The challenge of integrating different elements of marketing activity is consistently listed by CMOs as one of their biggest concerns. Nowhere is the challenge greater than in bringing brand and shopper marketing together. Brand and shopper marketing have traditionally existed in silos, with their own techniques, forms of knowledge, objectives and KPIs. For a long time, this disconnect didn’t seem to matter. Now, though, the balance is shifting — and the requirement to connect brand and shopper marketing is becoming increasingly urgent.
We compiled data from over 30 studies to provide a unique view of how shopper behaviour is evolving – and how more meaningful integration between brand and shopper marketing can address the needs of a fluid and connected shopper. In particular, we’ve identified four changes to shopper marketing research that can set any brand on the way to a more effective, integrated approach.
1. Take brand equity more seriously in shopper marketing research
Shopper marketers are trained to think in terms of missions and occasions as the primary drivers of shopping behaviour. In doing so, they are overlooking what our research confirms as the dominant driver of purchase decisions: brand equity.
In our recent work, we compared the brand equity of 7,400 shoppers across seven different categories and related this to the purchase decisions they made. The correlation between equity and brands purchased was above 0.8.
It doesn’t help that when studies do try to capture the role of brands, they do so using different metrics — and by asking different questions — to brand marketing. Most research will ask what brands shoppers considered — but they won’t explore why they considered them, which brands they have a relationship with or how they feel about them. If we want to integrate shopper marketing more effectively with brand, we need to start measuring brand equity in the same way – and start building models and KPIs around it.
2. Forget the path, focus on the decision point
The concept of a path to purchase, where each individual goes through the same set of stages, is a misleading one, and marketing strategies built around it are increasingly out of touch with how purchase decisions are made.
In reality, the shopper journey is an expanding collection of potential decision points, at any of which she could make a final choice about what she will buy. Around 60-80% of brand decisions are actually made before a shopper has even reached the shelf, and increasing numbers of purchases are being made online, without her ever setting foot in a store.
The role of shopper marketing is to convert shoppers — and this needs to take place whenever and wherever shopper behaviour shows that point of conversion to be. By focusing on the decision point for a given category or product, we can direct limited marketing and media budgets to where they will actually make a difference to shopper choices. This may well involve shopper marketers sharing touchpoints (and occupying the same media channels) as brand marketers.
The focus of integrated strategies should be less about dividing up the media environment between brand and shopper; more about establishing a coherent approach to sharing those channels for a multitude of marketing objectives.
3. Discriminate between touchpoints
It’s tempting for researchers to give equal weight to any touchpoint that a shopper interacts with — or alternatively, to ascribe greater influence to those that occur just before a purchase. This variation of the ‘last click’ distortion comes about because of the difficulties shopper marketing has in differentiating between the roles touchpoints play. Just because a shopper interacts with a touchpoint doesn’t mean that it exerts any influence over him or her. In addition, asking shoppers to recall retrospectively which touchpoints had the greatest influence on a particular purchase is problematic.
You cannot hope to understand the influence of touchpoints on a brand purchase without understanding the relationship that the shopper has with the brand to start with. By building the brand relationship into touchpoint impact models, you can get a truer picture of the moments that really make a difference to purchase decisions.
You can then align these models to the gaps and interruptions that exist within the shopper journey for the brand and reveal those exerting the greatest influence. And when you build models of shopper behaviour on this basis, you have a far more robust means of deciding where to target your investment.
Across the studies we have done, we have consistently found touchpoints that punch 3-4 times above their weight when compared to reach alone.
When trying to understand why you have lower sales in a particular store or on a specific occasion, understanding the relationship between equity and conversion will allow you to identify whether you have a brand building task or a shopper conversion task to undertake
4. Identify the barriers for shoppers who have equity for you already
Barrier studies are one of the traditional mainstays of shopper marketing research. However, from a brand equity perspective, it’s clear that not all barriers are equally worth studying. There is little point interrogating shoppers on why they didn’t buy your products on a particular mission or occasion, if your lack of any brand relationship with them means you did not even enter their consciousness.
When trying to understand why you have lower sales in a particular store or on a specific occasion, understanding the relationship between equity and conversion will allow you to identify whether you have a brand building task or a shopper conversion task to undertake.
When you know the barriers you need to overcome, linking this to the most motivating shopper needs that exist in your category will ensure the messaging you design to overcome the barriers will hit the mark.
As a further build, it is also critical to understand the mind set of the shopper you want to target – are you looking to influence shoppers when they are buying on routine or when they are genuinely exploring the category? While the latter may be less frequent, it can also be the time when shoppers are most open to influence.
Integrated is the way forward
It’s impossible to design a truly integrated approach to brand and shopper marketing without data and insights that embody the connected nature of the shopper. When decisions can increasingly take place in any environment and at any stage, it’s vitally important to identify the most influential points for spending your marketing budget. And you can only do that by understanding your audience as both consumers and shoppers.
Asking brand and shopper marketing teams to work together more closely won’t usually be enough to make that happen. But giving them a common understanding of those with the potential to buy your products will.