Shopper marketers take control from multiples
By David Louis, Sales and Marketing Director, Field Sales Solutions
For large numbers of FMCG marketing departments, something strange happened 10 years or so ago. They lost control of a major part of their function to supermarkets. Their budgets too. However, now both are being firmly taken back, with data and in-store shopper experiences being key factors.
The trigger for the chain of events that was replicated among a very large number of household name grocery brands happened during the discussion that took place between brand owners and supermarkets. It was suggested by multiples, that they were in a good position to provide better value on marketing spending than was being obtained from regular consumer communications channels. What was proposed was that brands could have access to supermarket customers through loyalty card schemes. For a fee, promotions could be run within the schemes, and in doing so obtain a greater sales return than possible through other forms of marketing.
Brands saw the logic in what was suggested and accepted it. At the same time, responsibility for the necessary budgets was given to brand trade sales teams. Similarly, the same departments also assumed responsibility for field marketing. Marketers became bystanders as a major part of their function was stripped away, along with accompanying finance.
Move on ten years and the tide has now turned. Responsibility for in-store brand activity and budget for it, is rapidly returning to marketing departments. This is due to the rise of the Shopper Marketer. It means that what goes on in multiples, and with multiples, is being brought back into the marketing fold, and with it disruptive brand experiences in supermarkets.
What is driving this change to take place is to a large degree, down to two things. First is data. Just a few years ago, field marketing data generally revolved around basic metrics such as the size of stores and sales volume. Now more advanced users can analyze thousands of individual store variables, and when used with other data sources, allows users to accurately target shoppers through in-store marketing, and measure performance and merchandising requirements leading to optimization of the final part of shopper journeys.
Developments in field marketing data are central to creating seamless shopper experiences and gaining insights into all aspects of the in-store processes involved. Previously, what went on inside multiples was of marginal concern to marketing departments, but increasingly it’s seen as integral to brand strategy. This is reflected in the progressive development of data departments and skills within some field marketing companies.
The second element to Shopper Marketers taking in-store activity back under the wing of marketing departments is the need to apply creative and disruptive brand customer experience in supermarkets. This is increasingly considered to be a key factor in gaining consumer attention, and building experiences that lead to sales. Field marketing is now being seen as the communication channel responsible for the important final ‘ten yards’ of the customer journey. Without it, other messaging – television, print advertising, promotions, and social media, can come to little. Particularly if rivals run better in-store campaigns.
Multiples appreciate effective field marketing because they benefit from it, but brands have to be responsible for it themselves, either through in-house teams, or agencies. Whichever option is employed, it is possible to see even from cursory observation, that brand activity in supermarkets is changing and developing.
Brand owners are using field activity to stake out their own unmissable spaces on supermarket fixtures. Brand space is allocated based on specific dimensions, but it is growing difficult to miss the establishment of branded territories within those dimensions. The growing use of brand livery, often enhanced with promotional materials, is a new development. It is a trend that is only likely to grow in prevalence and importance as competition grows to attract shopper attention.
In addition, there is also the opportunity to gain extra brand space by building relationships with store managers. Dedicated brand field teams that help out retail staff by tidying up category fixture space, and other jobs supermarket employees are too busy to do, earn thanks. It means that when field teams identify empty shelf space, and request permission to requisition it, even temporarily, it is often granted. It is quite possible to create far more shelf presence in front of shoppers than is realized.
Building relationships also create another key advantage. Cutbacks in multiple staffing levels mean that brands aren’t being promptly replenished on fixtures. Often brands go missing from shelves for long periods. While field teams can undertake merchandising to correct the problem of the time, they cannot become full-time merchandisers. However, the building of relationships with staff leads to preferential treatment, and leads to some brands restocked, while others remain missing. It makes a significant difference to sales figures.
As the customer journey becomes increasingly important to brands, and in parallel the role of the Shopper Marketer increases, the emphasis on field marketing to deliver the crucial final leg of the buyer experience will grow. And it’s not possible to envisage how to trade sales departments will ever take back responsibility for it.
The customer experience developments initiated by Shopper Marketers are important to the FMCG sector, but they also reflect a wider emphasis on the growing importance of retail environments to interrupt the shopper’s journey to engage them and influence them to change decision-making. Brands in all consumer product categories are beginning to recognize the benefits of creating in-store customer experiences and in particular, the fact that disruptive activity can make the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity. What we are starting to see in multiples is almost inevitably the beginning of a developing universal trend.