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Road blocks to Success – POP Magazine, Sep. 2010

We wrote an article in the POP magazine that covers the challenges faced by the industry in the implementation of Shopper Marketing solutions.

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Road blocks to Success – POP Magazine, Sep. 2010

No marketing professional would have missed a discussion, article or report on Shopper Marketing in the last 2 years. There are global reports about the investments made in Shopper research, new measurement techniques in the U.S. using eye tracking technology and so much more that I could write the rest of this article describing the new found interest in this area. Shopper Marketing is the new buzzword in Marketing circles and rightly so. It is the future for marketing.

–  Supporting this are facts like a Shopper is different from a consumer

–  70% of all decisions are taken in the store.

– 30 Second commercials are facing immense clutter.

Since, we all have unanimously agreed upon the importance of Shopper Marketing, we obviously must have used this new marketing knowledge to deliver some innovative solutions in the store.

But, what have you really noticed in the store in the last 2 years that has been different from the 20 years before that. Where are all these reports, discussions, plans and efforts ending up? Definitely, not at the retail store. Since FinalMile Consulting started working in the area of consumer behavior architecture, we have walked the streets for research and probably covered more than a 1000 stores across FMCG & Durables in the country. But, we are yet to see something that is done differently, that is not a standard poster with an excerpt of the 30 sec commercial, something that is truly relevant to the shopper, something that helps the shopper make a better or a more favorable decision. If shopper marketing really is the future of marketing and is being talked about in all marketing forums, then why are there no great examples of innovative in-store solutions? We clearly don’t have a dearth of brilliant marketing heads in the country, then what is stopping us from using this newfound knowledge in our favor.

After having worked with clients across industries like FMCG, durables, pharmaceuticals, we have now been able to put a finger on what might be holding companies back.

We have received overwhelming support to our new approach of using sciences like cognitive neurology and behavioral economics in the field of marketing and to our unexplored design solutions. But we have come to realize that everyone is only too happy to have a new science shared in the meeting room, have an intellectual conversation about the strategies, agree on the innovative solutions passionately but then go on to pass the execution to someone else in the system. This someone else, typically from the sales team, might be a believer of the solution, but doesn’t have the resource or structure to put it into action. And sadly everybody else thinks there part of the job is over, now someone else will take care of it.

Implementing a shopper marketing solution is fundamentally different from executing typical marketing activities. A 30 sec television commercial can be executed completely from the HQ, from conceptualization to final implementation. An in-store solution that needs to go into thousands of stores, conservatively speaking, needs feet on street with high levels of commitment to this particular cause. Shopper marketing just can’t be driven from the HQ alone.

That is the first barrier for effective shopper marketing execution.

The second is, Shopper Marketing solutions don’t come in a one size fits all. The solution for Modern Trade is clearly different from General Trade which is different from Chemists. In fact, solutions might be different in markets where the brand is very strong vs. where the brand is lagging. They could simply differ by urban – rural and when we actually reach some level of comfort with execution, customization might be even more granular. This is probably looked at as an irritant today and hence also works as a huge barrier to shopper marketing implementation. But that is because companies have gotten so comfortable with the process of producing a single television commercial solution, that for them to break out and do something different seems as risky as changing your line of work at the age of 50.

The third and to my mind the most imperative fundamental shift that shopper marketing needs to help us succeed in the store, is in the way organizations are structured. We have seen various structures at the HQ, some have a separate modern trade team, some have a shopper marketing department, then there is consumer insights, shopper insights and what have you. Usually the shopper marketing idea never sees the light of day since most of them get aborted in the prioritization and fund allocation meeting. Needless to say that traditional marketing techniques face no such discrimination. For a shopper marketing idea to succeed, the organization needs all these various departments to work together towards achieving a common goal. But the lack of integration among teams proves to be major deterrent. This is unlikely to change with the organization structure remaining as it has been.

At FinalMile we design in store solutions aimed at specific behavior change objectives, which are experimented for effectiveness. We have been in the market trying to execute these experiments and have had to shuffle between sales people who are trained to think “this is not my job” and merchandisers who have no relationship with a retailer to put as much as an extra poster. There is no motivation financial or otherwise for the sales team to see the implementation through. All in all we find that the existing organizational structure is not conducive for effective implementation of shopper marketing strategies.

Hence going forward, there are fundamental shifts needed to reap the benefits of the potential Shopper Marketing has to offer. Shopper marketing thinking needs to go beyond the HQ to the execution team who needs to own and co-create the idea. Since shopper marketing can’t work by isolating either marketing or sales, an organizational structure that bridges the two could help bring both teams on the same platform and own the endeavor in a way that hasn’t been done before.

Whether it is revamping the structure or restructuring responsibilities, the direction towards shopper marketing success definitely lies within the organization.

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