Wikipedia defines shopper marketing as “Understanding how one’s target consumers behave as shoppers, in different channels and formats, and leveraging this intelligence to the benefit of all stakeholders, defined as brands, consumers, retailers, and shoppers.”
This seems odd. Is the target of the shopper marketing process a consumer or a shopper? In this definition, we are only interested in our shoppers who are consumers..
What about the shoppers who are not consumers? The definition ignores these shoppers completely. The failure to account for this significant distinction surely weakens the whole definition.
So what is shopper marketing? The very point of marketing is to change behavior; the point of shopper marketing must be to change shoppers’ behavior. The link to consumers is important in that what the shopper buys must be consumed to create long term value, but the focus of the marketing effort in shopper marketing is the shopper, not the consumer.
Let’s, then, think of shopper marketing as, well, a form of marketing. Much of the current excitement around shopper marketing focuses on new ways to communicate to people while they shop, better methods of promoting products, or new merchandising solutions.
This is all very interesting and certainly represents a dynamic stream of innovation. But these are activities: none of these are marketing.
To illustrate this, let’s consider advertising. Is advertising marketing? Advertising is certainly a marketing activity; it is a subset of promotions, one of the 4 Ps that make up the “marketing mix.” However, a product can be very effectively marketed without advertising.
To define marketing based on a component of the 4 Ps is nonsensical. Isn’t research part of the marketing process? Should we ignore the teams engaged in creating marketing strategies and plans? What about evaluation?
In short, the industry needs a clearer, more effective definition of shopper marketing that focuses on the shopper, changing her behavior in order to create consumption growth. It must focus on analyzing data, understanding insight, and identifying solutions to activate that insight. A promotion or a merchandising solution may be an outcome of that shopper marketing process, but they aren’t shopper marketing.
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