The future of shopper marketing is here: Know your shoppers

Although digital has been a significant part of shopper marketing for a few years now, connecting with customers digitally on an individual, one-to-one level has been a challenge for the industry. Why? Because most of the data comes in the form of "audiences" and "segments," not individual journeys.

And this has worked well for CPG marketers. Brands often work with third-party data providers like IRI or NCS, which have operated by aggregating purchase data from various sources (retailer loyalty cards, surveys, etc.) and then offering solutions using that data. With third-party data providers, shopper marketers can target brand and category buyers, but they aren't able to also see real-time behavioral and transaction data on each individual shopper. While still valuable, the macro view by itself is not as actionable for real-time personalization in a time of person-level connections.

Learn how Epsilon helped a leading dairy company drive sales and win market share from a large national competitor.

While the majority of CPG purchases are still made in-store, each shopper’s path from consideration to purchase takes place everywhere. The modern shopper marketer can outperform their more traditional competition by taking advantage of opportunities to reach their shoppers online one-to-one. Not to mention the important fact that the pandemic did cause an uptick in online grocery/convenience buying, specifically: McKinsey & Company estimates that post-COVID, the number of shoppers buying groceries online at least some of the time will have increased 41%.

So, what exactly is shopper marketing and what does it look like today? And more importantly, how can brand marketers leverage better technology to build digital demand for in-store or online conversion? Let’s explore how to create a strong shopper marketing strategy for your business and the benefits of doing so.

3 components of modern shopper marketing

To arrive at a modern digital shopper marketing, it’s crucial to look at three different components.

1. Understanding shoppers individually

There has been an evolution for shopper marketing from small-sample surveys intended to represent all customers to getting regular snapshot-views of households that have bought your product in a certain period.

Now, though, there’s an even further evolution to understanding each individual's shopping behavior, including data from their online and offline shopping and all their other digital behaviors, all in a privacy-safe environment. This can be facilitated through identity solutions that combine data across various devices, accounts and channels to get a holistic view of each individual's shopping preferences, habits and propensities.

2. Using the data to develop marketing mix

Shopper marketing historically was relegated largely to in-store point-of-purchase advertising. While shopper marketing trends have evolved to include digital channels, there’s still hesitance to move too aggressively to an online-centric or online-first approach. And for good reason: Research from Momentum Worldwide shows that supermarkets and grocery stores were the public spaces to which consumers felt most comfortable returning after the pandemic.

But truly modern shopper marketing focuses first on connecting with people, and understanding which channel is best based on their past habits and behaviors. This requires an interconnected mix of online and in-store touchpoints to reach customers where they are at all points along their journeys, making an impact that feels personal and thoughtful. Research from eMarketer shows that in 2020, US adults spent 7 hours, 50 minutes (7:50) per day consuming digital media, which was up 15.0% from 6:49 in 2019, the biggest increase since 2012. Digital time accounted for 57.5% of adults’ daily media time in 2020, and that figure is slated to reach 60.2% by 2022.

Ultimately, the shopper doesn't see themselves as an "online" or "offline" shopper or care if they're getting online or offline ads; they're just a person living in the world, and modern shopper marketing should mimic that experience.

3. Driving measurable conversions

Measurement for shopper marketing has evolved from large samples and long analysis periods toward real-time, one-to-one customer connections with the ability to continuously reach that same person over time. And more importantly, each next marketing message is informed by that person's last marketing engagement, as well as their broader purchase history.

With a more traditional shopper marketing approach, like a point-of-purchase display (in-store signage), a shopper marketer could add the display to a store, then see if sales went up at that location, and compare against a store without that signage. With digital, it’s a bit different. In a digital context, there's infinitely more information that can be tied back to an individual directly along their path to purchase. For instance, shopper marketers can know that a person saw a display ad and an in-app ad for razors with the option of picking them up next time they're at a certain convenience store chain, and then measure that at the point of sale with the retailer (online or offline).

Leveraging retail media networks partnerships

Over the past year, there has been a proliferation of retail media networks cropping up from brands like Walgreens, Target, Home Depot and so many more. All have followed in Amazon’s footsteps (the original media network), and while some will be more effective than others, many are trending toward identity solutions based on individual customer connections.

Download: The brand marketer's guide to retail media spend

Retailers have a wealth of detailed, privacy-compliant first-party data that can be activated within retail media networks and shared with their brand partners. Combining this data with real-time digital activation, shopper marketers who work with retailers that base their media networks in identity can understand their current and prospective target shoppers on an individual, one-to-one level, and then serve them messaging that actually matters to them at the right time. This opposes old targeting methods that were reliant on fragments of a customer’s online presence, including device IDs and third-party cookies.

Getting a better grasp on identity for shopper marketing

Knowing your shoppers more intimately, more thoroughly, is the true path forward for shopper marketers post-pandemic. In an era where there’s more CPG shopping happening online with better identity solutions, getting a stronger omnichannel marketing mix in place will bring your shopper marketing into the future.

Shopper marketers don’t need to wait for customers to be in store or clipping coupons; data can not only help them leverage all available channels but also ensure they're being used effectively.

Want to learn more about how shopper marketers can step into the future of CPG marketing? Check out our brand marketer's guide to retail media spend.