One Blog |April 24, 2020 | Blog

Guest Blog: What Is Shopper Marketing? An Alternative Shopper Marketing Definition

Mike Anthony of Engage Consultants

894 Words | 8-minute read


The term ‘Shopper Marketing’ has been around for some time; and yet it is challenging to find a commonly accepted definition of the term. The industry has yet to adopt a universal shopper marketing definition, and a Google search for “What is shopper marketing?” yields conflicting and confusing results.


The fact that there isn’t a single clear shopper marketing definition is both good and bad news. It’s bad because you can’t necessarily pick up a definition ‘off the shelf’, but good in that you can shape the definition to what you want it to be for your business. So let’s have at it:


“Shopper marketing is the process of understanding shoppers and using that understanding to develop a marketing mix which influences shopper behavior in such a way as to positively impact consumption of the brand and or category”


You can adapt this, but this is a great start. Let’s break it down.


What Is Shopper Marketing? A Process

First things first — it’s a process. It isn’t a team. It isn’t a philosophy. It’s a process: a series of actions that the business does. Adopting this shopper marketing definition helps a fledgling team wriggle free of the politics of who does what. Get the business bought into the fact that the process adds value, and you are well on your way to getting the business to buy into the value of shopper marketing.


What Is Shopper Marketing? Understanding Shoppers

I’ve thought long and hard about this bit. If our activities aren’t based on an understanding of shoppers, is it still marketing? One could easily open up a lengthy philosophical debate over this, but actually there isn’t a need. If we are to do anything other than throw random activities at the world, then it must be based on some amount of understanding. Period. So, it isn’t marketing if there isn’t some understanding at its heart. And it isn’t shopper marketing, unless it is based on an understanding of shoppers. Note I’m not saying that shopper marketing must be based on an in-depth, heavily researched understanding of shoppers. Nor am I saying it must be ‘an insight’. Just looking at the situation from a shopper’s point of view is a start. We are then, at least, putting the shopper at the heart of our thoughts and actions.


What Is Shopper Marketing? Changing Shopper Behavior

In all your businesses (at least, almost all!) — you are looking for growth. For this to happen, there is a need for shoppers to change behavior. Your brand will need new shoppers, or will need existing shoppers to buy more, or more often. Each of these is a change in shopping behavior. Without these changes, growth simply won’t happen.

What Is Shopper Marketing? Creating Positive Change in Consumption Behavior

This bit is critical for a number of reasons, but there are two key ones. It is this part that really demonstrates the added value of shopper marketing. It is also the part of the equation which helps consumer marketers understand the value that shopper marketing brings.


The value created by changing shopping behavior depends on the impact it has on consumption. Let’s explore this by way of an example. If I buy an extra tube of toothpaste, because of a promotion in-store, but it is of a brand I usually buy, and I don’t brush my teeth any more frequently, then the value of that promotion is low (arguably negative, as in the long term I won’t buy any more paste, but I’ve bought this one on deal). However, if I see something in-store that encourages me to buy, let’s say, a pack of chips when I hadn’t planned on buying them: and then I go on to consume them: then consumption has been expanded.


A Shopper Marketing Definition Which Also Creates Value

So real shopper marketing value only comes if shopper marketing impacts both consumption and shopping behavior.


Yes, I am completely aware that including this opens the definition to criticism (much in the same way as I criticized the IGD definition). If it doesn’t drive consumption, is it not shopper marketing? One could easily argue that an activity that drives purchase, but not consumption is still shopper marketing. It would be true.



This part of the shopper marketing definition also helps consumer marketers understand why shopper marketing helps. If consumer marketers see shopper marketing as something that will help drive brand consumption, they are more likely to support it. This part of the definition hard-wires the connection between shopper marketing and consumer marketing in your business.


This shopper marketing definition has been proven to work with countless organizations. It creates clarity and purpose for shopper marketing activities.



About the Author:

Mike Anthony is Founder and CEO of Engage Consultants, a global consulting firm that helps organizations create the insight and strategy required to drive their marketing and sales efforts, and offer learning and development programs in consumer and shopper marketing, key customer management, and sales team management. If you’d like more direct help in getting your business to be more shopper focused, please get in touch.


And if you would like help measuring and managing your current POS marketing efforts (part of the overall shopper marketing mix), OnTrak Software can help. Learn more here.

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