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  • Writer's pictureLobster

Good shopper marketing requires great knowledge management. Here's a primer.

I was doing a talk to several hundred year 12/13 students recently and it occurred to me, when trying to explain what I did for a living, that essentially whether you’re in sales, marketing, operations, HR, finance or legal, we’re mostly doing the same thing: sitting at a PC or laptop driving MS Office and looking at emails.

“What much of the modern workforce is doing is consuming information, changing it a bit, and sending it to someone else for them to do the same.”

Probably, it’s what most people reading this spend most of their waking hours doing.

There was a fascinating lecture in London recently by a Czech philosopher who pointed out that if you put someone from ancient Greece in a time machine and showed them how we live now, they would assume that (for those described above whom we might call “information workers”) our work - reading, thinking, writing, perhaps influencing through rhetoric (sales) - would be what they would consider to be leisure. And our weekend activities - walking, gardening, cooking, perhaps physical exercise - that would look like work to them. Such has been the transformation of our economies, and thereby our lifestyles, from primarily agrarian via industrialisation and miniaturisation to our current stage of the early Information Age.

Now what has all this to do with shopper marketing? Perhaps the answer ought to be nothing and isn’t it wonderful. But there is a link. As marketers, we’re not putting up posters or barkers. We’re not even designing the artwork in many cases. Rather, we’re conducting a process - we’re managing the information: a collection of data, permissions, approvals and outcomes.

A complex process requiring many people to do many small things to cause a small piece of cardboard to be placed in a large number of places to make a small proportion of a large number of shoppers make a small change to their shopping basket.

The outcome of this process is brand growth. But the growth is, for large-scale FMCGs, so small that it needs to be measured by spreadsheet rather than by sight: more information. And my concern is that in shopper marketing the management of information has been haphazard at best.

Here is a basic checklist / approach to information management.

Basic level: Activity investments plan: historic

List of activities committed to last year, by retailer, by touchpoint/channelCost, targeting, scope, invoicing entity, detailed line by line (eg. if digital 6s, how many stores, what share of voice, if barker, where sited)Creative detail, photographic posting reportInvoice status: you would be AMAZED how often retailers fail to invoice correctlyEverything accessible on shared resource / area; NOT in people’s email

This basic level gives you the grounding information of what activity is actually going on. Whether you’re a team of 20 spending millions or a solo marketing manager with one pot of money that has to do everything, this type of reporting gives is what we would consider to be essential due diligence.

Note that already, you can start generating insights from this: essentially it’s your trading database. The average tenure of a marketing manager is 24 months. This means that most of the time you’ll be inheriting activity plans from someone else and also be handing them on. It’s no wonder many brands massively overpay for activity when they simply don’t know what was spent last year at what rate. Posting reports are important as they are often the place at which compliance problems rear their heads.

Enhanced level: Performance plan: historic

List of activities with media evaluations by retailer, by campaign and by touchpoint. Either from media owners or carried out through independent research. You’re looking to understand uplift % and uplift £ per store from which you can calculate ROIActivities should be coded according to the key attributes that will affect performance: NPD/non-NPD, creative approach, ATL support etcScorecard showing how the activity was leveraged with the retailer to secure additional space / display.

This can be the biggest single difference-maker to your shopper marketing ROIFrom this you can start to look at benchmarks to understand the average performance (and variance) of different touchpoints in different retailers to give you a feel for how these channels perform consistently in the real world

Going from basic level to Enhanced level is a matter of having the diligence to carry out campaign evaluations and store/manage the resulting information in an accessible and intelligent format. Leveraging is more complex and requires close integration with the NAM and staying close to the process of agreeing secondary display. In order to leverage an investment it’s essential that it’s possible for the investment not to happen. To enable this, shopper marketers must work closely with the sales team.

Benchmarking is simply a matter of data collection and collation - the main challenge here is pace. Most companies simply do not run enough activations to have reasonable data - but this is not a reason not to start the process, even if it will not pay dividends for a while.

Magic level: Learnings and policy to direct future activity

What types of activities consistently work well and what do they have in common? Use your benchmarks plus contextual data to understand the laws or rules that govern high or low ROI situationsHow do combinations of media work (or not work) together?How many touchpoints in store is too many? How important is creative?What differences in approach are required for NPD?

At this level, we are looking to consolidate data into insight, extract learning from the insight and formulate this into policy that can guide future activity. The problem with meaningful strategy is that it always involves not doing something - and this is where organisational barriers may appear. It’s always nice to use good data to find out that what we thought was right is right - when you find out that something doesn’t work at all, bravery is required.

If you’ve read through this article and are thinking “we’re already doing all that” then please accept my congratulations. If you’re at Basic or Enhanced level and want help to get to the next level, please get in touch. If you’re thinking “if only there was an app for that” you might want to head over to

As ever, good luck!

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