How to win at shopper marketing

As we move into the hyper-digital age, having simple and relevant programs is critical, argues editor Emily Wexler.

coverThis story appears in the May 2015 issue of strategy.

Much has been made in the last few years of new technology that is going to change the way we shop. Digital wallets that eliminate the need to carry around cash and credit cards, beacons that send us targeted messages depending on where we are in stores, drones that could put thousands of couriers out of a job, facial recognition technology that knows our age and gender and can send us relevant ads when we’re waiting in line at the check-out…While all of this already exists, it’s still on the cusp of widespread adoption. The future is (almost, not really) here!

So while we wait for the future to get here, let’s remind ourselves of what’s really important. The May issue is all about shopper marketing – everything to do with the path to purchase and turning consumers into paying customers.

Want to know the secret to a successful shopper marketing program (at least in my humble opinion)? Make it relevant and make it simple. These two basic requirements are going to become even more important as we move from the digital age into the hyper-digital age (as I’m choosing to call it).

I often go to the grocery store after a long day at work. I want to get in and out of there as quickly as possible. I barely scan the aisles – I go straight for the stuff I already know I like and buy. So if you ask me to download an app that is complicated to use, or start sending me a barrage of information that I don’t find directly relevant to me, I’m going to tune you out.

Many of our Shopper Innovation Awards winners got it right. Take Ikea, and its “Quick & Easy Room Makeover,” which showed how simple it is to redecorate using textiles, or Longo’s loyalty app which sends customized offers to a member’s smartphone.

In terms of being relevant to an audience, brands are also starting to really understand the virtues of going after niche but highly influential groups, such as foodies (check it out here). Not everyone is a food connoisseur, but just like in fashion, those on the cutting edge have a trickle-down effect to the masses, and who doesn’t want a piece of that action?

And when it comes to simplicity, here we outline a few shopper marketing trends, most of which, no surprise, are about making people’s lives easier. Whether it’s delivery services that bring just about anything to your doorstep, or in-store payments done on your mobile phone (no cashier or bulky and finicky scanning machine required), it seems that if you really want to compete in the future, you’d better be all about convenience.

So go ahead, execute that crazy out-there idea. Make a truck out of ice (like the SIA Grand Prix winner Canadian Tire) or send a drone to deliver pizza. Experiment with beacons or fast new payment systems. But if it’s not simple and relevant, don’t expect anyone to pay attention.