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The heart of Shopper marketing: Where does it come from and why is it here?

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

Fiercer competition, smarter consumers and sale orientated shoppers – these are key elements contributing to an increasing challenge. An over emphasis on “price” as part of the marketing mix has created a deal hungry consumer that has a negative impact on the retail industry. Extreme discounting has devalued countless brands. Conventional approaches like category management have failed to elevate sales. ([i]) A new approach is needed. How do we combat the slowing and potential halt of growth as well as declining profitability in fast moving consumer goods industry? Enter shopper marketing.

What is shopper marketing?

Shopper marketing is not a department. It is not a role. Rather, it is a way of thinking. At the core of shopper marketing lies the understanding of how consumers behave in regard to your brand, when they are in buying mode. Further, it gains as well as acts upon behavioral changes from channel to channel.

The sum of the insights gained from looking at shoppers and consumers through a shopper marketing lens, is interpreted and becomes the directional driving force for effective marketing. This approach helps in delivering a unified and seamless experience for both consumer and shopper enabling growth for both mind and market share.

Why is shopper marketing important?

Primarily, shopper marketing can move your organization into greater, sustained growth. It does this by not focusing on short term, flash cash, heavy handed price cuts and thoughtless promotions. These aggressive discounts can create behavioural patterns in shoppers shopping in a category, as they become deal orientated. ([ii]). On the contrary, shopper marketing is about prompting shoppers to make sustained changes in their buying behaviour. These sustained changes play a key role in a 360 degree marketing approach.

What does shopper marketing say?

The heartbeat of shopper marketing is the fact that a shopper could very well be a different person than a consumer. A very basic example of this is illustrated in an extract out of another blog of ours:” A husband may use a specific brand of shampoo. He is the consumer of the product. His wife, a more sensible spender, may have taken on shopping duties for the family. She is the shopper and also the one that ultimately makes the final purchasing decision; if she feels that an alternative product may be better for him, she holds the power to choose”. (Also read our blog: Shoppers and consumers – same but different?).

Considering the above statement, it is then critical for effective marketing to not only speak about the brand and product but rather, speak about it in a very specific way to a very specific person.

When does shopper marketing speak?

Shopper marketing faces the current misconception that speaking to shoppers and consumers happens only in store. Nothing could be further from the truth. The path to purchase starts long before a shopper arrives in a retailer’s parking lot. An understanding of the shopper’s journey and decision making process will put you in a position to effectively leverage traditional as well as digital touch points for the purpose of marketing.

How does shopper marketing talk to a shopper?

Communication with shoppers in busy retail environments faces two challenges: Limited time dictated by attention span in an already busy environment, and secondly limited understanding. If you don’t convey a message clearly and quickly, the shopper will not spend the time to connect with a brand. As a result, the opportunity to convert to purchase is lost.

There are tools that help brands speak to shoppers. Some of these tools are the old fashioned, yet effective power words: Buy, free, New, Save, Offer and Value. ([iii]) The use of symbols and colour subconsciously speaks to shoppers. A scissor cutting a tag brings to mind the word “discount”. Colours like black and gold subconsciously trigger perceptions in a shopper that tells him or her that the product is premium. Green means fresh. Red means sale or value.

Another example of influencing the shopper mind-set is to address a specific occasion for which the shopper would need a product. A great example is the ready-made sauces for family meals.

What’s for Dinner?

New, Tasty Recipes Now Available

This speaks to the FMCG shopper’s mind set when purchasing food for dinner. This message consists of two parts:

“What’s for Dinner” is your catch message which relates to the occasion of preparing supper. Never use more than five words for this message.

“New Tasty Recipes Now Available” is your connect message, which speaks to the shopper’s potential need to offer the family new and exciting meals. Try to not use more than five words for this message. The above are brought together as your convert message, which serves to inspire. This could potentially be done by using clear and uncluttered imagery of a tasty looking meal; bold, strong colours and powerful contrasts.

Implementing Shopper marketing

Any serious attempt to reap the long term benefits of shopper marketing will need to be driven by a methodology which is tailored or directed towards defining who the shopper is as well as who the consumer is. Additionally, this methodology should question the current perceptions of the brand, the product as well as the shopper. Sound shopper marketing methodology needs to be implemented – theory put to practice.

We, as a shopper marketing company have implemented the “5D Methodology”. This methodology guides our shopper focused campaigns by transitioning them through 5 stages: Define, Design, Develop, Deploy, and Dissect. The practice of this methodology provides an effective tool that is capable of converting browsers in your category into shoppers of your brand.

If you want to unlock or enhance the power of shopper marketing in your organization, feel free to contact us for an in-sight full session focused on how we can work together to co-create and achieve your shopper marketing goals for both the short and long term.


[i] The shopper marketing Revolution, Toby Desforges and Mike Anthony, 2013, Page 15

[ii] The shopper marketing Revolution, Toby Desforges and Mike Anthony, 2013, Page 18

[iii] Free: Buzz words for content writing,, Accessed 20 May 2016

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