P2P (Path to Purchase) Shopper Marketing Expo Recap- Sept. 20 – 22, 2016

By: Frank Kroger, Vice President of Shopper Marketing, Valassis
Published Monday, Oct 3, 2016

P2P (Path to Purchase) Shopper Marketing Expo Recap- Sept. 20 – 22, 2016

At the end of September 2016, a suburb of Chicago was inundated with Consumer Package Goods (CPG) representatives, Grocery/Mass/Drug (GDM) retailers and many other media, technology and equipment suppliers attending the Path to Purchase Institute’s Path to Purchase Expo. All attending shared a common interest: Shopper Marketing.

Shopper Marketing is not new to this industry, and as it continues to evolve, one foundational element of Shopper Marketing hasn’t changed: the need to start with the consumer (not products, store, brand or media). It is with this in mind that I attempted to view the show from the eyes of a consumer and from that experience, project what they might see and feel, given the booths and sessions from the Expo.

“It’s all about me” is a reality with today’s Shopper. I (as a consumer) hold the power. I am changing how I am influenced, not necessarily avoiding historical methods, but certainly adopting new ones in my planning and shopping. Many marketers spoke about personalizing their message and offers, especially as it relates to what is delivered to a mobile device. I realize by opting into new technology, companies (via beacons) can track where I am in the retail store, which sections I visit, the time spent there and even whether a purchase resulted. Of course, the learning is almost as much where I didn’t shop while in the store, and when I didn’t purchase something after stopping at a section. Is it as simple as an item being out of stock, or not finding value at shelf to close the deal?  And if I stop and don’t buy anything, how quickly will I receive an offer to reconsider my decision and return to the section to make a purchase? But since I am making fewer trips in total, spending a little more to close the deal while there makes sense, and likely saves me money.

I also noticed all the ideas (and costs) many are considering to change the look and feel of the grocery shopping experience… with the goal of adding more enjoyment, removing the “chore” aspect and getting me to stay longer (even trying to make the inside of my grocery store to look as nice as my den at home). From the kiosks and product displays leveraging new printing approaches that make images ‘pop’ and appear almost 3-D, to the fixtures used to bring mascots and brand figures into the aisle, it was all very impressive.

Some fun facts I learned about shoppers like me (and others) from the sessions were quite interesting, and confirmed that when I change how I shop and buy, it causes marketers to change the way they connect with me.

  • In the two general sessions, the presenters shared that the way consumers like me shop today is causing havoc, centered around us spending 13 percent less time shopping than we did just 10 years ago. The way we have incorporated digital in our lives is not only changing the way we pre-shop and shop, but in greater ways how we think and act. And, while I am willing to rally around a cause, making it more fun to do so helps improve the results. Walgreens and the 2016 RED NOSE day encouraged us all to make light of ourselves while we worked together to collect funds to help children living in poverty.

  • I also learned that organics are going from specialty to mainstream and accounted for nearly $40B in sales in 2015. As an Organic shopper, I use more sources to help in my shopping than the average shopper (10.3 to 8). Inside the store and social word of mouth are critical elements of my organic shopper process. I am also very valuable… averaging 2.5 times more profit for the average retailer.

  • One of the sessions shared that the Super Bowl is the USA’s #2 eating event of the year, with only Thanksgiving ahead of it. In planning for the 2016 Big Game, data showed that consumers don’t eat enough chocolate and candy at Super Bowl parties, due to the event’s proximity to New Year’s resolutions and Valentine’s Day. Focused Shopper Marketing efforts and lots of data about purchases and intentions helped convince retailers to make changes to their marketing plans– and resulted in many consumers purchasing more chocolate/candy for the 2016 Super Bowl. Get ready, because last year was so good they are expanding their efforts to more retailers in 2017.

  • A theme throughout several sessions mentioned the continued need to better collaborate. Those examples where brands and retailers share what they know and where they spend their marketing time and funds often result in people like me buying more. If that is the case, how could it be made easier for them to work together more often?

  • Three key trends were identified in another session that would change the way we are marketed to in our grocery experience: digital commerce acceptance, mobile adoption and the Internet of Things (IoT). I have seen the smart refrigerators and Amazon Dash buttons and all the other efforts making it easier for me to shop, but I learned I can buy a water pitcher, connect it to the internet, rely on it to tell me when to replace the water filter, order the filter and then have it delivered the next day. Never knew I’d need a pitcher like that, but its evidence how brands are using technology to meet my needs and change the way I shop. That same session shared an enlightening fact about millennials from their studies… their favorite holiday is indeed their birthday.

Lots of learning in just two days, but my takeaways are these:

  • Shoppers like me are changing and demanding change from those retailers and brands to meet our changing needs. Many seem willing to spend to evolve. Shopper Marketing seems like a perfect place to test and learn.

  • Buying groceries was once pretty simple. It was shared that when the concept of grocery stores was introduced, you went with a list and the clerk filled it from behind the counter. We progressed to where we did self-service shopping, going up and down aisles to find/try items on our list. Now there are so many new ways to shop and deliver my grocery experience– and it feels like more are coming. But when I do make that store visit (where 85-90 percent of purchases are stated likely to remain), the look and feel of that store will be different than I find it today. As the industry addresses these changes, how will Shopper Marketing evolve to meet those changes? Marketers will mine all kinds of data to learn about me and predict what I might do next. If they like what I might do, great. If they don’t, well, there are many methods, new and old, giving them a chance to send a relevant message or offer to possibly change my plans.

  • Holidays will change the future of retailing and marketing once more millennials are making decisions impacting business, especially since (as I noted above), birthdays are their favorite holiday. Birthdays may come but once a year, but everyone has one!

The way I and many consumers shop today for groceries is changing everything. It was exciting to see how retailers and brands continue to evolve so they can best meet the consumers’ changing needs.