Supermarket shopper in a facemask

Shopper Marketing and Brand Activation in the New World

Rob Conway writes this article from the perspective of Head of Brand Loyalty at White Label Loyalty. His focus is creating bespoke loyalty programmes for brands, harnessing the power of consumer data and using the latest digital mechanics to engage & reward shoppers.

This article aims to shed a light on the future of shopper marketing and brand activation as we move full steam into recovery mode. I will start by acknowledging that even before C-19, shopper marketing was changing. The classic P&G model of being able to plot a consumer buying journey had already been disrupted by digital. This meant that the consumers purchase journey had become increasingly fluid, leaving many interpretation and engagement plans generally unrealistic.

So, with that in mind, will C-19 catalyse many of the changes already being experienced in shopper marketing and brand activations? Here are some of the key points from the agency contributors:

Laurence Poichet (integer) on Brand Messaging:
Brands need to adapt their message to resonate with consumer attitudes to the pandemic, noting that current brand messaging focusing on emotional connection, connected communities and solidarity had been well received as lockdown eased. In the medium term, as brands start returning to their roots, the reason must be stronger.

Stephanie Meyer (TPN) on Messaging & Omnichannel:
“Shoppers will be increasingly looking for brands to support their new needs with a realistic and practical approach, with more focus on brand authentic messaging and delivering delightful solutions tailored to our new reality”. Stephanie also commented on the now increased barriers at store level for consumer interaction commenting “It will be even more important for brands and retailers to ensure they can support shoppers’ true omnichannel approaches to shopping online and in store”.

Joe Scartz (TPN) on Online Grocery Channel & the Digital Pre-Shop:
“Even if 10% of shoppers stick with shopping online for their groceries, this would signify a huge acceleration for the online channel.” Joe also focuses on the importance of the digital pre shop, quoting that “If we as shopper marketeers are still thinking decisions are made at shelf in 5 years, then we are failing our clients. It’s going to be about getting in front of the consumer before they hit the shelf.”

Oli Mumby (freelance brand marketeer) on E-commerce Innovations & Partnerships
To capitalise on increasing importance of online shopping, brands will need to utilise upcoming tech such as shoppable online content (live stream sales for example) which are becoming increasingly popular globally. Oli raised another predominant point, commenting that “brand partnerships will be more common as brands look for ways to offer better value to the consumer”, which is something we are also hearing from brands at White Label Loyalty.

Paul Cope on retailer data advantage & Direct-2-Consumer
Paul
highlighted a widely held view the one-sided relationship between brands and retailers being unfairly weighted towards retailers. He predicted this will start to change as digital creates a closer direct link between brands and the consumer. A good example of this is PepsiCo in the USA, who have recently launched a direct-2-consumer platform, selling bundles of their products online which will no doubt become a more popular route to market.

Digital Strategy
All contributors agreed that more shopper decisions are being made pre-shop. It seems logical that a targeted digital message/promotion/activation will be required to effectively get a brands message across to the consumer, ensuring their products end up in physical or online baskets. This was already happening, but C-19 has forced the consumer online in unprecedented numbers and brands have been forced to shift their marcom budget to the reach consumer online.

However, in-store brand activation is far from dead, it just requires brands to get ‘phyigital’ to influence in-store baskets. A good example of this is the Online-2-Offline channel, if brands can communicate online with their target audience with a clear and attractive in-store buy action (through an activation/promotion) this will resonate with price sensitive /experience deprived consumers and give your product a better chance of being added to their shopping basket.

Data
The final and most important topic is data. Collecting 1st party data is more important than ever for brands as it offers valuable up-to-date insights into changing consumer behaviour, buying habits and the allows direct communication with their customers. At White Label Loyalty, our conversations with global FMCG brands have highlighted a clear desire to collect and own 1st party data to identify emerging trends quickly, plan for future campaigns or forge new partnerships.

White Label Loyalty Brand Activation System for Data Capture

The diagram above shows how we at White Label Loyalty utilise both the online & offline channels in relation to a brand activation campaign, for example. Implementing a data first approach like this will help brands collect, understand and offer personalised rewards to customers – either through the online or in-store channels.

This research has highlighted the importance of a true omnichannel approach to shopper marketing and brand activation. With my brand loyalty lens on, it is clear how vitally important it is for brands to collect, manage and take control of their own 1st party data in every shopper marketing or brand activation campaign they run – it is a golden opportunity to connect, understand and reach out your customers which needs to be prioritised in the ever growing, digital world.