Again and again we poll clients (and agencies) and again and again we come up with the same answers. Despite the apparent increase in the availability of data, too often the effectiveness of in-store marketing activities is simply not measured, or not effectively measured. Despite most marketers having more data available to them than ever before, too many activities are allowed to pass with no or scant evaluation as to whether that activity achieved its objectives. As argued in a previous post, part of the problem lies with not actually setting objectives in the first place; but even when this is done, thorough evaluation of activity is still relatively rare. When challenged trade marketers and key account managers will say it is ‘too hard’, ‘too expensive’, or ‘too time consuming’. Clearly there are barriers to measurement (otherwise everyone would be doing it): so why should trader marketers and sales managers bother measuring the effectiveness of their in-store marketing activities and what should they measure to improve in-store marketing effectiveness?
Not measuring in-store marketing effectiveness is criminally negligent
Firstly, obviously, knowing whether or not an activity delivered what it was supposed to do does rather lie at the heart of effective marketing. If you have no idea of what impact your activity had on shopper behavior, and you are OK with that, then you have no right to call yourself a trade marketer.
Beyond this, there are many benefits to measuring in-store marketing effectiveness. Getting, and demonstrating the effectiveness of activity helps secure further funding (and personal success). Evaluation supports the refinement and improvement of future activities too. Evaluating activity creates great stories to take to retailers to explain why there is a preference to one type of activity versus another. In the absence of data decisions made by the company, or its customers, are made on gut. “My gut is better than your gut” isn’t a great argument to take to a customer.
So given that measuring is key to improving in-store marketing effectiveness; how should shopper marketers and trade marketers approach this?
SET OBJECTIVES (AND MORE THAN ONE)
Setting clear objectives which cover desired consumer and shopper behavior as well as commercial metrics is a critical first step. Without objectives it is impossible to know what to measure, and impossible to know whether the activity was a success (how can it meet objectives which haven’t been set?).
IDENTIFY POTENTIAL METRICS
For each desired result, brainstorm out the possible ways it could be measured. Don’t limit (for now) your thinking to what data is available, or realistic: what possible ways could you measure whether the result was achieved? Start with the measure you want (for example, how many shoppers who planned to buy my competitor switched to my brand); then brainstorm out all of the ways you could measure this (Spy cameras in-store? Home visits? POS data?) For now, rule nothing out…
EVALUATE THE VALUE AND COST OF EACH MEASURE
Now we can be realistic. Whilst technology is continually bringing down the cost of measuring in-store behavior, that doesn’t mean that everything is affordable, or should be paid for. Consider both the value and the cost of each measure. If at that stage the only cost-effective way is to use existing data, then so be it, but by stepping through this process, the marketer has a much clearer idea of what they are trying to measure, and of the compromises a particular methodology may introduce. Armed with this knowledge, the compromise can be potentially mitigated by measuring other factors that will help get closer to the desired measure. If, for example off-take is the desired measure, but the retailer will not supply POS data: then perhaps a combination of ex-factory data together with a measure of inventory levels may give a satisfactory proxy for actual off-take. Not ideal, but better than just looking at ex-factory data, and certainly better than making no measure at all.
This is probably the most important point of all. If shopper marketers and trade marketers don’t measure what actually happened in-store, then measuring the effect of that activity, be it in terms of shopper behavior or sales, is highly suspect. With compliance levels in markets as low as they are, assuming that the activity actually was implemented on time, in full is a huge assumption. A perfectly good mechanic could be scrapped as ineffective when there was nothing wrong with the mechanic – it just wasn’t set up in-store correctly (or the product was out of stock, for example). Again technology is making compliance monitoring more and more affordable, and cost really isn’t an excuse in this area.
Don’t try and test everything in one go. Companies typically do many (too many?) in-store activities. Don’t try and evaluate everything necessarily: focus on the big activities or the ones that are repeated frequently. Measure what is reasonable, learn from that, and measure again. For those of you with tighter budgets, whilst qualitative evaluation may not be as robust and quantitative, its surely better than going on gut feel or instinct alone.
As more and more money is spent in the arena of in-store marketing, that spend will and should come under greater scrutiny (the same can be said for all of marketing, by the way). Business making investment should demand evidence of returns and in-store marketing should not be an exception. Measurement will help create better activities in the future, and help build a database of shopper information which can inform future decisions.