Strategy’s most-read of 2020: Shopper Marketing Report

The year's most eye-catching stories included No Frills' gammified flyer and answers to all the questions about shopping in a pandemic.


As we do every year around this time, strategy is counting down the biggest news stories from the past 12 months. Today, we are looking at coverage and analysis from our bi-weekly Shopper Marketing Report that kept readers up-to-date on how brands and retailers influenced shopper behaviour in 2020 (and if you like what you read, be sure to sign up to have these stories delivered directly to your inbox, every other Wednesday).

No Frills levels up its flyer

When No Frills and agency partner John St. first created “Aisles of Glory,” the retro-styled online game was mostly just a fun way for the brand’s “haulers” to earn extra PC Optimum points.

But this year, it also became a way to extend shopper marketing partnerships into new avenues. Instead of simply featuring No Name, President’s Choice and produce in the game’s virtual aisles, products from the likes of Unilever, Kellogg’s, Conagra, Yoplait and Cavendish also made appearances. As part of the program, the brands were not only featured in the game, but also in a special “Aisles of Glory”-themed section of No Frills’ weekly flyer, which included special points-earning opportunities and pricing for PC Optimum members.

No Frills also delivered the digital version of the flyer direct to mobile devices so that it didn’t just sit in crowded email inboxes. And to drive mobile adoption, customers that opted to get a download code for the grocer’s “Haulin’ State of Mind” album were also signed up for the mobile flyer.

How COVID-19 impacted our relationship with food

If there was one thing readers were hungry for in the early days of the pandemic, it was knowledge. Back then, marketers were looking for answers around whether “pantry loading”  would have long-term impacts or how to navigate a near-future boom in online grocery shopping and delivery.

In addition to wanting to know how consumers would shop, the other thing readers wanted to know was what people would be buying. This was especially true on the snacking front, as trends around healthier options ran up against a dramatic drop in the number of people who needed on-the-go options.

Shoppers pops up again to boost more than just beauty

The pandemic made pop-up stores a rarity for the majority of this year, but at the end of February and beginning of March, Shoppers Drug Mart did its biggest experiential play around product innovation ever. The nine-day event, which ended up drawing over 10,000 visitors to Sherway Gardens in Etobicoke, featured cosmetics from the likes of L’Oreal and Honest Beauty, putting them alongside toothpaste and lotions from brands such as Colgate, Dove, John Frieda and Bioré.

Beauty has been a major focus for Shoppers in recent years, but the pop-up was about a more thorough look at the latest and greatest products across personal care, answering a pair of consumer trends: the desire for a more holistic approach to personal care and beauty, as well as demand for a diverse product selection that could meet a variety of needs.

Cosmetics retail, which has been heavily based on experience and trial of new products, has been among the most disrupted by pandemic safety measures, but Shoppers has been holding its own, partially thanks to investments it has made in its ecommerce platform.

Labatt gets into the wine business

One trend that continued unabated from pre-pandemic times was the continued launch and expansion of ready-to-drink beverages on store shelves across Canada, helped in no small part by investments made by major brewers to continue diversifying their portfolios beyond just beer.

For Labatt, this included not only launching a zero-sugar version of Palm Bay and an on-trend sparkling water under the Mike’s brand, but also entering the wine space, bringing the Babe canned rosé to Canada. The launch was meant to help the social-friendly Babe stand out in a category where brand recall has always been a struggle, complete with a safe sampling program done outside and in Canadian cities targeting people eager to spend some time in the outdoors.

How a second wave will impact shopper behaviour

Back in late March, the role of shopper marketing was unclear, with many stores closed and customers at essential businesses mostly looking to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible.

As the year went on and a (slightly) more stable picture of consumer behaviour began to form, strategy checked in with TracyLocke’s Jason Dubroy for his initial insights on how to reach disrupted shoppers, as well as what their behaviour might look like during a second wave. He gave thoughts on things ranging from the ongoing importance of integrated omnichannel experiences, the role of private labels, the opportunities in live-streamed ecommerce and how to connect consumers with new products when switching behaviour has never been higher.