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Building Momentum For Shopper Marketing In India

By Dipanjan Mukherjee | October 19, 2015

The challenge for any individual interested in Shopper Marketing is of course getting their organization's full support.


While most FMCG companies in the Unites States have embraced Shopper Marketing, many other markets are still struggling to build enough interest in the discipline to even get started. India appears to be one such market, which presents an opportunity for manufacturers given the growth this market will experience over the next 10 years. According to the India Brand Equity Foundation, the FMCG sector is staged to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17% between now and 2025. Much of this growth is due to favorable demographics (younger generation with disposable income) and a rise in the overall income level. The greatest amount of growth will come from the rural areas with a CAGR of 18.1% over the same time period.

This impressive growth presents FMCG manufacturers in India with the opportunity to bring their brand messages directly to the shopper at the point of decision using Shopper Marketing. The challenge for any individual interested in Shopper Marketing is of course getting their organization's full support. I have spoken on this topic all over the world and in my experience there are three common hurdles preventing companies from embracing this new discipline. Let's discuss them plus a recommended action you can take to overcome each one.

  • Too much confusion over what Shopper Marketing is and how it differs from other marketing disciplines.
  • Lack of a clearly defined process for building, executing, and measuring shopper programs.
  • Not enough support from upper management.

Eliminating Confusion

Of all the hurdles to overcome, this one is the most important because change cannot happen in an environment of confusion. Ever since the advent of the brand management model, marketers have been focused on the consumer as being the center of our universe. But now the industry is increasingly discussing the role of the shopper. Not that the idea of the shopper hasn't always existed, it has, since someone had to do the purchasing. But it's the shopper's increased strategic significance that's causing confusion and leaving many organizations asking "why”.

The best way I've found to eliminate the confusion around Shopper Marketing is to focus the conversation on the strategic role of the shopper versus the consumer. This makes the discussion more objective, removing any suspected functional bias. Let's look at how these two terms are typically defined.

Consumer:    Consumes the product or service.
Shopper:    Purchases the product or service.

You'll notice that the shopper is drawn inside the consumer. This is because the emotional is always influencing the behavioral and vice versa. The consumer absorbs information that builds the perception of and relationship with the brand. The shopper absorbs any information that is involved in the decision-making process. Shoppers do not walk into a retail space as blank slates. They come fully loaded with all kinds of information from their consumer life that affects their behavior in that store. It's important to note that whether you're a shopper or consumer, whether it is the same person or two different people, these principles remain the same.

If we were to now write expanded definitions, this is what they would be.

Consumer:    Builds the perception of and relationship with the brand that includes consuming the product or service.
Shopper:    Leverages that perception of and relationship with the brand while going through the decision-making process.

The strategic role of Consumer Marketing is to build the emotional relationship while the role of Shopper Marketing is to activate that relationship along the shopper journey to turn shoppers into buyers. Drawing this distinction typically accomplishes two things within organizations. First, it clarifies how Shopper Marketing differs from other marketing disciplines thus eliminating much of the confusion. And second, it makes the clear implication that Consumer and Shopper Marketing build on each other and therefore should be integrated rather than kept in functional silos.

Recommended Action: Conduct a three-hour informational session with the different marketing and sales functions to educate them on the strategic role of the shopper versus the consumer. Make sure to include case study examples and a short work session at the end so your teams can internalize the material, increasing their learning and ability to change. Once people understand the roles consumers and shoppers play, it becomes much clearer why Shopper Marketing is beneficial. This has been the essential catalyst for most of our clients in the United States.

Building Your Process

Removing confusion is only the first step. Once that is accomplished, you must next define what Shopper Marketing is going to mean and the role it will play within your organization. This work is best accomplished by putting together a small cross-functional team (10 - 12 people) that is responsible for creating what we call your Shopper Marketing Framework. This consists of the following elements.

Vision:     What will Shopper Marketing accomplish that's not being done today?

Definition: How will you define it according to your organization's capabilities?

Hurdles & Implications: What internal and external hurdles will prevent success? How do you overcome them?

Roles/Responsibilities: What is the role and what are the responsibilities for each functional team?

Process: What is your strategic planning process for building programs?

Recommended Action: Develop a cross-functional team and build your Shopper Marketing Framework. This process involves two full-day work sessions with follow-ups to refine the outputs.

Day 1 Work Session: This is an education session that aligns the team around a set of key principles for Shopper Marketing - insights, the shopper journey, etc. so you are all working from the same base of knowledge and understanding.

Day 2 Work Session: Translate your key principles into your vision, definition, hurdles & implications, roles & responsibilities and process.

Follow-up Work: Craft the output from the Day 2 session into your final Shopper Marketing Framework.

Gaining Support

Once your framework is finalized it's then time to get your management team on board. As difficult as it is to create change in an environment of confusion, it's equally difficult to do so without the right level of support. The key is to communicate the additional value Shopper Marketing brings to the organization that does not exist today.

As Shopper Marketers, we have two opportunities to drive growth:

  • Converting category brand switchers to your brand and keeping them when your category is on their shopping list.
  • Triggering a purchase when your category is NOT on their shopping list. This can be an incremental purchase from an existing category shopper or a new purchase from a shopper new to the category.

Maximizing these opportunities is the overall vision for Shopper Marketing. Winning the first opportunity is how you maintain your base volume while winning the second is how you create truly organic growth for your brand and the category. Adding Shopper Marketing to your go-to-market strategies allows brands to more successfully meet these opportunities by providing the following added value. First, you complete the marketing loop by addressing both the consumer and shopper journeys, generating a higher return on investment of your marketing dollars. Second, you can focus on driving truly incremental purchases (Challenge 2) where they naturally occur, in the retail environment, versus focusing purely on base volume (Challenge 1).

Recommended Action: Evangelize your newly developed Shopper Marketing Framework to your management team, focusing on its added value and how critical this is to capturing as much of India's projected growth as possible.

Facing the challenge of starting Shopper Marketing in your organization can be daunting to say the least. Hopefully, identifying these three hurdles and how to overcome them provides you enough clarity and confidence to get started. I will make one last recommendation, and that is to find an objective outside partner to help you in this process. That partner could be a consulting firm or an agency, but make sure they have experience in dealing with and overcoming these specific hurdles. You may have said all the same things to your organization but somehow hearing it from someone on the outside seems to make a difference.

Shopper Intelligence is a strategic consulting firm based in the United States that is at the forefront of helping brands develop and advance their Shopper Marketing capability so it becomes a strategic advantage. Christopher is the Founder & CEO and speaks around the world on the topic of Shopper Marketing. He can be reached at brace@shopperintegration.com.

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