to history and throw the previous strategy book out the window.

Inventing a future built with non-linear ideas – Take what you do today and do it a little bit differently, a little bit better. Listen to things you aren’t familiar with, look at data that comes from unconventional sources, such as anthropologists. Volumes of data provide different stories. And while this is key, remember to use your gut as much as your science and data.

#4 – Look out for what annoys customers

When undertaking customer research for its brand overhaul last year, Ontario’s main alcohol retailer, the LCBO, observed and surveyed customers and came away with insights that drove the changes it made, said Kerri Dawson, LCBO’s VP of marketing.

Previously, the LCBO had a centre aisle it thought was appealing to its customer base, full of prominently-displayed brands it was trying to promote. Trouble was, people were so afraid of knocking things over, they avoided what the store had called the power aisle. “There were simply too many SKUs being displayed there,” Dawson said. The retailer has now shifted to what it calls an “engagement aisle,” removing crowded displays and focusing on keeping signage and branding in that aisle in line with what’s included in its product guide.

Overall, most customers are in and out of the store quickly (in some cases, under three minutes). While also improving the aesthetic of its stores, including a new location in the Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto, and holding more tasting events, the brand has also invested in its website and social media to engage customers more online. It also improved its mobile functionality, and now sees 50% of its traffic coming from mobile devices.

#5 – Bricks and mortar still rule

So how can tech be leveraged in store?

Aislelabs CTO and co-founder Nilesh Bansai spoke to the capabilities of his company’s platform, which plays in the emerging space of location-based marketing, pointing out the ability to understand consumers with real-time insights. He also highlighted the idea of retailers offering guests a social Wi-Fi experience, where they can access Wi-Fi via Facebook and Twitter with a single click.

For its part, Indigo has been studying consumers’ browsing patterns in store, gaining insight into things like dwell patterns, merchandise optimization and staff augmentation, Jim Reynolds, e-commerce product management, Indigo Books & Music, told the audience. Speaking broadly about retail, he highlighted how retailers still tend to be sorted by channel – whereas sharing P&L over channels can enable opportunities around economies of scale.

Pointing out retail trends such as consumers moving from shopping to browsing, L’Oréal’s CMO Stéphane Bérubé spoke to how the beauty co is tapping into retail analytics. The idea is to contrast online and offline data, he says, also explaining how L’Oréal is using smart displays, doing things like directing shoppers walking by the store window to visit it via e-comm when the bricks-and-mortar location is closed.

And Seth Stover, managing director, partner development at Wishabi, (which consolidated with digital flyer co Flipp), highlighted how a traditional vertical, the flyer, can be personalized via digital, allowing marketers to influence consumers and be more relevant. For instance, flyers can be localized, tap into something like game day (specifically targeting a Canadiens fan, for instance) or tell a story around organics to those shoppers for whom it’s relevant.

#6 – Pay attention to how customers feel, not just what they think

True Impact Marketing is a Canadian neuromarketing agency that uses neuroscience and biometrics to measure how consumers feel about a brand experience.

“We assume people are logically thinking about what they want and prefer and also articulating it,” said Diana Lucaci, founder of True Impact Marketing, during her presentation. “But it can be difficult to verbalize what might be small or subconscious feelings.”

Lucaci presented two different studies her agency has conducted to highlight this. In one of its consultancy services, True Impact takes brain scanning equipment like fMRIs and EEGs to measure emotional engagement and combines it with things like eye tracking to measure where a consumer’s attention is being paid. They are then put into a retail environment to see how those factors impact their shopping behaviour and purchase intent.

That led Colgate to implement a very slight change on the packaging for its toothpaste. While consumers said they preferred the old Colgate package, the measurements found they were more engaged, both in the attention devoted to it and on an emotional level, with the new package. In the retail environment, this resulted in more consumers choosing the new package at check-out than the previous one.

These kinds of studies can have an impact from an omnichannel perspective as well. On the mobile side, the agency examined the Pizza Pizza ordering app, and fitted users with brain scanners and eye trackers as they used it. While users said in the survey portion that they were most engaged while selecting a pizza and least engaged when it came time to pay for it, the scans showed they were actually most engaged during check-out, because the app kept the ordering process short, simple and easy to navigate.

“People are going to act on how they feel, not how they think,” Lucaci said. “The brain is wired to interpret information from the senses in the core of the brain and then moves that information outwards to the logical part. This shows there is no way to get to a logical decision without going through emotion.”

Photo by Ryan Walker (