Targeting is at the heart of all marketing: if the definition of marketing (let's use the Chartered Institute of Marketing as a starting point) "the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating, and satisfying customer requirements profitably,â€ then without targeting, marketing can only be effective if everyone has exactly the same needs. Clearly everyone does not have the same needs, and therefore marketing requires segmentation.
From the identification of segments, the decision to focus on some rather than others is arguably the primary strategic decision in marketing - and that is targeting.
Weak marketers have loose targets. Definitions which rely primarily on one or two demographics (females between the ages of 14 and 36) are far too broad to be useful.
How should shopper marketers identify their target market, and what makes a really good target definition?
It reflects consumption: Shoppers buy to supply consumers: conversely they do not buy that which they do not believe will delight the consumer (unless we're talking about Christmas presents for that embarrassing relative who is so difficult to buy for!). An excellent definition of a target shopper includes a comprehensive understanding of the consumer and the consumption occasion that the shopper is buying for.
It isn't the same as the target consumer: As argued many times previously the consumer isn't the same as the shopper. On this basis a'cut and paste' from the consumer marketing team's brand plan is unlikely to work (and there definition may not pass muster either!)
It reflects behaviour: Marketing should be about getting people to do something. Changing attitudes is only valuable when that attitude becomes a change in behavior. This is even more true in the realm of shopper marketing. If the shopper doesn't change behavior, then there is no change in revenue for the retailer or the manufacturer. Change is defined as a movement from x to y: therefore for a clear target segment to be homogenous (see later) then they must all have common current behaviors (and current desired behaviors). Hence a target shopper definition should include details of their current behavior.
It isn't (always) the current shopper: If I was a temperamental guy, then this would get me hot under the collar: across marketing (and this is not limited to shopper marketing) too often the target is exactly the same as the current consumer or shopper. Yet if the goal of marketing is growth, then there is a fair chance that much growth will come from people who do not use the brand currently. Sure, growth can come from persuading current shoppers to buy more, or buy more frequently, but to neglect all of those shoppers that do not currently buy the brand is highly limiting. Therefore one potential behavior (see above) that might be included in a target definition is'not currently buying the brand', or'currently buying (competitor brand X'). Most research briefs I see focus on current users; making it really hard to understand those that currently do not engage in the category.
There are more than one target shopper segments: To many of you it will already be quite obvious that it is quite possible, if not certain, that a given brand might have more than one target market. Each consumption opportunity, if defined correctly, could yield a separate target shopper. And this is where it gets exciting and complicated in equal measures. Complicated because there is a need to juggle more than one concept across channels, customers and activities, but exciting because it creates the opportunity to prioritize (by focusing on the shopper segments which might yield the highest returns) and to differentiate activity across channels because of the presence of different target shoppers. At a stroke shopper marketing becomes far more focused and precise, and the investment that is made yields better returns.
It is sizable, actionable, homogenous and measurable: Beyond this, shopper target segments must follow the textbook rules on marketing segmentation. They must be large enough to be worth chasing, actionable (in that it is possible to market to them separately in a meaningful way), homogenous (they must be similar), and measurable (if we can't measure it, how do we know that our activity has been effective.
If there isn't a defined target at the heart of your shopper marketing strategy or campaign, then I can guarantee that the effectiveness and returns from implementing these plans have not been optimized. Before developing your next plan, challenge your current target definition (and that of your consumer marketing colleagues) to see if it passes the tests above. And for those of you in research or insight functions, are you sure that the respondents for your surveys are the shoppers we really need to understand?