The pandemic has accelerated change in many areas, from how people shop, to how (and where) they work and where they want to live. So it is with marketing, where the decades-long move from traditional media planning and buying to a data and technology-driven approach has accelerated beyond a tipping point for brands.
Before the pandemic, giants like Unilever and P&G spent a lot of money on building connected marketing teams in house that would allow them to prosper in the emerging marketing world. They used advanced data and targeting techniques, particularly around the programmatic media channels of social, video and the new world of connected TV and digital out of home. At the same time, new DTC brands also leaned heavily on this new world with a programmatic-first approach.
Today, these techniques are a mainstay of their activity. This is a huge change to the TV-first approach many consumer goods brands have successfully deployed since the 1950s. This shift is about much more than simply applying standard marketing practice to new or different channels. Marketing fundamentals may be eternal, but this shift requires a much more advanced data capability, programmatic marketing skills and crucially a much faster cadence. Spending weeks and months planning and producing new creative assets will leave brands way behind the best in the new era.
Digital transformation has been an important component of companies for over a decade and now digital marketing transformation focusing on data, speed and quality is something most brands need to adopt – many of them without the deep pockets of the giants to invest in new staff and technologies. For these brands, the answer may be to embrace shopper marketing – not the shopper marketing of old (often seen as cardboard on shelf), but marketing centred on the shopper and all the decision-making touchpoints they encounter on the path to purchase.
The modern shopper is fickle, lacking the brand loyalty of old. They also move seamlessly between the physical and digital worlds, with a plethora of choice with every step. This makes marketing at the point of sale (and vitally, the touchpoints that lead to it) more important than ever.
Shopper marketing is entering a new era and changing rapidly. As a discipline, it can be the one that helps brands bridge offline and online thinking with ever-richer digital capabilities, many of which can be managed programmatically, with user privacy and data protection compliance at the heart. Shopper media planning based on the demographics and sales performance of different regions is now a staple. It is possible to switch digital shopper campaigns on and off, and optimise at pace. Attribution is at the heart of the modern shopper marketing capability, utilising sales data at a store location level to run exposed versus control testing.
This combination of amazing brand-focused strategy, fast-paced dynamic messaging and excellence in the use of programmatic channels and techniques makes shopper marketing the pivot point for brands looking to transform their marketing efforts and drive growth in the new era.