The best marketing in the world won’t move the needle if potential customers shy away at the last moment. One way to avoid this is shopper marketing, a group of tried and true techniques designed to make the last mile of the purchase journey so effortless that potential customers become actual customers.
In this blog we’ll unpack the fundamentals of shopper marketing (with a slight focus on FMCG), including how to optimize your shopper marketing strategy with consumer insights, transforming browsers into buyers in the process. Let’s get stuck in, starting with a quick definition.
Over a third of global consumers say they’ve purchased FMCG products online, with the most common being snack foods (17%), coffee (10%), and chocolate (9%).
The key idea behind shopper marketing is simple, even obvious: give shoppers what they want, and you remove any barriers to buying.
But like many “simple” and “obvious” ideas, that’s easier said than done. Effective shopper marketing means understanding customer behaviors and preferences, then turning that understanding into action using a range of methods from store layout and ambience, to social media strategy, product demos, promotions, and shop displays.
Before we go any further let’s unpack the benefits of shopper marketing a bit more.
The benefits of shopper marketing
Builds brand loyalty
Shopper marketing helps brands create a positive shopping experience which keeps customers coming back for more, helping brands build and maintain loyalty even in challenging times.
51% globally say they’d rather pay more for a brand they know. In contrast, the number who’d rather pay less for an own-brand equivalent is up 6% since Q2 2020, rising to 8% for Gen Z.
Provides a reason to buy
Shopper marketing can help position a product or brand as the obvious choice by drawing attention to a particular feature or benefit, something that’s super important in a product vertical like FMCG where many items are basically parity products.
44% of global consumers say they want brands to be authentic, the most important attribute behind reliability.
Makes it all about the audience
Above all, shopper marketing is customer-centric. It enables retailers to tailor their shopping experience so it appeals to multiple audiences, online and off.
US millennials are particularly focused on the in-store shopping experience, with the number who rate the importance of good restrooms (+16%), convenient/long opening hours (+12%), sales (+11%), and convenient locations (+9%) all growing since Q1 2021.
Shopper marketing tactics
Successful shopper marketing uses a smorgasbord of strategies to connect with consumers at the different stages of the purchase process.
What we’re talking about here is experiential retail, using interesting spaces, high levels of customer engagement, and the imaginative use of technology – all driven by consumer research – to enhance customer interactions.
Shopper marketing can also deliver immediate results. Unlike a TV ad that needs to linger in the mind of the audience to be effective, the shopper marketing tactics described below make an instant impact and can influence the behavior of the customer in a matter of seconds.
With consumers continually bombarded by ads, highly targeted ads and in-store campaigns can cut through and win their interest. Facebook and Google both support geo-targeted ads, a brilliant way to reach potential shoppers with ultra-relevant online ads while they’re either in-store or in the neighborhood.
Optimized online experiences
For online retailing more generally (beyond pure FMCG), a seamless checkout, optimized for smartphones so people can buy when they’re out and about or even while scrolling through social media, is a proven way to improve the shopping experience. Free delivery/returns for online purchases, and using chatbots to introduce customers to the site, demonstrate relevant items and help them order all help set your store apart.
45% globally say free shipping is the most important element of the online shopping experience, followed by coupons and discounts (34%), reviews from other customers (27%), and next day delivery (26%).
Live shopping online
Live shopping – essentially a shoppable Facetime call – is a specific type of optimized online experience, where consumers directly interact with sellers and buy products online from anywhere in the world. Live shopping offers convenience, comfort, a personalized experience to consumers, and the chance to boost revenues for sellers.
50% of global consumers know what live shopping is, and 29% have used it to buy online, with fashion and food the top product types.
Demos are a great way to showcase the benefits of a product to a potential customer, building interest and trust which then – hopefully – translate into sales. They’re enjoyable sensory experiences, too. For example, in an FMCG context customers might be able to see the results a product achieves, taste something delicious, or get a VIP preview of new products.
Ambiance and environment
Music is an obvious contributor to ambience, but shopper marketers can go further and combine different sensory experiences. A shop could use both a carefully curated playlist paired with a suitable scent to attract consumers and make them feel at ease.
When it comes to FMCG, shopper marketers have less control over the in-store ambience, so for them it’s about amping up the sensory experience in other ways, whether that’s with food samples, smells or tempting visuals.
Contests, sweepstakes, and promotions
Injecting a sense of fun and urgency into the buying journey is a great way to improve the customer experience, nowhere more so than FMCG. Contests, sweepstakes, and promotions all create opportunities for customers to get something back from a brand. And the benefit works both ways, with participants far more likely to sign up for future marketing communications from the brand in question.
Like contests and promotions, hosting events is a proven way to create demand and add value. A classic example is an FMCG food brand putting on an in-store demonstration of imaginative ways to use their product. Advertising these events on social media ahead of time can help to create excitement and interest.
Displays and wayfinding
It pays to make it easy for customers to find what they want, and entice them toward the products you’re promoting. At the same time, retailers need to make deals and offers impossible to miss and easy to understand, for example by placing signs, banners, and other comms around the store to attract customers’ attention or point them in a particular direction.
In this context personalization is about using AI and data-driven strategies to tailor the shopping experience. A good example from the UK in cosmetics is Boots’ own brand No7 virtual foundation and skincare matching tool, a high tech solution driving quick, personalized and doubt-free purchases.
Furthermore, AI algorithms can analyze customer behavior to offer personalized product recommendations, thereby increasing customer engagement and satisfaction – and sales.
Globally, Gen Z and millennials stand out for wanting personalized recommendations when shopping online. So, brands targeting younger generations should use personalized marketing strategies to get through to them.
How to optimize your shopper marketing strategy with consumer insights
So far, so good – we’ve defined shopper marketing, outlined its benefits, and described some key tactics. Now it’s time to look at the importance of basing a shopper marketing initiative on solid consumer insights, without which any strategy will always be on shaky foundations.
1. Segment your audience to understand their behaviors and preferences
The better you understand your audience, the better you’ll be able to create a shopper marketing strategy to reach them. For example, for retailers it’s incredibly helpful to know which audiences prefer shopping online vs in store (and why), which generation is most likely to make impulse purchases, and who’s most likely to be on a budget or to shop around. Without this sort of segmentation you risk missing the mark and wasting your efforts.
2. Identify trends and key behaviors in your target audience
This is about understanding the latest areas of demand. For example, what trends do you need to be aware of that could affect how you market to customers? Or how do you promote products both online and in-store? Or how are customer needs and priorities changing, perhaps in response to the cost of living crisis?
During a period of economic uncertainty it’s likely the majority of people are cutting back on treats and socializing, but very few will cut out spending entirely, so there are still opportunities – brands and retailers just need to know where they are, and adjust their offer accordingly. And that starts with understanding trends and key audience behaviors.
32% of Gen Z and millennials globally say they’ll spend more on non-essential items in 2023 vs 20% of Gen X and baby boomers.
53% of Gen Z and millennials globally say their income will increase in 2023 vs 33% of Gen X and baby boomers.
3. Understand how consumers interact with brands
Connecting with shoppers at the right place and at the right time means understanding how different groups discover new brands and interact with the ones they already know.
For example, a real point of difference for GWI is that we specifically ask shoppers ‘Where do you find out about new products?’. That information can transform shopper marketing strategy and media planning, showing brands where they can connect best with new shoppers using a mix of paid, earned and owned media.
Ultimately this is about creating a shopper acquisition and retention strategy tailored to key audiences based on tracking behavioral changes, understanding where people spend time online, developing winning messaging, and shaping an appropriate media strategy.
Shopper marketing examples
As we’ve seen, shopper marketing helps brands and retailers by encouraging customers to move along the path from browsing to buying. These examples show how real FMCG brands are putting it into practice.
To celebrate the launch of their POREfessional skin care range, in mid 2023 Benefit Cosmetics created an immersive pop-up in one of London’s hottest shopping districts.
The team at Benefit had discovered that many people still didn’t have the right solutions for their pores. To address this, Benefit created a classic shopper marketing solution in the form of a fully immersive experience allowing customers to consult with skincare experts, shop, and play, all in one.
The store’s design features playful nods to the classic American car wash, with bright pastel colors capturing the essence of the pore range and its packaging, and interactive displays that add an extra layer of excitement and entertainment to the shopping experience.
Fancy a beer? How about a virtual one? Heineken recently entered the metaverse with the launch of ‘Heineken Silver’ – the world’s first virtual beer.
But interesting though the idea is, Heineken’s plan was never to keep Heineken Silver exclusively online. In a classic piece of integrated shopper marketing, they created a physical campaign that blended seamlessly with the virtual, building a physical experience at various locations across Europe that was as reminiscent of the virtual launch as possible.
The result enabled Heineken to engage with Silver’s Gen Z metaverse audience in an authentic way and create a unique experience for that audience in the process.
Shopper marketing strategy FAQs
What’s the difference between brand marketing and shopper marketing?
Brand marketing increases the demand for a product or brand through incentives, support, and information. It’s about general awareness. Shopper marketing is more specific, intended to influence buying decisions at, or close to, the point of purchase.
What are some examples of shopper marketing?
Displays and in-store visual merchandizing, product demos and giveaways, supermarket car park roadshows, city center/shopping mall events, social media and digital, in-store ambience and displays, promotions and prize draws, competitions and incentives.
Why is shopper marketing important?
Shopper marketing provides a strategic framework that helps retailers convert customer data into actionable insights that drive sales. It’s a dynamic, omnichannel approach, ranging from social media, mobile apps, and personalized email messages, to optimizing store and shelf layouts and positioning in-store displays for maximum engagement.