5 Takeaways from the Shopper Marketing Summit

I always enjoy attending the Path to Purchase Institute's Shopper Marketing Summit and this year was no exception (and not just because one of the programs we partnered on won an Effie!). With retail fragmentation and technology advancements at accelerating rates, I was looking forward to hearing first-hand how brands and retailers are adapting. After taking several pages of notes, here are five things that resonated most with me:

1.    Lanes instead of walls

The notion of breaking down walls between sales and marketing and establishing lanes to foster collaboration was ever present. Obviously, some companies are moving aggressively in this direction while others are dipping their toes in the water. Jack Link's recently formed a Shopper Marketing team and is doing it with gusto! This mirrors what we're seeing at HelloWorld across our clients – more than ever we are working simultaneously with brands on national campaigns and their shopper teams on customer-specific versions.

2.    Receipt recognition is officially legit

A solution that replaces the need for costly old-school rebates and expensive codes on pack, while allowing a brand freedom to customize at the retail level…what's not to love? The big question has been, "Will consumers participate," which two sessions at the summit answered with a resounding, "Yes" (as long as the relative value for the consumer is there, of course). This validates exactly what we've been seeing at HelloWorld, where receipt recognition has unlocked so many possibilities in the campaigns we build for our clients.

My favorite example shared at the Summit was Kingsford Charcoal, who set out to stem the category decline with a promotion that offered a free bag of Kingsford with the purchase of a charcoal grill. This clever approach meant Kingsford didn't need to partner with a particular grill brand and receipt recognition made it easy for grill buyers to get their free Charcoal. Results were strong, over-delivering on the brand's KPI goals.  

3.    Speed and Agility

During the keynote, Sir Martin Sorrell stated that "marketing is not for the faint of heart" as "marketers have less control than ever." Speed and agility came up many times as a necessity, especially when it comes to trying out new tactics. Technology is moving so fast, it's important to focus on getting it 80% right, then pivoting to apply learnings.

A great example of this is the Mondelez Shopper Futures program, where they teamed their brands and retailers with start-ups to produce test and learns in 90 days. They didn't stop there though – after the first execution, they are quickly adjusting and trying different iterations to the executions. Not only is the strategy smart, but a 90-day timeline for such an endeavor is worthy of praise on its own.

4.    Mix of Old & New

While I was expecting a big focus on the role of mobile, social and new media, traditional tactics held their own as the topic of discussion. What it really comes down to is personalization – whether it be matching the tactic or the messaging to the right audience based on their demographic, geography, needs or passion. ShopRite talked about the increased usage of their circular among their older audience, while simultaneously their mobile app usage is growing among millennials as they've tailored it more to the individual shopper. Kellogg's talked about growing their email communications from four to 24 versions, with increased performance along the way.

5.    Creativity Wins

An interesting shift is happening – consumers are shopping at fewer retailers despite the onslaught of choices; and although people are feeling more positive about their finances, they are choosing to spend their money on paying down debt, savings and experiences. Couple this with the non-linear path to purchase and the challenge for brands and retailers continues to mount. Simple as it may seem, to win in this market, it takes courage, and the most important factor, creativity.

Until next year!